It's Friday. If you're stuck at a desk right now, you're probably thinking: "I'd rather be in Barcelona." I certainly am. (Okay, to be fair, I do that all the time. Wanderlust—she's a stubborn one!)
We can't have it all, but what we can have is a 54-second video that takes you inside a genius's laboratory a bakery in the Spanish city called Forn Sant Josep; the shop's been baking bread since 1912. The following video was filmed by Andrew Reed Weller, a nomadic cameraman and avid home cook—even when he doesn't have a kitchen of his own. What did he learn about cooking after spending a morning with Catalonian bakers—and what can we? See the Q & A below the video to find out.
Nikkitha Bakshani: By filming this video and watching the bread being made, what did you learn about the culture and the craft?
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Andrew Reed Weller: It was amazing to simply witness and document an expert at work. Whether they're making bread or blowing glass or sewing a custom shirt, I am always awed by people's abilities to take their skills and interests to some kind of next level. In the case of Emili, the bakery’s owner, he balanced this expertise with a casual welcomeness and a tremendous pride in his work. Aside from the bread, he was eager to point out the specifically Catalan baked goods that they produce, and to share his family’s history in the business. I felt like this pride was almost another ingredient, something that fueled his dedication to excellence and defined his relationships with the staff and customers.
The place felt like flour was a force of nature, in the process of taking over.
NB: What do you feel are the key takeaways, as a home cook yourself?
ARW: I realized that a certain level of commitment is required—to use the right ingredients, to treat them with respect, to know there are no corners can be cut, to understand that even the simplest things require care and time. We think of bread as such a staple, as something to be bought anywhere, an element more like a vehicle or building block for other foods. But seeing Emili and his staff at work reminded me that it can exist as something special in and of itself.
NB: Were there any language barriers? How did you transcend them?
ARW: I speak Spanish well, so the barrier was pretty minimal. But in spite of that, these situations often feel like some kind of unplanned dance between myself and the subject—no words are necessary. You just have to understand how to take and give nonverbal cues. One of the bakers, upon learning that I spoke Spanish, just wanted to make sure that I was a fan of the Barcelona soccer team. It seems futbol is the second most universal thing behind food in that part of the world.
NB: What will you never forget about this experience?
ARW: The ovens are located in the basement, so it was boiling hot. Every surface, tool, knob, notepad, and machine was coated in a fine dust of flour. The bakers were in a similar state. The place felt like flour was a force of nature, in the process of taking over. I came out dripping sweat and a little worried about my camera after an hour. Looking back at the experience now, it is good to remind myself of the men who toil away down there six days a week from the wee hours of the morning in order to make something we might buy and eat without giving a second thought to how it came to be. I might also add a special thank you to Emili Feliu and Yasmin Shibib for making this experience happen.
Is there a shop you've encountered in your travels that you'd love to get a behind-the-scenes look at? Let us know in the comments—we're always looking for travel recs!