On the road…again!!!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Follow the Trail of Breadcrumbs
As movie fans and tv viewers know all too well, there are certain lines in the scripts that become classics that develop a life of their own. We subconsciously get a kick out of hearing repeated those few words spoken by Brett Butler in Gone With the Wind, “frankly, Scarlett I don’t give a damn.” Or, “you had me at Hello” in Jerry McGuire. Or “follow the evidence” the main operating principle of forensic scientists. The words, if not the actors, live on in our collective psyches. Oftentimes iconic one-liners are effective stimuli in developing ways we incorporate notable thoughts to fine-tune our approaches to everyday tasks.
The one simplistic admonishment from the detective show C.S.I. (crime scene investigations) to follow the evidence has other practical applications: follow the money, follow the scent, and follow the trail of breadcrumbs. When you review the other items of interest it becomes clear that the money, the scent, and the breadcrumbs can be considered as evidence. In this attempt at a parable, the focus will be on breadcrumbs.
Solid evidence, shaky evidence, questionable evidence, or planted evidence, but all legitimate avenues of investigation cannot ignore even the flimsiest of clues because all may have intrinsic characteristics that can be elucidated. Such is the nature of investigations themselves, to strive for elucidation to the point that sustainable conclusions can be reached. Needless to say, the subject of investigations looms large in present-day politics. For the moment, however; the evidence in this parable is all about mere breadcrumbs.
The physical appearances of the crumbs of French bread are different from those of the mass-produced Wonder Bread of years gone by. So is the chemical composition. It may take a chemical analysis of the breadcrumbs to establish graphic evidence of how the ingredients themselves are slightly different, but that is what a thorough investigation is likely to do. If the overall investigation of some heinous act includes trace evidence of a trail of breadcrumbs, following the breadcrumbs themselves may be called for. Or not. Casual observers and casual investigations may not appreciate the evidence at the crime scene, but we can hope that they do.
The distinctions between good investigative techniques and slipshod ones may never come to light because, in the tv and newspaper accounts of important investigations, we the general public are never apprised of the methodology or in the details that led to news accounts. We read about and listen to what has been reported, but not necessarily what has been investigated.
At this stage in the parable, it might be said that there is real relevance in a tale about breadcrumbs—French breadcrumbs. When he was assigned as a Soil Conservation Specialist in the former Portuguese Archipelago of the Cape Verde Islands, we expatriates longed to have our daily bread that was as good as the French bread from Senegal, more than 500 km away on the African mainland. The local bread baked by the Cape Verdeans was done (presumably) using the colonial methods and style of the erstwhile Portuguese masters. It was edible if it was within a few hours of freshness, but day-old bread hardened up beyond the point of even being tempted to eat it. Without going into hyperbole, it is safe to say that even the Cape Verdeans knew that day-old bread was a lost cause. And that is why the subject of French bread is so deeply hard-wired into the brain of the Footloose Forester.
Whenever we expatriates traveled to Senegal on business, we of course enjoyed French bread with our continental breakfasts and in sandwiches for lunch. Speaking for himself, the Footloose Forester made it a point to buy as many baguettes as he could carry in his luggage when he returned to Cape Verde. They went as small gifts to friends and workers in our little community and the reciprocity eventually began to catch on.
On the occasion of speaking with an expatriate making his first trip to Cape Verde, the man noticed the large bag of baguettes and inquired whether or not they have bread in Cape Verde. The Footloose Forester answered yes but said you will soon learn the difference about their bread. Follow the breadcrumbs and you will discover that not all bread is made the same.
The visceral images of various breads go back many years in the peripatetic career of the Footloose Forester. It had something to do with often being hungry and ultimately being appeased with simple flat breads emerging still warm from open-air clay ovens. And the fact that those pita, nun, and chapati flat breads from Lebanon and Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India were all easy to stuff into a back pack for later consumption on the trail. Of course, genuine French baguettes have a texture and deliciousness that is very special. Fortunately, there are many places in former French colonial countries where good baguettes are still being baked. That included Senegal, the source of our occasional treats that we did not take for granted. Finally, when an investigator studied the breadcrumbs left over at our breakfast table back in Cape Verde, it was obvious that we had a French Connection.