The University of Wisconsin Press

Food & Cooking / Travel / Mediterranean Culture

Bread and Oil
Majorcan Culture's Last Stand
Tomás Graves

"Part cultural history, part cookbook, part autobiography, this is a fascinating and well-written debut showing a rare combination of passion and irony."—Robert Carver, London Times Literary Supplement

Coarse bread bathed in olive oil, then rubbed with tomato or garlic and salt, is common to all the Mediterranean cultures from France to Algeria, from Morocco to Greece. On the island of Majorca, it is known as pa amb oli, bread and oil. Tomás Graves takes this healthy peasant staple as a starting point to explore not only Mediterranean cooking, agriculture, and traditions but also the historical crosscurrents that have rescued this simple dish from disappearing along with a way of life that had remained essentially unchanged since Roman times.

Pa amb oli has come to symbolize for Majorcans all that is still honest and valid in the island, which became a major tourist destination in the 1960s and has been looking for its soul ever since. Bread and Oil celebrates the Majorcan character as reflected in its eating habits—simplicity, serenity, resourcefulness, and no qualms about getting one's hands oily.

Tomás Graves lives in Deià, Majorca. He is a master craftsman of typographic design and letterpress printing and formerly operated the New Seizin Press with his wife, Carmen. He also plays in a rock band, contributes articles to Connoisseur magazine, and is the author of A Home in Majorca: A Practical Guide to the Traditional House and Rural Life. The son of celebrated British poet and classicist Robert Graves, he was born and raised in Majorca.


“With a strong sense of place, a genuine voice, vibrant characters and a metaphoric focus, it's as satisfying as a fine novel.”
—Terese Allen, author of The Flavor of Wisconsin

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cover of Bread and Oil is a collage of photos, featuring a castle and a plate of bread, oil and tomatoes

August 2002
LC: 91-026346 TX
248 pp.   5.5 x 8.5   1 map

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Cloth $24.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-17990-8
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"Bread and Oil . . . explores local traditions—the cooks and the restaurants, the bakers and sausage makers, wine-growers—and the provenance of its flour and bread, olives and olive oil, and the sensational vegetables and fruits."

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Updated June 7, 2012

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