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The Cross and the Cleaver: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread…

Bread is a staple food in many cultures. There is a reason why it features prominently in the Christian story; all you seem to need is flour, water, and little bit of oil.

I am sure many of us are familiar with the olfactory sensation of walking into the bakery. Not to mention the tactile experience of holding and pulling apart warm, crusty loaf. That usually makes me buy waaaay too much bread, or I end up asking my wife to bake waaaay too much. Then what? Well, then it goes stale and dries up. And then what? In my youth my mother would give me all that hard, dried bread to grind into breadcrumbs using old fashioned, hand-cranked meat grinder. Believe me, when you are teenager, such activity seems to equivalent to a hard-labour sentence.

There is a moment when that bread is at that in-between stage. No longer fresh and crusty, and not yet so hard it could cause injury if hurled at someone. That is where bread-eating cultures became creative. Italians have Ribollita, Danes have Ollebrod, Germans have Brottsuppe. There are many others, and they all end up having a common concept. They are all… bread soups. My favourite is Wodzionka (water-soup). It is said that generations of Silesian soccer players became successful because their mums fed them just that soup. Silesia is a region neighbouring the one I grew up in. while this soup was on my mother’s menu, I grew very fond of it after having it for the first time. Give it a try!!!

In a heavy bottomed pot start melting two generous tablespoons of smalec (see recipe below), add small finely chopped onion and stir until onion is translucent (onion is optional if you don’t feel like chopping one), add 1L water and bring to a boil. In the meantime, fill soup bowls with days old, stale bread cut or ripped into chunks. Top each bowl with a clove of garlick sliced paper thin. Top with hot broth from the pot and garnish with parsley or marjoram, and dash of Maggi (or use soy sauce if you don’t have any). Enjoy!!! If you are afraid of garlick in your bowl, then throw it into the pot and boil for a minute or two.

Now for smalec. It is, in a nut-shell, a homemade bacon spread. It appears in polish restaurants, just like chips and salsa do in Mexican ones. Want some?… let’s make some!!!! 😊

Throw a packet of thick cut bacon (double smoked, whatever flavour except maple), cut into small uniform pieces, onto cold, non-stick pan and turn to med-high. Stir frequently. When all the fat is rendered and meat bits and crunchy yet still soft, stir in small finely chopped onion and small, peeled, and shredded Granny Smith apple. Stir until onion turns translucent. Pour into clean jar (or two), cool and store in the fridge.

You can spread it on bread, add pinch of salt and…. Delicious!!!! Some top it with a dill pickle, some work it into mashed potatoes or add it to scrambled eggs. Or… use it a`s a base for the soup above. Smacznego!!!! (bon appetite in Polish).

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