In the west there has been an increasing trend to offer consumers more choice when it comes to the breads they eat. Gone are the days of a simple white or whole wheat selection. The market is flooded with breads containing complex mixtures of sesame, flax, pumpkin, rye, quinoa and potato. There are whole grains, ancient grains, up to 12 grains (I can't even name 12 grains). They even sell bread without the main bread ingredient, glutten.
Much like the west The Gambia now offers its resdidents a wide selection of bread at local stores across the nation. Namely two kinds, Tapalapa and Sensfuru - long gone are the days of the tapalapa's monopoly in the rural areas. Consumers now have a choice to make.
I went to my local store bought and then ate both breads this morning order to provide you the reader a comprehensive review.
The Tapalapa tradition runs deep into the stomachs of the of local people. The loaf carries more weight then Senfuru despite its smaller size. Tapalapa is the pride of the Qu'ranic school tradition. Made by hand the bread if first tapa'd (rolled) and then lapa'd (beaten), thus the name. It is then baked in wood fire ovens across the country. It is the symbol of the working man. No maisoner or welder dare show up at the job site with anything else.
As you pick up a Tapalapa you realize this was made with one purpose, to satisfy your hunger. It is a robust bread capable of holding shape after a 30 min ride on the back of a motorcycle - store owners will often demonstrate the bread's integrity as they smack them together to remove inwanted sand or dirt before they are sold.
Notably Tapalapa is not the most refined product - ants, rocks and other foreign debris often find there way into the dough. However, they frequently go unnoticed do the the dense texture and satisfying nature of the bread (think of it as extra protein, minerals or fibre).
Tapalapa is best enjoyed with simple spreads (butter, mayo, chocolate or with a greasy fried egg). For this morning's evaluation I used a local peanut butter and chocolate spread mix. Due to the density of the bread it took about 4 minutes to make it through the half a loaf.
Sensfuru is named after the famed "high tech" bakery that first produced it in the affluent part of town. It wasn't until more recent years that the bread was able to be transported reliably to more remote areas.
Soft and supple to touch Sensfuru appeals to those with more refined taste. Ultra refined ingredients and modern electric oven make for a consistent bake that is typicall free of any ants, rocks or other debris. It is a particular favourite of women who are hoping to move up the social ladder.
However, many will complain the Sensfuru's light airy text texture does not do enough to satisfy one's hungry and often comes squished or deformed from the store - Note my sample had a squished end left end.
Sensfuru really excels at complex sandwiches with numerous toppings particularly ones that are voluminous as the soft inner bread compacts to the outer crust allowing ample room for lettuce, tomatoes, boiled eggs, potatos, Salads and the like.
I enjoyed this morning's Sensfuru as a delightful egg salad sandwich.
In conclusion, the arrival of this new bread will only further improve the quality of life for the locals. At the end of the day I still prefer the Tapalapa mostly for its hardy nature. However I am delighted to be have Sensfuru available for its ability to hold a proper egg salad sandwich.
For the future of bread in rural Gambia. I see the continued rise of Sensfuru. The possible arrival of dense sweet bread, despite the view that a sweetness in bread is too radical and progressive, may once again bring more choice. However, at this time it remains only a speculation.
For now what is important the Gambians will for the forseable future continue to enjoy the luxury of choice with their breads.