Bread of Beirut: Annia Ciezadlo on communal bakeries in the Middle East
A beautiful piece from Day of Honey author Annia Ciezadlo about communal bakeries in Beirut. I first encountered these myself on travels through Morocco (the photo below features branches from outside the communal bakery in Chefchaouen), and it was fascinating to read the history behind the bakeries.
"The practice of sharing an oven goes back to the ancients, when Babylonian temples fed their subjects on the leftovers from the feasts of the gods. But the urban public oven came into its own in the medieval Mediterranean. In cities all around the Middle Sea, Christians and Muslims, Arabs and Armenians alike brought bread and other foods to the oven at the pandocheion, a Greek word for inn that means ‘accepting all comers’. For a small fee, the public baker would cook your food, saving scarce heat and fuel for all to share – a kind of culinary carpool. Private ovens encouraged segregation; public ovens led to mixing, cross-pollination, and negotiation – in a word, relationships. And probably, I imagine, a fair amount of food and recipe sharing across religious and ethnic lines."
“By the late twentieth century, this tradition was beginning to wane. But during the civil war [in Lebanon], the shortages revived it. For my friends who grew up here, standing in line at the bakery is one of the most enduring memories of the conflict. War being a matter of narratives, however, they all remember it differently.”
If food and history interests you, it’s well worth a click over to Granta Mag to read the full post.