James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

R&K Insider: Got Bread?

This week on Roads & Kingdoms, a Belgian baker hunts for a rare strain of sourdough. Plus, writer Jorge Pedro Uribe Llamas and photographer Meghan Dhaliwal introduce us to the residents of Mexico City’s retirement home for sex workers.

This post originally appeared on August 3, 2018, in R&K’s weekly newsletter. Read the archives and subscribe to the newsletter.

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Happy Friday everyone! This is Cengiz, sneaking into your inbox for this week’s newsletter.

What’s the best bread you’ve ever had? My personal favorites have all been consumed at homes in distant corners of the world, where the bread is about far more than sustenance. Where history, tradition, and pride all come together in a perfect, warm, sometimes fluffy, sometimes crispy combination of dough.

Specifically, I think back to early morning meals in the mountains of far northern Iraq, along the Iranian borderpart of the country that looks nothing like the dust and sand you might picture. From late fall to mid-spring, the mountains are snow-capped and it’s even possible to go skiingif you bring your own equipment and know which areas don’t have landmines. Those mountains are also where the U.S.-designated terrorist organization the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), run training camps, where skirmishes between rival Kurdish groups have played out for decades, and where Turkey conducts drone strikes.

But a few lucky winter mornings each year, it’s also where I sat cross-legged on the floor of my friend’s family home, drinking Kurdish tea, eating fresh yogurt from the family cow, walnuts from their neighbor’s tree, and eating what just might be the best bread in the world. Fresh, handmade, ultra-thin, crispy Kurdish nané (commonly called lavash). Warm and flaky, nané crunches when you bite into it. It’s so thin it melts away into your mouth like a piece of filo.

Despite the health trend-fueled push away from it in some parts of the world, bread remains a central part of many cultures’ identity. For many people, it is also the most important food staple. For the Belgian baker, Karl De Smedt, it’s something worth hunting and preserving. You can read about his obsession with sourdough and the refrigerated library in which he keeps over 100 different sourdough strains from around the world.

Also this week, writer Jorge Pedro Uribe Llamas and photographer Meghan Dhaliwal introduce us to the residents of Mexico City’s Casa Xochiquetzala retirement home for sex workers. Residents Norma Ruiz, Marbella Aguilar Sosa, and Juana Hernández Marcial share intimate stories about their lives, and what brought them to Casa Xochiquetzal..

Last month, I drove south to dig into Charleston for our sister site Explore Parts Unknown. I sat down with Rodney Scott and talked about what makes Charleston barbecue stand out, his favorite places to eat in the city, and how to make great ribs at home. We also touch on some classic southern spots, shrimp and grits, and the fisherman changing food culture. But my personal favorite, and what I found most fun to photograph, was The Perfect Daywhere I explored everything from goat curry at a backyard cafe to Dirty Green Tomato Martinis at upscale restaurants. Go over and give that all a look. It was a blast photographing and exploring the city, despite the humidity and flooding.

Talk soon and give me a shout if you have any comments. I’d love to hear from you.

I’m at cengiz@roadsandkingdoms.com.

Cengiz

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