Here’s a short and sweet tribute to my favorite thing: BREAD.
Since childhood, my favorite foods have revolved around bread–my grandmother’s southern biscuits…fresh out of the oven or the next day sliced in half and toasted…the best things on EARTH. Who doesn’t adore a good frozen dinner roll? What’s a hamburger without a good bun to support it? When I lived in Italy, I became obsessed with ciabatta and focaccia and all sorts of croissants (il cornetto con marmellata to be exact).
So here I am in Turkey and it’s the holy month of Ramadan, or Ramazan in Turkish. This coming Wednesday marks the eve of the holiday which lasts through Saturday to signal the end of Ramadan where people have been fasting during the day. This culminates in a big holiday known here as Şeker Bayram or Sugar Feast/Holiday, where the elderly are honoured by the youth. Children traditionally go door to door and wish their elders a ‘Happy Bayram’, and receive candy and sweets in return.
But, this month is also when the BEST BREAD IN THE UNIVERSE is made. During Ramadan, as a kind of special celebration, this bread is made as a traditional food to break the fast with. It’s made with yeast and is pretty calorie dense, as well as being shaped in a large circle…about the size of a medium pizza disc to give you a comparison. The top of the bread has a triangular indentation pattern. These indentations make it easy to tear or rip off pieces of the pide into chunks. It’s easy to understand why this is a great food to break the fast with. It’s heavy, filling, and sharable among the whole family.
Ramazan Pide is not just bread. It surpasses what you think of as bread and transcends into its own food group. It’s dense and chewey…but light and fluffy. The outside is crispy, has a golden glow to it and is usually decorated with nigella seeds. When it’s right out of the oven, it actually melts in your mouth. Not as in the expression ‘it melts in your mouth’ but as in the reality of ‘it’s so soft and fresh’ that it melts. It’s divine. It’s not usually made outside of the Ramadan time period (although a few bakeries do make it year round) so that’s why it’s extra special. Here in Turkey, bread is always good. I have to say it’s a bread culture and they know what they are doing…But this bread… it’s truly something beyond.
How many times can you honestly say something is so good that you have to change your route home to avoid the temptation? My love for Ramazan Pide is so great that I’ve literally had to choose routes home after work that didn’t involve going past bakeries! This is because at the time of day I’m coming home from work, the pide’s are being pulled from the ovens. You can smell them blocks away, the scent secretly pulling you into the shops. If I didn’t stop myself, I could eat an entire pide every day…alone. Eat it plain. With olive oil. Eat it with labne (a kind of cream cheese) and tomatoes. It’s a paradox. I have to avoid the bakeries so that I don’t buy a pide every day…and yet…if I don’t eat the pide it will go away at the end of the month, not to be found for another year.
It’s part of the beauty of this culture. It’s a traditional food originally for this special month, but it’s beloved and consumed by all. Many people who aren’t fasting will also tell you they look forward to when they can start to smell the Ramazan pide wafting from the bakeries and that they can’t wait to buy several and place them on their table. In Turkish culture, bread is something sacred, something to be respected and enjoyed, something to have at your table with every meal. Ramazan pide is the ultimate bread, bringing people together.
…………To everyone celebrating, herkese iyi bayramlar !