My romance with pan de yuca (cassava bread)
Updated: Feb 4
It's the best thing to bite,
pandeyuca we all must have
Pandeyuca is a gem
from colonial times
our grandparents didn´t know
how without pandeyuca dine;
often dipped in chocolate,
it can also be filled
and with blackberry or fig preserve
even a cardinal would be thrilled
When things get messed up
pandeyuca we all must have
To prepare pandeyuca
one must an apron slip on
make the dough with cottage cheese,
salt, starch, water, and also yolks;
yeast…you don’t need at all
to make it´s volume rise
just to knead the little buns
and let them brown before your eyes.
When luck gets a little spooky
pandeyuca we need, not cookies Balada del Pan de Yuca (fragments), by Hernando Martínes Rueda -Martinón-, (own translation)*
My love affair with cassava bread (pan de yuca) started in 2007, when on impulse, my friend Irina and I signed up for Italian classes on Saturday mornings, from 8:00 to 13:00. Tired after the week of work and a party the evening before, it was during my first lesson that I realized how much effort that was going to require. Usually late and always hungry, the first hours of class would seem to be endless. Listening to the teacher’s explanations of le preposizioni and le tre coniugazioni verbali, I would impatiently wait for the sound of the 10:00 o’clock bell that announced our longest break of 20 minutes, and would run away with my friend and accomplice to the store that sold the most delicious and fresh cassava bread and tortillas.
There are many recipes and, likewise, there were many bakeries that sold them, but only those from Calle Italia tasted so good. Their size was larger than those you could get elsewhere and it seemed they were incapable of containing the cheese inside which, almost always, managed to get out forcefully through a small hole in the upper part of the bun. The tortillas, which were not made from cassava starch, but from grated cassava, were flattened and slightly bigger, and were filled with bits of pork rinds.
We didn’t care that we had little time and we would pick up the pace to be able to do those two blocks in the shortest possible time. We also didn't mind queuing in the line of eager customers that would always greet us as soon as we crossed the bakery’s threshold. If we were lucky, we would arrive just in time to see a batch of freshly baked bread and tortillas making its way from the oven to the glass counter on the hand of the baker. "Give me five cassava buns and four tortillas," I would hear the first customer say. "For me, 6 of each," the next one would continue, all the while I made mental calculations of how many people stood before us and how many buns there were still left to sell, hopeful a few would remain for us to get. If we were unlucky, we would find ourselves with an empty shelf and, in those cases, we would just passively order a homemade blackberry yogurt, freshly blended, and return to school without haste.
After some months of self-inflicted suffering, the Italian course ended and my religious visits to the bakery were interrupted, since destiny had me move abroad for work… to Italy.
Sitting again at a desk in a Dante Alighieri school, this time in Piazza di Firenze in Rome, I continued studying le preposizioni and l’oggetto diretto e indiretto, this time during the week and in the afternoons; and, my cassava bread was replaced by panini with rucola and prosciutto, supplì and arancini. But, as true romances last forever, over time I did learn how to prepare my own cassava bread and I have been doing so for years, in the kitchens of each one of the cities where I have lived. Of course, every time I return to Quito, that bakery on Calle Italia is one of my first stops. Seeing that it is still there, I always sigh with relief.
* If the English version is not available, the author of the blog offers her own translation.