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The best breads of Tobago

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Only a few commercial dirt ovens still exist Tobago. The best and most popular loaves can be found in the village of L’Anse Fourmi, located on Tobago’s north coast.

A drive along the North Coast Road takes the traveller in search of this delectable tasting bread past the villages of Mason Hall and Runnemeade, and over the hill to Castara and scenic Parlatuvier.

The road then splits into an intersection; turning right sends you along the Main Ridge Forest Reserve and eventually into the Windward Road. Turn left and you are heading to Bloody Bay where the road now seems laden with an abundance of mango and avocado trees with fruits falling on the side of the roadway and tumbling down the hill.

Nestled at the bottom of a hill in L’Anse Fourmi lies a huge dirt oven covered from the elements under a galvanized shed. Next to it is a table covered with loaves whose texture, sight, aroma and taste evokes a sense of warm nostalgia to the older generation and a rich taste made with love to the young.

The bakery is a simple operation run by Earl Manswell and his wife Judy. Also an artist by profession, he built the oven seven years ago. Recalling the process, this artist/baker/ovenbuilder said it was built using river stones, dirt and straw. The process involved him gathering stones from a nearby river. Since there are no natural sources of clay in that part of Tobago, a combination of various soil types were used to get the structure right so it could withstand high temperatures. A shed was built over the oven to keep it protected from the elements. Earl and Judy’s bakery operates only on a Sunday. This means that long lines of tourists and locals alike make the journey to get the hand-crafted loaves that sell at a very cheap price.

One customer said she makes the trip from Scarborough and stocks up on the previous loaves for the week since she is not a lover of the bread sold in groceries.

Earl said the process is two part. The flour is kneaded by hand and are shaped into pan loaves and hops bread. While this is taking place, the oven is fired up and heated. Earl added that he does not measure the temperature but instinctively knows when the heat is right.

The oven is cleared of the coals and loaves are placed inside, the oven sealed shut and the bread allowed to bake. The time is determined by the baker who, with his years of experience, knows when the bread is just right.

Earl Manswell can be contacted 715 1249 to place advanced orders before making the trip on a Sunday along the long winding road to L’Anse Fourmi.


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