In hard times, it’s important to eat well and dream a lot. When it comes to eating well, sourdough bread sounds like a brilliant idea, so everyone’s ‘raising’ their own sourdough these days, but I am hopeless at keeping even a cactus alive, so I don’t even try. I go to Arán instead, where the bread loaves are round, beautiful, warm, and crusty, like bread I had as a child. It’s bread that reminds me of my grandmother’s kitchen table, where I would have fresh bread and hot milk for breakfast while she already busied herself with making lunch. It’s that form of mental transport I discovered in Marcel Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’, when an entire world comes back to him as he dips madeleines in tea. And you guessed it, Arán has madeleines too, and they’re even better than the real (read, French) thing.
This last bit was a (not very) hidden reference to U2, the defining band of my teenage years, who are Irish and because of them I sought out everything Irish, including a spectacular photo spread in a magazine, of the Arán islands. So now, whenever I go for my sourdough bread and sumptuous cinnamon rolls, I promise myself that when these crazy times end, I will make it there. Solace is something money can’t buy, except when you can get it in the shape of pastry, and then for a few hundred forints you get so much more than you bargained for.