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Pa de Xeixa

The forns and panaderías (bakeries) in Campos staged the first ever Mostra de Pa Pagès (bakery presentation) as part of this year’s Fira de Maig. You wouldn’t believe what amazing wares they had on offer.

Eight Campos forns participated, with bread and rolls, barras and panades, ensaïmades, cocarrois and prims all baked the old, traditional, artisan way, and they were proud to compete for our custom. I had never had a prim before, apparently a specialty particular to Campos at matançes times and made of unwanted residue of saïm (Castellano: manteca, lard). Great taste. And I had never had Pa de Xeixa, a pa moreno made from the long forgotten xeixa wheat, a blat (wheat) which had extensively been grown in Mallorca until it was phased out as soon as Brussels and the recently joined Common Market got wind of the unruly Mallorcan bread-making extravaganzas.

Up to 100 years ago, some 3,000 wheat varieties were known in Europe alone. Today, we are down to about 24. The Associació de Forners i Pastissers de les Illes Balears wants to reintroduce the Blat Xeixa wheat variety and the bread made from it. Approval is pending. As soon as permission is forthcoming, you’ll be able to buy Pa de Xeixa in your local forn, or at least in one of the eight forners in Campos. I am looking forward to it. The bread is quite noticeably different in smell, taste and texture. When I had my first bite of Pa de Xeixa, I thought the bread was made of flour with added spices or aromas but, no. I was assured that the difference in aroma was solely due to the xeixa grain (see photo top), the natural yeast and a slow fermentation process.

One of the problems in Mallorca, apart from the stringent restrictions imposed by the mandarins in Brussels, is the fact, that only two flour mills remain active on the island, apart from the industrial mills of Harinas de Mallorca who, by the sounds of it, wouldn’t touch the xeixa wheat with a large pole.

Apparently, the xeixa wheat (Triticum compactum) had been introduced in Mallorca by the Romans, some 2,000 years ago. Since then it had been the staple wheat in Mallorca until about thirty years ago or so, when the Triticum aestivum variety replaced the Blat Xeixa as well as other ancient Mallorcan wheat varieties, such as Blat Mort, Blat Mollar, Blat Barba and Blat Vestit. Now, at least one of them, and seemingly the most important one, will be reintroduced into our daily diet, and we all shall be better off for it.

The Primera Mostra de Pa Pagès Campaner will still be on, today between 10h00 and 14h00, in Campos. It might be worth a visit.

The photo (top) was taken in Campos, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 7th, 2011. The time was 13:15:49. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of arcalcel.blogspot.com.

Muchas gracias.

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