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Friday Bread Basket: 10/23/20
This week’s Friday Bread Basket is kind of a heavy-but-hopeful one, alas. This is a newsletter about bread, but I can’t share two of stories I want to today without a little backstory first.
I am Armenian, and there is a war going on right now involving Armenians, in a far-off place called Artsakh—also known as Nagorno-Karabakh. Artsakh is a area within the borders of Azerbaijan that has had a majority ethnic Armenian population since at least the sixth century B.C.. It was “given” to Azerbaijan—a country that has itself only existed since 1918—when it became part of the Soviet Union in 1923. (Some say that Stalin stuck Artsakh into the Republic of Azerbaijan rather than making it part of the Armenian Republic in order to sow discord between satellite republics and keep them from causing trouble beyond their borders.)
When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, the (largely Armenian) population of Artsakh voted overwhelmingly to cede from Azerbaijan and declared independence. Azerbaijan responded by declaring war. A ceasefire was brokered in 1994, but it has been repeatedly violated since that time, resulting in the displacement of some 400,000 Armenians and 600,000 Azeris from the region.
The conflict flared up again on September 27 of this year, when Azerbaijan launched air and artillery attacks on Artsakh, in what looks like—with help from Turkey, its ally and Armenia’s long-time adversary—an attempt to rid itself of its Armenian population once and for all. Armenians worldwide are understandably upset that their people are again under attack, especially since the conflict is not getting the attention it deserves from the outside world.
The story of Artsakh, Armenia, and these republics’ troubled relationship with their neighbors is a long, complicated, and sad one that I won’t go into further here, but if you’d like to know more about it, here are a few useful resources:
And if you can contribute to some of the many relief funds that have been set up, here’s a link.
Artsakh Women Baking Jingalov Hatz in Yerevan
[Photo credit: Narek Alexsanyan/ Hetq]
It’s no secret that Armenians are proud of their native breads—choreg, lavash, and lahmajun among them. Artzakh’s most beloved culinary creation is jingalov hats (hats is Armenian for “bread”), an unleavened, flattened-football-shaped, herb-filled flatbread cooked on a saj, or griddle. (Jingalov hats was featured in the New York Times Magazine earlier this year.)
Many of the women and children of Artzakh have fled the fighting for the safety of Armenia itself. In the meantime, a group of them in the Armenian capital Yerevan has started making jingalov hats in order to support themselves and the war effort, having commandeered a part of the hotel that is hosting them.
[Photo credit: Narek Alexsanyan/ Hetq]
They are baking and selling the breads with the help of the hotel staff, and the hotel owner is already looking forward to a time when they can start a jingalov hats business in the Artzakhi city of Shushi when the war is over.
Jingalov Hatz recipe, from Lavash, The Book
[Photo credit: John Lee]
Jingalov hatz is typically made with a wide variety of different flavorful herbs, many of them foraged—some sour, some savory, some vegetal, some sweet. In the height of spring, when wild plants are abundant, it can contain more than 20 different species, but even during the rest of the year it’s meant to be made with no fewer than 12.
Jingalov hatz was featured prominently in the recently-published book of Armenian recipes, Lavash, by Kate Leahy, John Lee, and Ara Zada. (The authors are friends of mine, and we have a lavash-related collaboration in the works, so stay tuned for that someday.)
The entire book is wonderful and highly recommended. In the meantime, if you’d like to try your hand at making jingalov hatz yourself, the recipe is on their website.
[Photo credit: Marian Wood Kolisch]
October 21, 2020 would have been the 91st birthday of one of my favorite authors, Ursula K. Le Guin, who wrote this:
Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.
(from The Lathe of Heaven)
That’s it for this week’s Friday Bread Basket. See you all next week, and have a peaceful weekend.