Let me introduce you to Tom Flint.
That is not him. But it is a part of him. It is his handiwork. And it was why I was sitting at La Casa de Mi Abuela last Sunday afternoon chatting with him.
For the past few years, I have heard about the breads of wonder Tom bakes. Never a discouraging word from his customers. When I recently mentioned that I would have enjoyed a loaf of crusty bread with one of my meals, my email inbox lit up (because even Mexptriate is not so old-fashioned as to rely on a switchboard) with rave notices for Tom's breads.
So, I decided it was time for me to meet him. And, now that I have, as I said in the first line, let me introduce him to you.
Almost everyone who lives in Mexico has an interesting back story. Like most people, I was curious if Tom had a professional background in baking. Surprisingly, the answer is yes and no.
We all know that fellow blogger Don Cuevas of My Mexican Kitchen was a professional baker. Not so, Tom.
He earned his living in the financial industry doing, as Tom puts it, "I guess you could call it computer programming." I suspect the term understates his work. That is not the only time he bunted when a lot of guys would have swung for the fence. But humility appears to be one of his virtues.
His was the type of work that took him around the world with frequent commutes between New York City and London. And as fascinating as the job was, he decided in 1990 that he had had enough.
At some point, he hit upon the idea of baking. But he was not interested in merely dabbling. He wanted to learn as much about baking breads as he could -- and baking them well. He attended courses at the San Francisco Baking Institute, and took three levels of courses (if I remember correctly) in Mexico.
I have always been a bit skeptical of almost any activity when "artisan" is slapped on the front of some every-day noun. And Tom is not one of those people who affects a plummy tone of rounded vowels when he starts talking about his work.
If anything, he makes his bread-making sound downright practical.
I called him on that one. Mexico does not have a good reputation for its baked goods. I asked Tom why everyone thinks his bread is so much better than the local loaves. Special equipment? Special ingredients? Secret techniques?
His answer was as straight-forward as his product. He does use some flour that he favors, but he also takes his time, is careful with his yeast, and uses far less sugar than other bread-sellers.
I am always intrigued with how people ended up in this little community. (My answer is simply: "It was an accident.") For Tom, the route was a bit byzantine.
His wife, Martin, was introduced to Barra de Navidad by her first husband. She fell in love with the place. When they divorced and she married Tom, she convinced him to come on down. The next thing he knew, he had decided to buy property, build a house, and move here.
And that is why we have the privilege of sharing our town was a baker extraordinaire.
You will notice, that my knowledge about Tom's wares has been academic up to this point. Each week, he sends out an email of the week's offering. This was the schedule for this week:
Multi-Grain - 600 grams - 40 pesos - ready at 5:00
Greek Olive and Sweet Red Bell Pepper Bread - 450 grams 55 pesos - ready at 11:00
French Sourdough - 1000 grams - 50 pesos - ready at noon
Focaccia with Rosemary / Sea Salt / Olive Oil - 9 inch diameter - 40 pesos - ready at 5:00PM
English Muffins - 8 pesos each - ready at noon.
Bagels - 10 pesos each (poppy, sesame, salt, or nothing)
I knew Friday was going to be my day to hop aboard the Tom train. I also knew what I was going to build around that Greek olive and sweet red bell pepper bread. Home-made tzatziki and my rightly-famous Greek salad.
There was only one problem. I did not have a food processor in the new house.
A quick trip to my favorite plastic store in Melaque (Gladys) remedied that problem. I now have a Hamilton Beach food processor and a Black and Decker hand mixer for good measure. And because I was such a good customer today, the owner threw in two plastic food keepers. I love shopping locally.
As I draft this, I am eating the salad and dipping Tom's bread into the tzatziki. It was supposed to be my big meal at 2 yesterday afternoon. And it would have been a good fit on the upper terrace amongst the abstract paintings. But, there should be some salad left for Saturday.
Stop by and try some. But, I suspect I will be breadless by then.
Thanks, Tom. It is good getting to know you -- and your very practical bread.