Bread, as a symbol of community, sharing and connection to land, is the focus of a Sydney Friends of Good Food Month and FoodFaith event in Hyde Park in October. FoodFaith has been working with Good Food Month, the City of Sydney and UTS for this event which showcases the many cultural, spiritual and environmental connections bread has.
The event, Breaking Bread – The Panel, will be held in Sydney’s Hyde Park on Tuesday October 9th and will feature panelists Bruce Pascoe, Indigenous food historian, author and professor, Daniel Grynberg of social enterprise bakery, The Bread & Butter Project, which re-invests all profits into baker training and employment pathways for refugees and asylum seekers, Judy Friedlander, Founder of FoodFaith which promotes social and environmental sustainability through food and community gardens and runs the Breaking Bread initiative which brings together cultures and faiths over the sharing of a rich multitude of breads, Laya Slavin, Co-Founder of Our Big Kitchen, a charity and commercial kitchen based in Bondi which last year provided over 80,000 meals to disadvantaged Australians, Helen Greenwood, renowned food journalist and author of The Great Australian Baking Book, and Councillor Jess Miller, Deputy Mayor of the City of Sydney, who will moderate the event.
Bread’s rich symbolism, varieties, traditions and exciting new connections to sustainable agriculture will be the focus of Breaking Bread – The Panel.
One of the most promising developments taking place in the Australian food and agriculture scene is research and production into Australian native grains. Bruce Pascoe is one of the key people leading the charge and universities and the CSIRO are undertaking groundbreaking research.
As Pascoe’s book Dark Emu revealed, prior to European settlement, Australia had a wheat belt that covered a vast proportion of the country and sustained Indigenous nations with cultivated and prepared breads. His book recounts British explorers Charles Sturt and Thomas Mitchell extolling the virtues of Aboriginal breads, describing them as the lightest and sweetest they’d ever tasted. Aboriginals began grinding grain into flour and baking bread 65,000 years ago, nearly 50,000 years before others anywhere in the world came up with the same kind of enterprise, invention and chemistry. Pascoe found explorers’ detailed accounts of packed piles of hay, grain surpluses and three-metre wells, contrasting with the widely held and distorted view of Aboriginal people as ‘mere wanderers across the soil’.
Judy Friedlander, who is also a doctoral candidate and researcher with the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney, says that the current research into the cultivation of native grains is one of the most exciting environmental developments taking place in Australia. ‘As Dr Kate Howell, a biochemist who is researching kangaroo grass and native millet at the University of Melbourne, says, we should be cultivating native grains and not European grains. We have imported everything to Australia and ignored everything, by and large, except for macadamias. When you talk to people about this research they have this fire in their eyes.'
'Cultivating our own grains is about reconciliation and sustainability and the future of wheat farming could be a patchwork mosaic, a mixed ecological system of kangaroo grass, other grains and grazing animals,' says Dr Howell.
'Environmentally, native grains are a pretty good deal,' says Pascoe. 'They’re perennials, so once you get your crop established you don’t have to plough the land again or add fertiliser or pesticide. Your CO2emission levels are going to drop dramatically because you’re not turning the soil over and releasing carbon into the atmosphere.'
Friedlander says that bread is not just one of the most potent symbols of connection to land and nature, but is also a highly important symbol of culture and social connections as it is the first food we made. ‘“Breaking bread”, “bread and butter”, “daily bread”, “the staff of life”… Bread was our first shared and communal food and today, the many varieties of essentially, grain and water, are representative of our myriad cultures and nationalities.' Says Laya Slavin: ‘Bread is the mainstay of every tradition and is used when celebrating and mourning. The commonality of simple flour and water brought us together.’ Greenwood says that the vast variety of delicious breads now available in Australia is an education in culture: ‘We are fortunate to have bakers from around the world who offer us global tastes and experiences.'
Look forward to seeing you there!