Recommended drinking game: Take a shot every time I use the word poee and share the results.
The trick to finding love in life usually starts with the willingness to accept it. It could come unexpectedly, much like the street vendors who lug around baskets of poee house to house blowing their special horn. And a lot like love, it could fill you up with joy incomparable to other counterparts. A morning is made better with poee, and so in an evening of utter disdain over news. You can put it over your ears ignoring good advise, and slit it open to keep some extra change. It loves cheese, and cheese loves it back. The charms of love come to rest at poee, this delicious remarkable bread with a simple and rich history. It doesn’t share its reliability for happiness with love, and in that aspect I certainly feel poee is a better companion. Because poee isn’t complicated, it is savoury, dusty, approachable and friendly with anything you want to eat. Poee is like that date night where live music is in background, and a couple is giggling together, unlike regular bread where the couple is on their individual phones after a hectic session of “photography”. It is my brave conclusion that of all the breads I have tried in this world across 10 countries , Goan poee is my personal favourite. And like many things Goa does best, from food to moments, poee can stand the test of time and remain to be its remarkable self.
The Goan poee is a rather simple bread that is similar to pav, you could call it a cross between that, a bun and a pita pocket. Made from whole wheat flour, maida and wheat bran, it is incredibly popular in Goa and is a household staple. Usually sold in early morning or late evenings, it is most often found in bakeries or in baskets attached to cycles or bikes and people riding them and honking that horn announcement. The original Portuguese recipe included toddy instead of yeast, but much of that tedious 5 hour long bread making process is lost to the rising demands and comforts of yeast in the modern world (or perhaps once the Portuguese left they ran out of “authentic” toddy supply having consumed it all in a cocktail of relief but confusion over colonialism). Much changed, so did poee, yet it held on to its original self and adapted, remained in the collective memory and lived on with people as their staple bread choice.
Sitting at a “designed to be fancy” restaurant near Vagator and finding poee with chorizo on the menu is a beautiful example of how celebrated the bread is. The price on the hilltop restaurant is probably 120 times more expensive than the humble price of INR 4/- on the streets, and one might have to turn the menu upside down and confirm the rate by calling the manage just to be sure. Taxes additional. It goes to show how easily one can turn something purely local to an extravagant affair. But the price of being loved back by Goa is not in spending on expensive poee. It is keeping an ear open for that horn, and buying it from a vendor on bike.
The ever adapting tastes of our world flourishes on the backs of the breads we consume. Travel to Malaysia and bring back a curry that performs better with sticky rice but still tastes special something with steamed rice, such comfort is brought by the simple forms that grains take. Bread is easy, and should always be so, much like love itself. Could be from anywhere, made anyhow, but when tasted it must invoke a sense of home. So I write this love letter to poee, that was a foreign taste in my mouth and a meant-to-be sensation in my heart.