Bread #4: No-knead Turkish Bread
For this week I delved into flatbread territory, a venture that proved to be rewarding in the way of eating, of course, but also in contemplating the bread’s significance within the realm of Turkish culture. But before I get to that, I’ll ask that you please click on the name of the bread and follow the link to the recipe. I promise you will be treated to a wonderful and, again, easy recipe (I’m working my way up to the more challenging fare) that gratifies both the body and soul to amazing degrees. Mine, as you can see below, does not have the color or shape of the one found in the recipe but the taste, at least, was as described—fluffy despite being flat and also very delicious.
It also paired nicely with both something as simple as garlic hummus and something a bit more complex flavor-wise like a delectable fish and clam stew with saffron, peppers, and almonds
Now one of the very beautiful things about this bread, aside from the satisfying taste of it, is how deeply engrained it is into the culture and religion of Turkey. In fact, bread in Turkey is considered so sacred that just the mere act of touching bread becomes a vow to honor it. To show any disregard to bread is not only considered an insult to Allah but foodgoes against a moral and ethical code rooted in a mutual sense obligation and respect for all individuals. For instance, throwing away a piece of perfectly good bread would be dishonoring the divine Creator as the main source of its existence and failing to consider individuals who are often unable to afford buying bread for themselves. For this reason, bread that’s fallen to the ground is to be picked up, kissed, blessed with “Bismillah” (In the name of Allah) and moved to in a higher, cleaner place. The blessing “Bismallah” is also bestowed on the bread moments before it is put into the oven to bake in order to ensure every loaf of bread is made holy in the name of Allah. This respect of bread and the people who consume it even extends to a tradition dating back to the Ottoman Empire where bread that would otherwise be uneaten or unbought at the end of the day, is left on shelves and hung on hooks outside of homes and bakeries for all those who haven’t the means of paying for it to freely take. In this arrangement, the giver does not indulge in self-congratulations and the receiver can be nourished without sacrificing any dignity or pride. The tradition holds everyone, no matter their circumstances, as equal and deserving of the greatest respect.
Though the tradition has become less common over time, there are whole regions of Turkey, like the Bagcilar district of Istanbul, that seek to revive it in full, encouraging people to visit bakeries and buy several loaves at a time to hang outside of shops so the poor can take freely without fear of being judged or embarrassed. To date, “one hundred and forty bakeries across the area placed baskets and posters in their premises to be filled with paid-for loaves for the poor (Kaymak).” Here’s a link to the article describing the progress they’ve made.
A truly inspiring feat.
So, with that introduction and in honor of Turkish bread, I give to you a poem, drawing inspiration from the Turkish tradition of….
The rebellious cry of the unfed
The tightened gut aching to be liberated from want
The shrunken stomach screaming to be satisfied
No longer nagged by the pull of
empty space calling thunder to bolt
The rolling tide forced to crawl before the crash
Crawl with its belly to the floor
mouth open to the desert grit
Grated earth popping between it’s teeth
Tongue stripped into silence by
sharp corners of shifted ground
The golden loaves lining the shop corner shelves
hanging on hat racks and window fences
wafting sweet warmth through the streets with
whispers of welcome and
pleas that all people stand proud in their presence:
the rich, the poor, the humble and unheard
For all souls to flow into one
mirroring the milk of million mothers as they
feed the new born sun and
restore songs of blessing to
the beaten tongue
We give to thee,
open and free