Updated: Sep 17, 2022
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.