I encountered a bakery while on a project in Srinagar, Kashmir last month. It was beautiful with mud plastered walls, diffused light, a traditional tandoor and wonderfully kind men who baked there, smoked pipe and drank tea the whole day. It is one of those food traditions that is well under threat by factory produced white, tasteless breads. I wanted to document the process and the beauty of it. Here is a short clip.
Kashmiri bread has a long history behind it. The cuisine has evolved over hundreds of years and it has to be remembered that the tradition of bakery is exclusive to the Central Asian culture The cuisine has been influenced by the cultures which arrived with the invasion the Kashmir region by Timurlung from the area around modern Uzbekistan. The baker is called a kandur in the Kashmiri language and bread is tsot .What is called lavaseh in Kashmiri is lavash in Persian and similarly girdeh is common to both . What is amazingly similar is chochihwur, a chewy partially soft baked round bread of about three inches diameter and six inches circumference, that is relished with a cuppa .
In Kashmir , bread is an intrinsic part of social customs too. Roth Khabar is an interesting ceremony that takes place after the marriage. The bride's parents send a one-meter long, two and a half meter wide baked bread decorated with cashews, almonds, poppy seeds called khashkhash in and silver foil . This is called the roth . It is accompanied by a Nabad Not, a big bowl made of sugar crystals, dry fruits and shireen. There is still an unbroken tradition of giving bread and salt to the daughter when she proceeds to her in-laws’ house. This is a custom which has its roots in history. Social scientists say that in those when the bride had to travel a long way and conveyance was not easily available, the parents could rest assured that their daughter had something to eat if she was too shy to eat a full meal as a new bride on this long journey.