I’ve been living in Barcelona two years: it’s high time we talked about what I’m calling the “Breaditerranean diet” and its Catalan staple, pa de pages (“country bread”). This large, round loaf with a thick crust is sold is most bakeries, and while it might just seem like a loaf of bread . . . it’s not, my friends. It’s so much more. The bread itself is an institution. It’s a process. It’s a tradition. And it’s tasty.
Pa de Pages regulations
Like wine, some cheeses in Europe, and pizza in Italy, real pa de pages is an EU designation, meaning that it must meet certain standards of ingredients and preparation in order to receive the official title of IGP (in Catalan, Indicació Geogràfica Protegida).
Among the requirements for Pa de Pages Catala are the manual labor required to kneed the dough, the slow fermentation of the yeasts, the color of the flour, the size of the crumbs (large), and the freshness of the bread (it should remain fresh for 2-3 days). The packaging is also regulated: the bread must be wrapped in a package that is environmentally-friendly and biodegradable. Only then can you have the official Pa de Pages sticker on your bakery window.
Learn more about the regulations at the official Pa de Pages website, although it is only in Catalan and Spanish. And to give you an idea of just how regulated this stuff is, take a look at the pdf of the requirements for the designation. Again, only in Catalan, but it clearly illustrates the care placed on regulating the quality of the region’s staple bread, which is impressive!
How to eat Pa de Pages
The most simple way to eat Pa de Pages is to grill or toast the bread, rub half of a garlic clove over the warm slice, and then rub half of a tomato over the bread, creating the staple dish pan con tomate (pa amb tomaquet in Catalan). Pa de Pages is also the bread used for torradas, which can be topped with myriad toppings and are like an open-faced sandwich.
For more information about Catalan cuisine, visit Gastroteca.cat (in English! I promise!). The website provides a wealth of a knowledge on Catalan foods (including recipes!) and also offers information on local restaurants and shops, the produce of surrounding regions, and the months when local produce is in season.