Relive the Romance of the Outback with Damper Bread

 

The Moonshiner, The Man from Outback and Home at Sundown are just some of the books Lucy Walker wrote about life and romance in the Outback. Of course damper , Australian soda bread, was baked in the coals by hunky Australian stockmen. An iconic Australian dish, it is a great idea for outdoor picnics, and where it used to be eaten with some dried or cooked meat, these days it can have other ingredients added in and eaten with honey, syrup or jam.  Aboriginal women traditionally baked this ‘bush bread’ with grains and nuts they were familiar with, and today damper bread is even available in bakeries in Australia.

making famous Australian Bush Bread

If you don’t want to buy damper bread, next time you have a barbecue, allow the kids to make their own damper, add it onto a stick and allow them to cook or bake it over the fire. All it requires is a cup of self-raising flour, a tablespoon of butter, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of sugar, a tablespoon of butter and a cup of milk. You simply rub the butter with the flour until nice and crumbly, mix the salt, sugar and milk till it forms a dough. Allow the kids to make a snake shape and wrap it around a nice clean stick. Delicious eat with cheese or jam.

Embedding for the Bread

 a long way to the shops

Traveling has certainly offered me a great deal of enlightenment with respect to bread. One endeavor, exciting and spontaneous, was in Western Africa. I traveled in through the north and found my way into various desert areas in Algeria in which I latched on to a caravan that took me southward into Mali, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Ghana, and eventually to Nigeria. This caravan has some suspicious motives, but carrying me along was a benefit to them as it made them look less suspicious when they approached cities, towns and villages to trade and sell and offer whatever they could for sustenance along the way.

Fortunately, communities seemed to be much more liberal with the expenditure of bread. They had huge ovens located outside that would provide the whole community with bread. They more than happily offered it to us. Sometimes it was too much, but you had to conform to the pleasantry and finish what was put in front of you, no matter the pains it often caused.

This epic journey was as much a surprise to me as it most definitely is to the reader. Each time we approached a new area, they allowed us to bring what we could with and were always hospitable. The bread itself was of a wide variety. Sometimes it was served as part of a meal and other times it was exclusive and meant to be had dry. Occasionally it was in the form of pita, sometimes as a larger block. It could very well have been very hard and tough to eat, but most in the caravan had no qualms jeopardizing the integrity of their teeth for a good nights sleep.

I looked at it a bit differently, but I must say, altogether, I learn an immense deal about bread. How to bake it, the time and care spent, and how much of a community ritual it can be depending on where you are.

A Bread how-to for Travelers

bread made by hand is heavanly

As an Australian, one finds that their eating traditions are not necessarily in tandem with the rest of the world. You can only eat so much Vegemite on toast and feel like you are representing culture. Luckily, traveling has opened my eyes up to the usage and styles of bread around the world. Try Europe, for example. In this context, bread cultures offer a wide range.

See the United Kingdom. They have what some might call a sophisticated culture surrounding bread and pastries. It often comes along with tea time and in the form of crumpets. Otherwise, bread is not hugely important when it comes to meals and the likes. Then you cross the channel into France and your world turns inside out with bread. They have certainly mastered this trade. I couldn’t say how long it has taken to reach this point, but it summits all necessary pinnacles of taste and appreciation.

It all starts with the baguette. That long crusty genius of a bread that you might find children using in imitation sword fights on the street. They are on every family table in the morning and play an important role in a successful breakfast. Beyond the baguette you have croissants and chocolate filled wonders that the rest of the world seemingly tries to imitate, but doesn’t quite do the job. Adding a bit of their famous stinky cheese and you are on your way to a pleasant round of meals, usually with breakfast and dinner.

Now we venture into central Europe. Austria, Germany, even Czech Republic. Reaching just north of Italy, another well-known source for bread delectables. Here, we have your typical breakfast bread, often of a wheat variation. That’s a trend i’ve noticed: more wheat in the west, more white in the south. It’s seemingly more healthy and firmer, the critics rush to suggest. It’s nothing so spectacular, but people tend to bake their own, and as far as I’ve found, that’s a feat in and of itself. A culture of self-sustainability, organic production. I see the benefits both to health and the environment and I have to say it’s not a bad model to follow. And, I might add, it tastes mighty fine with a nice sausage from the neighbors farm!