3-Minute Interview: Eric Wolfinger

The baker temporarily left his job at the Mission district’s Tartine Bakery and traveled to Colombia’s Sierra Nevada, where he managed to gain entry to a village of the reclusive Arhuaco Indians. Photos from the trip are on display at Tartine Bakery through Sunday and can be found on his blog, www.openkitchenblog.com.

What drew you to Colombia’s Sierra Nevada? I knew there was a pretty reclusive group of people in the mountains who had survived for generations pretty much without any contact with the outside world. I was told a trip there would be impossible, first because the people there prohibit any outside visitors. And second, those mountains are a stronghold of the guerrilla group FARC, so I could have been kidnapped.

So how did you get in? I got there the way you get anywhere prohibited — through an insider. I met an Arhuaco merchant at a market and was peppering her with questions about the Arhuacos. She told me, “Our favorite thing in the world is to have a pot of coffee and share some bread.” I asked her how they made their bread. She said, “We don’t know how to make bread. The little money we get during the coffee harvest, we buy the basics. And whatever’s left over, we buy some bread with.” I told her I could teach her family how to make bread. She was intrigued. A couple of phone calls later, I was on a bus.

Why do the show at Tartine? The only reason I was granted access to this sort of hidden corner of the world was because I could offer my skill as a bread baker,which I learned at Tartine. So doing the show here about my time in the mountains there came full circle.

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