25th February 2013 Tashkent, Uzbekistan


One of the things all foreigners in Uzbekistan learn about is the local bread – non, or lipyoshka in Russian. There are regional variations, but all on the same theme of a circle of bread with a crisp, flattened centre and a thick rim. Bread, we are told, is an inescapable part of every meal: the stuff of life.

Quite soon after we arrived we found our local bread shop, over a bridge and down a small side street, where there’s an unmarked window behind which there’s always warmth and activity. One winter’s day we asked if we could come inside and watch the bread being made.

Even on a cold day it was hot inside the bakery. The baker worked fast, pummelling the dough into shape and flattening the centre with a heavy stamp, a couple of dozen loaves in a batch. They go into a barrel-roofed gas oven, slapped by hand against the walls and the ceiling. A few minutes’ wait, and as they begin to come loose they are caught in a long-handled pan and deposited on the table to cool. The whole process from dough to fresh warm bread takes about half an hour, and the baker keeps it up from early in the morning to late in the evening, assisted by his grandchildren when they are not at school. It’s a family business: our baker moved to Tashkent from the Fergana valley a few years ago with his daughter and her children, and one of his sons is also a baker in Tashkent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANot long ago, I read a book about the meaning of food in Uzbekistan, that suggested that food – who eats what when; who prepares it; how it is served – reflects key issues in society including economic structures and gender relations. I didn’t agree with all its conclusions. But there’s no doubt that food and people’s relationship with it can illuminate important aspects of the way people live, what they value and why. There’s no doubt too that in an urban, supermarket society it’s easy to lose touch with the relationship between what we eat and its origins in the natural world, and to treat food as the product of an industrial process. It’s good to see bread made by hand, and treated with respect.

5 comments on “Bread

  1. Очень приятно,что наш хлеб,а точнее лепешки нравятся большому количеству людей!
    Это приятно!
    Многие,кто побывал ,хоть один раз в Узбекистане,и попробовал наши лепешки,Никогда не забудут их вкус,,,,,,их запах,,,,,,
    И обязательно,приехав вновь,и ступив на нашу землю,тут же купит горячую,только что испеченную в тандыре,лепешку!
    Спасибо Вам за добрые слова!

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  3. Thank you for this elegant homage to our local bread, which is indeed delicious. My origin being Samarkand, I’m supposed to hold the local thick variety of non in the highest esteem (after all, it is famous all over the country) but I actually prefer the thinner, crispy bread with a slightly savoury taste. I just wondered about the book you’ve mentioned as I’m trying to read (if I can) or, at least be aware of anything that’s written about this part of the world in Britain, but haven’t heard of this one. It is also quite interesting to notice that different writers’ impressions of such societies as ours may vary to a great extent depending on the relationship between the host (usually the storyteller, the gatekeeper) and the writer (the guestm the uninitiated).

    1. Thank you for the comment. The book I mentioned is called “Seeking Food Rights” and is by an American academic, Nancy Rosenberger.

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About George Edgar

George Edgar is Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Uzbekistan. He took up his position in September 2012. Ambassador Edgar has previously been Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Cambodia and Macedonia; Consul General…

George Edgar is Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Uzbekistan. He took
up his position in September 2012. Ambassador Edgar has previously been Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Cambodia and Macedonia; Consul General in St Petersburg; and interim Ambassador to the Holy See. Most recently, he played a key role in Protocol Directorate in the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office in London in relation to arrangements for the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Ambassador Edgar is married and has two daughters.

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