Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Najib came to New York as a student, not a baker. He knew nothing about cooking, but a friend had given him a recipe for bread, believing that Najib could make a business from it. And so Najib did.

When I walked into the bakery years ago, I first noticed the poster about the plight of Afghani refugees, then the slim, dark bakers who worked in silent harmony. I would gesture to the loaf I wanted, then pay for it (a dollar back then) and leave. I didn't buy bread often, but when I did, I felt grateful for the bakers, and to this country, for sheltering them.

Could it have been five years that passed? I grew friendly with Simón who worked behind the counter at the deli. I was learning Spanish, and I practiced with him, naming things as I went. Pan, I would say when I pointed to the Afghan bread. Simón would nod.

My vocabulary grew. One day I told him about the panaderos who made the bread, and their exilio, their exile.

Simón smiled. They were his relatives, from Bolivia, from a mining town south of La Paz. Each morning they arrived at four to begin making Najib's bread. Each noon, they finished.

They made two kinds of bread, wide loaves and narrower ones. The wider ones were for Najib's Pashtun clients, and the thinner ones for Americans who were always dieting. As for Najib, he was Farsi and he didn't eat bread at all.

They saved every dollar they earned. If one was sick, another relative filled in. Those were good years for Najib and good ones for his bakers,too. They worked one for all, and all for one, never sacrificing their dream. The day arrived when they had earned enough money to buy a house in Wisconsin. But it was a sad day for Najib.

They moved four years ago, and Najib still misses them. But each December he telephones to wish them a merry Christmas.


Blogger Janet said...

Another lovely story from Blissville. Thank you. XX.

11:54 PM  

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