Mr. Maia, baker

Manuel Maia de Jesus was from Tocha and when he was a kid he remembers the construction of the Hospital and the ox carts loaded with materials.
In 1961 he started working at the Hospital’s bakery, as a baker’s assistant. He had been in the profession for a few years now. He had worked in Azambuja (Ribatejo) and at various locations in Tocha. One day “there was a baker missing and I came to make a few days. I ended up staying.” He was earning, at that time, 700 escudos a month. “We worked from seven in the morning to five in the afternoon and baked bread for the next day, after the 25th of April everything changed and we started working during the night so they could eat fresh bread every day.”
Manuel, liked his craft as a baker and described to us how it all worked. The bakery was located in a wing of the general kitchen and the oven was diesel. Every day “we received a request from the pantry with the number we should bake. It was about 40 to 60 kilos of flour. The bread was wheat, natural. And there were two types of bread, a larger one for meals and a smaller one for snacks.”
He told us that the employees also ordered bread to take home, the amount being deducted from the salary at the end of the month. And that at Easter and Christmas they made sweet cookies for the sick.
During the interview, we went to the place where the old bakery was located and Mr. Maia was describing everything as if he had left yesterday. But he already retired in 1991, at that time he was already boss. And he was the last baker at the Hospital, as he was told: “When Maia leaves, we close the bakery, there is no more bread for anyone, and that was it!”
We told him that, in other interviews, some former users of the Preventório fondly recall the smell of bread and butter. And Mr. Maia responded promptly: “It’s true! We used to make exceptional bread here, and let me tell you! Even today there are people who tell me: your bread was wonderful!”

Text based on oral testimony, in 2022. Validated by the interviewee. Interview and writing by Cristina Nogueira – CulturAge