Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Goan Pao

Reminiscences of the Goan Pao
Reporters Name | CAMIL PARKHE | Monday, 11 May 2015 AT 05:56 PM IST
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In Goa, one wakes up early morning with the chirping of the birds and with the peculiar `pooi pooi’ horn blowing by the paowalla. Presently on a holiday at my sister’s home in Anjuna-Vagator, the sound of the peculiar horn made me jump from the bed to catch a glimpse of the bread vendor who sped fast on his cycle from the gate when there was no immediate response.  I knew he would be back within a few minutes after delivering the bread quota in the immediate neighbourhood.  I was not wrong.  The young vendor pedalled his cycle, climbing up the slope with little effort as I tried to click his photo.

Every morning, much before the sunrise, the bread vendors arrives on cycle at the Goan homes  to give them their daily quota of various types of bread, the pao, or loaves of bread, poee, undo and so on.  Each of these varieties has been popular at the Goan families for many decades.  Bread is an essential constituent of the Christian Goan kitchen just as much as milk, eggs and butter.  So much so that  when I was working as a staff reporter with a Goan newspaper ,  our editor M M Mudaliar always insisted that any news related to the shortage or hike in the prices of bread (and also of milk) must appear on the front page!

Incidentally, the word ‘pao’ in Konkani and Marathi has been borrowed from Portuguese. A variety of bread was our stable food when I was a higher secondary and college student at Miramar’s Dhempe College of Arts and Science in mid-1970s.  The paowalla would be at our gate early morning and since he had no patience to wait for our arrival, he would drop our daily quota of loaves of bread in the cotton bag kept hanging at the gate. We needed to be at the gate on his arrival in case there were was some change in the daily quota of loaves.  He would be back in the evening to deliver the Undo, the crisp round variety of loaves of bread, which we preferred to eat for the supper.  I remember every morning and evening, there would a few loaves of poee (a kind of flat and soft loaf of bread) especially ordered for one of the students who had contacted diabetes at a younger age.

It was only during the lunch that bread was missing at our dining table.  For lunch, we daily ate rice mixed with various kinds of beef or fish curry and dal once a week.  During those nearly one and half decades that I spent in Goa as a student and later as a journalist, I never ate wheat or rice chapatti in any of the meals. Therefore I did not miss much or felt homesick when I went to Russia and later Sofia in Bulgaria to complete my diploma in journalism.  I even tasted a larger variety of bread when recently along with my wife and daughter I toured Europe.  Even in Paris and Rome when I smelt the typical kind of aroma of bread while passing by the eateries, I was reminded of the aroma of the freshly baked bread in the basket of the Goan paowalla.

Recently I was on a visit to Goa along with some of my Pune journalist colleagues.  For breakfast, I took them walking from our Santa Inez residence to a café near the old secretariat to eat the typical Goan pao bhaji.  At all small eateries and snack joints in Goa, pao bhaji is a must menu, the potato, the patal (beans liquid curry) or the mixed bhaji should to be enjoyed with pao , undo  or other varieties of bread.  In my college days at Miramar, pao bhaji used to be the most favourite delicacies among the students.  Pao bhaji is equivalent to wada pao in Maharashtra, comparatively cheaper to the south Indian dishes, and also equally delicious.  Normally I avoid any kinds of bakery products in my meals. But when in Goa, pao and undo, with generous use of butter, are part of my breakfast.  With daily swimming at the nearby beach, I can afford to pamper my palate during these holidays.

Roy Abraham - Friday, 5 June 2015 AT 07:28 AM IST
Sir, loved the article . we too had similar pao experience and loved it . well written .. Cheers

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