The New Gastronome
The Space Between
Where are you from?
by Stefano Nunes
by Stefano Nunes
A wave of anxiety washes over me every time I hear this small sequence of words. I am unable to provide the simple one-word answer people expect. “Brazil I guess”; “Brasília mostly”; “Honduras also”; “I was born in Switzerland,” “Oh, so you’re Swiss?”, “Absolutely not.”
I chalked it down to my particular condition, son of a Honduran and a Brazilian, born in Switzerland, moving every four years or so: Brasília, London, Paris, Rio… I found a crumb of solace in definitions like “diplobrat” or “third culture kid” these things made me feel like I was part of a community that was also unable to answer this question.
I exist in a flux, somewhere not quite here nor there, but in a between-space, traveling between one place, one time, between blurred visions of presents that will become detailed memories of things that no longer exist.
I felt at home on my first day at the bakery. A Baker’s job is never done; bread exists in a state of eternal flow, not ever really done, but in an ephemeral instant in time always-already in the next. Until bread is sliced, eaten, or disappeared, it has not fully been bread.
Bread is a liquid that never stops flowing. Bread is the manifestation of an intention to produce life and promptly to produce death. In this mix of liquid, solid, and life reside all of our states of existence, all of our anxieties about being outcompeted by stronger opponents, all of our desires to cooperate with those who complement our strengths, and all of our fears that our universes will end in fire and destruction and our certainties that something continues after we are gone.
The dough rests. It is never only dough; it is always potential, always not-quite-there-yet. The dough is never at rest. It is endlessly abuzz with enzymes, bacteria, yeasts, sugars, proteins, acid, and heat. The dough expands as the yeasts and bacteria develop. It is full of emptiness. Hundreds, thousands of strands form a forest of holes held in an amorphous mass of malleable fluidity. I cultivate this emptiness; I am careful not to let it escape. As I let the dough rise and allow the holes to form and expand, it occurs to me that bread is not bread without these between spaces.
Endless connections are made and unmade. The bread teaches me how to change and stay the same through the kneading, shaping, and scorching heat of the oven. I think of all the times I moved away, the conversations left in an eternal hiatus, the hungover breakfasts in restaurants that have since closed, and house parties in neighborhoods that have been demolished or gentrified, the random bump-ins at airports, train stations, bus stops. Of all the places I have called home, not a single one exists as before; now, they are just houses, schools, cafés, streets, and forests. Still, somehow, they remain the same, but what I missed –what I spent so many distracted days dreaming about – was nowhere to be found.
Somehow, I never missed these places; they were only the structures surrounding what I missed. A sweet look shared over an espresso, the freedom we felt living carefree in the woods, the taste of samosas after a long day climbing, the commiseration of the 3 am shift on Saturdays. As the butter I spread on my toast melts and fill the holes, it dawns on me that the pleasure of bread is found in the gaps.
Maybe that is why I cannot answer;
Home is never where I am; it is where I am not.
Photos ©Stefano Nunes