Bread is for Life

Original Post

I used to read this story, Bread is for Eating, to my second graders, which chronicles the journey of bread from seed to bakery. The bilingual book (which I feature on my Back to School Book List) has a darling little ditty that went a little something like:

el pan es para comer // el pan es para la vida // no tires el pan // ay ay, Vida mia!

(the bread is for eating // the bread is for life // do not waste the bread // ay ay, my dear!)

This short chronicle of the art of bread making in Tajikistan brought me back to that story and song, which serves as a reminder to honor the foods that form the foundation of our foodways. Though simple in form, bread plays an immensely powerful roll in sustaining life throughout many parts of the globe. Filmmaker John Wendle’s brief background on the short film elucidates the complex dimensions of bread in Tajik food practices:

While bread is still baked in a beautiful, traditional way at Shamsullo Dustov’s house in Kumsangir, Tajikistan – just 50km from the Afghan border – it is necessitated by the very poverty that forces people to subsist on such a meager diet. Homemade bread in Tajikistan provides 50 percent or more of peoples’ average daily calorie intake. Around one out of every three people is undernourished.

For the global majority, grains such as rice, teff, and maize have and continue to serve as a tool for survival. This story is a humbling reminder to us–food secure folks with ample access to a variety of global cuisines–to acknowledge and appreciate our food privilege. It also moves us to dig deeper into the history of our traditional ethnic foodways to unearth the political and social environment that shapes how and what we consider the foods of our mother countries.