Article by Gauhar Bano Qureshi
Written for The Real Bread Campaign UK
Pakistan, a wheat growing nation, has a longer history of consuming bread than her existence.
Wheat, flour, and bread, have all been part of daily life in the region dating back to the Indus Civilisation.
Let’s back this statement up with facts, shall we?
Clay ovens were thought to have originated in Egypt but the story doesn’t end there. A group of hard working Archaeologists found remains of these ovens (called ‘tandoors' in Urdu) from Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran and throughout North Africa.
So why is this important?
Egypt shared strong trade relations with the Greek which helped her play a significant role in the advancement of bread making. From exporting wheat for bread baking to spreading bread knowledge, the Egyptians are thought to have brought ‘yeast-fermented’ bread-making to Europe. The history of bread, and in particular sourdough, is therefore extremely interesting as it has collectively been influenced by all regions of the world.
It was the best thing since sliced bread, until sliced bread!
A significant portion of Pakistan’s cuisine, too, relies on wheat, maize, or other flour based breads. Pakistani’s consume a form of bread with every meal. Breakfast typically starts with a paratha (a flatbread or chapati cooked in ghee); or a slice of bread, depending on personal preference and/or purchasing power.
Lunch typically includes a chapati - a light and airy flatbread cooked on a skillet on a flame. Dinner generally follows suit.
There’s a vast difference in eating habits based on affordability. As sp ending power increases, local favourites start to get swapped out by loaves of sourdough or whole-wheat, even rye, croissants and bagels.
This is where a reverse influence in seen; bread baking may have gone from East to West, but today modern bread influences travel from the West to the East.
Today’s Pakistan has her share of bread bakeries, artisan bakers, micro-bakeries, all selling products influenced by the West. From loaves of sourdough bread to brioche buns, the eating habits of modern Pakistan have slowly changed. While this depends on spending power, working class Pakistanis also eat quick bread. However real bread is of course more nutritious than quick bread. According to the World Bank, nearly 40% of the population lives under the poverty line and cannot afford to buy real bread….but that’s a topic for another day.
The Loaf Microbakery, a small venture spearheading the Real Bread Campaign Pakistan (RBCP), not only aims to promote and encourage the consumption of real bread, we want to take it a step further so that real bread is accessible to all, regardless of purchasing power. A big goal which requires lots of tiny steps and a whole lot of help to turn into reality.
To kickoff this public campaign, we invite artisan bakers across the country to join our cause in getting Pakistan to eat real bread. Together we must make the case for real bread amongst our communities, and government policy. Key areas of focus include but are not limited to:
What are we doing for #RBCP?
We’re spreading awareness through knowledge shared on social media, through word-of-mouth, adverts, email campaigns, and via our website. We use our platform to engage with our ‘Loafers’ to increase their awareness of real bread and how it positively impacts gut health.
We also offer bread subscriptions to encourage our Loafer to eat better.
In the near future we wish to work with artisan bakers who are to be united under the #RBCP banner, helping us reach as many people as possible.
Additionally, we’re working on a training programme for existing, professional, bakers who will undergo a series of classes, lectures, training, and assessments carried out by The Loaf. The goal being to teach the correct methods of making artisan bread, or what we refer to as real bread in our line of work.
Why do we want this?
At The Loaf we believe in healing through food. You are what you eat, it is said. Author Virginia Woolf wrote “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Add to this the many (gut related) health issues prevalent in Paksitan… and the desire to influence change is instinctual.
At The Loaf we also want to use our platform to promote ‘local’, contributing to the economy. As an agri-based economy, and a wheat-growing-nation, Pakistan must do better to improve access to good-quality local products; starting with wheat but not ending there. We need better policies, better training, and better supply chain management to encourage the customer to choose local produce over imported goods.
How can people support us?
The task of introducing real bread on a national scale requires a national effort, not only from the makers and purchasers of bread, but also from a food security perspective.
Wheat enjoys a prominent place in Pakistan's food safety and nutrition policies. However bread does not share the same protected status. The government’s focus should be to set standards for what qualifies as real bread. What this will achieve is simple; clear marketing that helps customers distinguish between quick bread versus real bread, and widespread awareness of what real bread is. A country that consumes over 10 million tons of bread, and upwards of $32 billion in fresh bread and bakery products, ought to know the difference.