Black-Market-M. and I had a nice sized Honey-Do List that included picking up OliveGarden-ish breadsticks from the local bakery.
We found the Gidan Brody (House of Bread) and went inside the compound gate. We bought what we could, but there wasn't enough . . . and the dough was still rising, so we'd have to come back.
Once our other business was taken care of, M. and I drove back down the sand-roads to purchase the remaining miniature baguettes.
But, as is typical of life here, they weren't ready, so we'd have to wait.
As an Occupational Therapist, I always love having the opportunity to see how 'real life' happens in Niger. And since 'work' is one of the Areas of Occupation, I was thrilled to have a chance to watch this baker perfect his craft.
When we had arrived earlier in the morning, the dough had been separated into the stick-shapes and left on wavy trays to rise (covered with plastic to keep the flies off, of course). Now that we were back, they were ready to go into the oven.
Inside the one-room bakery, the trays of dough sticks lay patiently on the mud floor. The baker lifted the plastic and, using a razor blade, gently sliced a decorative line across the top of each one. He glazed them with oil and carried the first tray outside.
Curious, M. and I followed. Beside the building was the most enormous mud-oven I've ever seen! He opened the trap-door and stoked the coals inside. He scraped some out into a bucket to adjust the heat, closed the door, and dumped soapy water on top.
The black carbon kished loudly as a thick cloud shot up from the bucket.
When the smoke dissipated, the baker again opened the oven door. His young assistants carried the trays to him, and using a long-handled but small-headed pizza peel, the owner-of-the-making-of-bread delicately placed the trays in the far back of the oven. As the boys retrieved more trays, he lined them up over the coals.
The door was closed, and we waited. The boys carried on with chores such as washing the plastic that had covered the bread . . . with A LOT of soap! M. and I made small talk with the baker and others in the compound, asking questions about the process.
After about five minutes, the breadsticks were golden brown and ready to be removed the same way they were put in. And on the promise that I would some day return with a copy of his photo, the baker allowed me to document the event, courtesy of my phone's camera app.