THE ART OF BREAD MAKING

The craft of bread making is more than learning the secrets of baking. It is a tradition that connects people and brings childhood memories to life. Follow us to the mountain villages of Bulgaria and the small towns of Georgia to learn how bread making became a craft of the locals

Words: Emily Georgieva

Photography: Roman Kraft, Juan Manuel Nunez Mendez, Eiliv Sonas Aceron, Henry & Co, Maria Orlova, Rodolfo Marques

11 February 2020

I remember when I was young walking up to the village shop was a daily ritual. This was the best and one of the few places where locals could buy bread. This seemingly insignificant daily act was very important to the residents of the village I spent some summers at. People took buying bread very seriously. In some places of the country growing and making your own food was the craft that supported the entire livelihoods of the locals.

There was nothing like the smell of freshly baked loaf early in the morning. People would have to get up at the break of day and head straight to the bread shop before all the loafs were already sold. It only took about fifteen minutes to walk between the bakery and my home, but I remember that on the way back, a chunky part of the sourdough loaf was already gone. It was that good, you see, just the smell would make your mouth water. I thought the crust was probably the best part, although most people from my family preferred to dig into the soft parts whilst the bread was still warm and fresh.

I spend some of my childhood in a small village not too far away from the mountains of Bulgaria. Those were moments of my early life that I would treasure forever. Early walks for bread were something of a tradition for the villagers and being able to make dough with my grandmother and my mother is something I will always be grateful for.

Bread making is a craft known in other places around the world. It seems to me that it is almost like a well-kept secret that has been passed on from one traveller to another and has made its way to far-away lands. There are plenty of ways to make bread. Each country has their own. Georgia is one of those places, where making dough is considered more than just making food – it is a form of art, it shapes the country’s culture and exists so that people can bond over a tradition that is meant to be passed along.

Bread making is not an easy task. Good bread takes time, practice and knowledge. The more you know about it in advance, the better the dough is going to taste once baked. In Georgia they have a word specifically designed to describe this feeling. ‘Supra’ is the term people use when friends and family gather together over food. It is a truly special occasion, one that many people might dismiss because of our busy lifestyles. Places like small mountain villages in Bulgaria and Georgia still have respect for those moments and make sure to prioritise them. Bread making is not a chore, it is a ritual.

There are plenty of villages one can travel to on the territory of Georgia. Some follow breathtaking tracks along green fields and vineyards; others are more challenging zigzagging around monasteries in mountain hills. Sometimes you will know you are on the right track even before you get there. If you are lucky enough you can stumble across a place where people would sell bread loafs on the street.

Georgians know how to cook and surely know how to throw a feast. As there is an art to bread making, this is usually a moment shared among the family. Often younger and older generations would gather to learn from one another tricks that give the loafs their unique taste. Making bread is a family thing just like eating it and sharing it with friends is a family tradition.

Some days I wake up and I could smell freshly baked loafs, despite being far from that tiny Bulgarian village I spent a small part of my childhood in. This is the magic of it all. Bread is not just bread once you’ve watched somebody make it or if you’ve learned to do it yourself. Bread becomes a symbol of homeliness. It is what bonds families and to many it brings a sweet feeling of nostalgia for childhood days. Bread making is an art that has been perfected by different cultures scattered across the Black Seacoast.

If you ever find yourself in a place where one of the locals’ craft is bread making, do pay attention. There is a lot to be learned from the traditions embodied in small representative groups of entire nations. You will be sharing a special moment that not many get to experience. After making the bread, there is nothing more joyful than setting up the table for all friends to join and toast to the well-done job. The warmth of the oven will spread around the room; laughter and conversations will be the music of the day; the smell of the freshly baked sourdough will fill the air. Bulgaria and Georgia are two countries so far and different from each other. Yet, they share something so fundamental to the way locals have been crafting their traditions and cultural values. There is no better way to get close to the Georgian or Bulgarian customs than spending a day of bread making somewhere in the mountain villages of both countries.

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