Goa's Spirited Online Weekly Magazine.

Lion Roars - 27

October 21-27, 2013

No yeast rise for Goan Poders – 2

True Swadeshi

He is the only true swadeshi in Goa.  That is ironic again because, up and until the 1998 Lok Sabha election, when the BJP was the opposition at the national level, its leaders including Vajpayee had been espousing the cause of Swadeshi.  In fact a full chapter was devoted to this in its election manifesto then.  It said, “The policies of liberalisation, particularly globalization, pursued by the Congress and later by the United Front government have resulted in economic stagnation.  What this nation needs now is a practical approach that is devoid of dogma and is guided wholly by considerations of national interest and what is appropriate for us."

Fifteen years later Manohar Parrikar, a BJP chief minister, has turned this dogma on its head.  As a result, bakers fear the government’s treatment of them will end up in the big bread companies wiping them out like they did to the many small soda producers that have shut shop over the years.

A pao costs Rs 4.83 to make!

According to John Vaz, Vasco’s baker extraordinaire, a three-member family (husband, wife, son) can barely survive making 900 paos on the first 50 kg of subsidised wheat flour.  I have taken this lowest level figure into account to calculate a poder’s losses in spite of the subsidy.  “Assuming he avails of his subsidy, this works out to Rs 200 per day that is Rs 6,000 per month.  At the 50-100 kg rate of consumption, that would be Rs 200 per day if he consumed the maximum of 100 kg.  For the 100-150 kg category, that would be Rs 150 per day if he consumed a maximum of 150 kg” (the subsidy is Rs 4 per kg for the first 50 kg; Rs 2 per kg for between 50-100 kg; and Rs 1 for between 100-150 kg).

Vaz says that at the present cost of Rs 24 per kg, 50 kg of flour would cost a baker Rs 1,200.  “The Association of Goan Bakers have told me that a 10-ton truck of firewood costs Rs 21,000 (full load), that is Rs 2,100 per tonne or roughly (exactly coz 1 tonne= 1,000 kgs)  Rs 21 per kg.  It takes nearly 150 kg to fire up an oven which costs Rs 3,150.  Both the cost of flour and firewood works out to Rs 4,350.”

That in turn works out to a loss making production rate of Rs 4.83 per pao baked against a selling price of Rs 3 from which the person hired to deliver bread gets fifty paise per pao.  Alas, the delivery man on the bicycle and the distinct “phonk phonk, phonk” which often serves as your free alarm service, is often mistakenly called the poder.  Vaz, who baked paos from 1960 to 1980 before abandoning that and turning to confectionery, insists the 150 kg needed to fire up “is the basic minimum.”  Pastries and not pao made Vaz a financially successful baker, but in his case while the consumer has gained in one sense, he has also lost in another.

It gets tougher

It gets serially tougher for the poder beyond this point according to him.  “You can bake between 150-200 breads per fired up oven.  In the first heat (always the first) only the whole wheat poies are baked.  It takes between 15-20 mins to bake.  Next, the normal breads are baked.  That takes 20 minutes.”  According to him it takes between 35-40 mins to bake between 300 to 400 breads, wastage (the burnt ones) included.  “In fact, there is no scientific time formula, a single baking process could take for instance between 40-45 mins.”  In other words, with a process like this, a poder would have to bake for three hours to bake 900 breads including wastage (burnt pao).  “There is always ten per cent wastage in the first heat, thereafter the wastage is reduced progressively.”

Serially tough because after a three-hour round of baking, the oven has to be fired up once again, and firing up takes 20 min just to get the required heat.  According to Vaz, the method to follow, is bake the whole wheat poie first, next the katricho pao or the flat rounded poie that resemble the original, then the square pao (soft/chewy), next the kaknam, finally toast.  “The soft square pao has to be baked in steel moulds which is the element that absorbs heat the most and thus reduces the temperature”.

What few consumers know about Goan bread is that it is healthy and safe because poders do not use preservatives.  This is because of its inherently shortest shelf-life and the fact that poders simply can’t afford it.  The ingredients used are flour, yeast, salt and a bit of sugar (but not for the whole wheat poie).  But bakers who use electric ovens to maintain the rise and softness in a bread loaf or otherwise, in addition, use fat and more sugar (but not much.)  In other words the whole wheat poie is the real thing.