When Eufraziah Braganca spells out her name for me, carefully, a letter at a time, I can tell she does this often. But she shows no frustration when I take time to get it right, and then ask her to repeat, once again. She laughs instead, and I sense that she is a person who can find joy in method, a
spark in the banal.
I catch myself thinking this is probably what makes her a fantastic baker, but then I realize it’s this and much more.
Eufraziah – who I will call Effie from now on (with her permission) – works in Cansaulim, was born in Cansaulim, and aside from daily afternoon siestas, dedicates her life to baking in Cansaulim. Although between her and her husband, Anthony, they bake what she tells me amounts to "thousands" of items a day, she shows no sign of fatigue. "We work very quickly," she says, and invites me to come to Goa and see her and Anthony in action for myself.
Her potato cake is one of the village’s best kept secrets, while Anthony’s poee is not just famous, but sustenance for the hundreds of people who eat it everyday. This includes the guests of The Postcard Hotel and hundreds of workers who buy it daily, and eat it how they like – slathered with oil, butter, or whatever they have on hand. "Everyone according to their own taste," she tells me, when I ask if there is a way, that is the way, to eat poee.
At four rupees a poee – the market price is five – the poee is a canvas, a bread that is neutral as much as it is distinct, filling as much as it is forgiving.
Who would think that a simple alchemy between wheat flour, maida, salt, yeast and water could produce this?
The simplest things are the hardest to make, I am reminded.
I ask Effie about life, about satisfaction. She is grateful – the couple has enough, she says, and despite it being a hard year (business closed for ten full days, and has been more sluggish than previous years), they are doing okay. Their cat – non-ironically called Pussy – is a delightful companion,
and evenings on Velsao beach bring a peaceful closure to the day. The couple is often joined here by Effie’s sister and her family, who fish for a living.
While she describes the pleasure of family, I ask her if she misses the Goa of her childhood. She laughs. It is perhaps too complex of a question. When I linger, still waiting for a response, she says "We didn’t have light then, but we were very close."
Without saying which time was better, or ever expressing preference for one recipe or the other, she implies something eternal: life, baking, and love, have always been beyond words.