Rustic Spanish Bread for Parallel Mothers

Camilla is hosting our Movies & Munchies crew this month with Parallel Mothers. I had not heard of this film but I do like Penolope Cruz and I did enjoy Volver when we watched that back in the Food ‘n Flix days. We were gone a bit in May and Memorial Day complicated things, too, but I was able to fit a viewing in at the last possible moment.

About the film:

Parallel Mothers is directed by Pedro Almodóvar and premiered in 2021. The film stars Penélope Cruz, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Milena Smit, Israel Elejalde, Julieta Serrano, and Rossy de Palma.

Janis, a late-thirties something woman, and Ana, a young teen, are put in the same maternity room as they are both about to give birth.  Janis and Ana are both experiencing accidental pregnancies and both are single.  One is excited and radiant. One is pale and scared.  After their daughters are born, the babies are whisked away because of some minor medical issues to be check out. The women continue to bond while they wait and exchange numbers.

Parallel Mothers was selected for the Venice Film Festival (with Cruz winning best actress) and at the New York Film Festival. It was nominated for two Academy Awards, including best actress and best original score.

What I thought…

As I mentioned before, I was a bit familiar with the director from Volver so I expected some sort of a twist. I will say that while Volver showed some humor, I found little to even smile at in this film. The film opens with Janis photographing Arturo, a forensic anthropologist. After the shoot, they share drinks while Janis asks for some personal guidance. She wants to exhume her great-grandfather’s body from a mass grave dating back to the Spanish Civil War and “the disappeared.” Arturo offers to help and the next thing Janis knows, she’s pregnant.

Then, finding her great-grandfather takes a back seat to dealing with a newborn, dismissing Arturo out of her life and bonding with Ana. Janis is forced to face another kind of heartbreaking truth before she revisits her ancestor’s grave.

Here’s another old Food ‘n Flix reference, before I watched Pan’s Labrynth I really did not have any working knowledge of the Spanish Civil War. I did not want a fantasy film to be my only basis of what happened so I researched and read. I was appalled and I wondered why I never really learned any of this history.

Parallel Mothers establishes that the wounds in Spain are still fresh and there is still a lot of unknowns.

(I might suggest The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys if you want a realistic fictionalized version of the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime. Just know it’s a YA novel.)

I enjoyed this film and will recommend it.

The Food:

It’s difficult to read subtitles and pay attention to what food is flashing on the screen. There were lots of bowls of fruit, either as decoration or being eaten in the film. I can’t help but think that the abundance of fruit was used both for coloring purposes (as Almodóvar is know for) but also as symbols of fertility. I distinctly remember a pomegranate being in the center of at least one fruit bowl. That seemed a little obvious.

The list of what was on screen or referenced:

  • Fruit, coffee on catering table
  • Wine, more fruit, something slivered on a plate (Jamon?)
  • Tea and toast (and more fruit)
  • Croquettes
  • More fruit (salad) and wine
  • Liquor (orujo?) and more fruit bowls
  • Coffee and muffin
  • Jamon
  • Potato omelette
  • Brandy
  • Tea and strawberry ice cream
  • Spanish Baked Fish with Potatoes (Bacalao a la Catalana)
  • White wine and olives
  • Rustic bread being sliced by Ana
  • sweets on the table , donuts, wafers (more yellow liquor and brandy?)

I had to do some googling and guessing on some of these foods. I would love to know if the yellow liquor that Elena slams really is orujo.

I’ve already featured a Spanish Tortilla for Pan’s Labyrinth and while I was very tempted to do another one, especially after the scene of those glistening potatoes turning soft and then crunchy, I decided not to. I was also almost inspired to make a fruit salad. Instead, I decided to honor those “disappeared” by making a simple rustic Spanish bread. I could also see Janis teaching Ana to make something like this.

Rustic Spanish Bread

Based on one found here.


  • 1 c. plus 6 T. warm water (95F)
  • 2 1/4 t. yeast (or 1 pkg.)
  • 3 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 t. salt (I used pink Himalayan sea salt.)
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • cornmeal


  1. Sprinkle the yeast over slightly warm (95 degree) water in a small bowl or measuring cup. Stir lightly. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Measure the flour, and place in the bowl of a kitchen mixer with a dough hook attached.
  3. While the mixer is running on low, add salt to the flour.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the flour while the mixer is still running.
  4. Slowly drizzle in the yeast and water mixture. Allow the dough to knead by machine for 4 minutes.
    After kneading, you should have a smooth, springy dough that bounces back lightly when pressed with your finger. Check the texture of the dough during the kneading process. If the dough is sticky, add up to 1/2 cup additional flour.
  5. Cover the dough in the bowl with waxed paper that has been sprayed with cooking spray, then with a kitchen towel. Let rise for 1 hour or until doubled.
  6. Knead the risen dough by hand on a floured surface for about a minute to remove air. Form the dough into a ball and place on a baking sheet that has been sprinkled liberally with cornmeal. Score dough with a razor or a sharp knive.
  7. Cover the loaf again with waxed paper and a kitchen towel, and let rise a second time for 20-25 minutes or until doubled. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  8. Bake the loaves for 23-25 minutes or until browned. Bake 5 minutes longer for a crisper crust.

Yield: 1 loaf

I thought mixing the olive oil into the flour before the yeast mixture was interesting. It worked. This is a light bread and was perfect for morning toast.

Thanks for hosting and introducing me to this film, Camilla! Join the M&M crew next month as we watch Wonka.  Amy’s Cooking Adventures is hosting.

2 comments to Rustic Spanish Bread for Parallel Mothers

  • It was a very sad movie, but I did love the relationship that developed between the women.

  • mae

    I have only seen one film by Pedro Almodóvar and always meant to return to his work. I love films with food as a feature.
    best, mae at