Bread and Barcelona

If you fly as much as I do, you start to meet interesting people all across the country. Most of the time the introvert in me comes out and I stay cooped up in my own personal space but every once in a while, you hop on a five hour flight, your TV screen is broken, the internet costs an outrageous $35 and you didn’t have the foresight to download any new movies before the trip. Just this scenario happened on a cross country flight this week and I found myself talking to an architect on his way to visit his daughter who was travelling abroad in Barcelona, Spain. We spoke about a host of things from the current presidential race to design, style, and he even gave me a few invaluable tips for a kitchen remodel I’m optimistically taking on myself. Inevitably, as it always does, the topic of what we do for a living came up.

He had heard of La Brea Bakery having spent the last 40 years in Southern California but didn’t know the story or mantra behind the brand. We talked about baking bread the right way, slow-proofed, natural fermentation, and minimal ingredients. The best part of the conversation was hearing him talk about how his daughter had called him to tell him about her food epiphany while studying abroad. The first thing she did when she got to her flat was call home and say “Dad, the fridge here is tiny!” Imagine being a 21 year old girl, having spent all your life in Orange County, growing up with a chef’s kitchen with a Viking range and a sub-zero to match. Then you arrive in Spain, and among a host of cultural revelations, one of the first things you notice is a refrigerator the size that most of us had in our first dorm rooms.

There is a reason for that. Shopping isn’t a once a week experience in Spain. You don’t head out on Sunday, stop by the club store and the grocery store and load up on everything imaginable. The fridge is small because you only buy what you need for a day or two. It was fun to hear a proud dad talk about how his daughter had adjusted to her new European lifestyle. Her class would get out at 6, she would head home, drop off her books, and then she and her friends went out and picked out fresh ingredients to cook with that night, a bottle of wine and a crispy baguette. Sounds like an idyllic life and in many ways, college and a semester abroad is a pretty sweet life!

It got me thinking about La Brea Bakery and how we fit into a more US-centric shopping model. We always get asked by our retailers and our customers “What’s the shelf life?” with the goal of more days, which means less waste and fewer trips to the grocery store for an American family. So when I’m asked that question about our artisan breads it is with pride that I always say one day. In fact, it is written right on the packaging – Our Breads are Best on Day of Purchase. Not everything should have a 15 day shelf life and if it does, it may be time to start questioning what bread we are eating and why it has that 15 day shelf life! La Brea Bakery has simple ingredients and is being baked in a traditional way, which does limit the amount of time where it is at its peak, delicious self. However, it is more flavorful, traditional and healthy. But I think there is something more fundamentally important about our commitment.

When we step back from our food habits and the goal of stocking away a week of frozen vegetables, meats and prepared foods, we can be more mindful of our choices and conscientious of the true beauty of food. Shop for an occasion and pick something that is going to be great that night.

I am not so oblivious to the time constraints most of us face and why we load up our refrigerators, and I’ll definitely be putting a “large” refrigerator in my kitchen remodel. Perhaps we can find a few more times where we aren’t planning our meals seven days out, we can grab something fresh and enjoy something more clearly. We can’t all be 21 year old college students studying abroad in Barcelona but we can take a cue and stop worrying about shelf life and start worrying about everyday enjoyment.

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