Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pae de Milho Amerlo: Or how I learnt to love the Portuguese

Pae de Milho Amerlo: Or how I learnt to love the Portuguese

Throughout the five years that I have lived in Toronto I have nipped in and out of the tiny Portuguese cafes that dot my neighbourhood but I never sat down. I did not pull up a chair and consume any part of the Portuguese culture that surrounds me. Pae de Milho Amerlo is the only thing of substance that I have taken from the Portuguese and made my own.

My discovery and subsequent consumption of the cornbread of Portugal began when the Golden Wheat (579 Rogers Rd) opened their doors across the street from my condo building. Where there was once coin operated gambling machines there was now an espresso machine. Where there was once day old donuts there was now a glass case full of petite, glossy desserts. We became regulars. An Americano for my husband, and an Iced Espresso for me. Occasionally, a delicate dessert. Baking bread in the sweltering heat of Toronto's summer heat waves seemed suicidal so I resorted to the bread selection on the shelves of the Golden Wheat and I welcomed Pae de Milho Amerlo into my life.

With deep brown cracked crust and bright yellow crumb the Pae de Milho Amerlo is a bread of contrasts. The crevices of the crust are erratic and the colour of rich dark chocolate. The majority of the crust is light beige and covered in a thin layer of baked and browned flour. The interplay between the parts of the crust is reminiscent of the crackled paint style popular in the nineties. The airy interior is the bright yellow of farm fresh egg yolk with a crumb that is large and practically pebbly. The crumb reminds one of polenta as both hold smooth creaminess and toothsome resistance within their grasp, surprising the eater at every turn. When crust and crumb are consumed together the result is soft and supple while simultaneously chewy. The flavour is sweet and smooth while the crust offers a slight nutty char.

The vast cultural landscape of Toronto makes it easy to live in a Portuguese neighbourhood but never consume it's culture. When we overlook the culture that surrounds us we miss out on treasures like Pae de Milho Amerlo and the tiny bit of Portuguese culture that it represents. 


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