One of the core elements of the Goan cuisine are its breads. Eaten with different kinds of curries like xacuti or vindaloo or stuffings like cutlet or chorizo, Goan breads are synonymous with the general life in the region.
The tradition of bread making was introduced by the Portuguese and since then the native baker called poders (from the Portuguese word for baker – padeiro) have become a part of the Goan culture.
Every morning and evening the poders bake fresh batches of bread and deliver them to the households on cycles, two wheelers and even four wheelers. The sound of their horns is etched in the memories of all the goans.
For some, the Poder is an early morning wake-up call while for a meal time staple. As astounding as it is remarkable, Goan bread making has stood the tests of time.
During our Goa Food Tour we were glad to meet a few of these tireless poders. Moreover, to explore this rich inheritance and time-worn legacy we went to Godinho bakery in Majorda that is run by septuagenarian Joao Menino Godinho and his son Jame. This sleepy small town in South Goa is believed to be the place where oldest bakeries started.
We were lucky enough to reach there on time as the preparation of the evening batch of bread was underway.
Joao, his son James and a small team of assistants carried out the laborious process with great perseverance. We were amazed to see their prowess in rolling, arranging and baking the breads.
The severe heat near the huge wood fire oven didn't deter these artisans. After a restless wait out came the fresh batches of poiee, cutlet pao, katre pao, pao, kankon and undho. These were then neatly stored in huge bamboo baskets for being dispatched to the customers.
We too got our plate of these assorted bread along with tea. The fragrance of the baked dough and the sound of the crust was truly gratifying. Poiee was the healthiest of the lot as it is made of whole wheat flour and wheat bran. Even though the filling of sausage or cutlet was missing in the cutlet pao, with just some butter it felt like a cuddle.
Visiting this old bakery and getting to know more about the Poder and their restless struggle was a humbling experience. We are thankful to Joao Godinho and James for the warm hospitality. Witnessing this iconic legacy was a memorable experience.