History of bread baking the subject of new Calgary exhibit

From sourdough to injeria, roti to bannock — a new exhibit in Calgary is digging into the city’s history with bread. 

YYC Bread Stories at Lougheed House features local bakeries, history of bread

A photo of Gilbert and Jay Bakers on loan for YYC Bread Stories from the 1900 Glenbow Archives. (Submitted by Lougheed House)

From sourdough to injera, roti to bannock — a new exhibit in Calgary is digging into the city's history with bread. 

Calgary used to have a bakery on every corner, said Lougheed House associate curator Erin Benedictson.

"Getting your bread from the bakery was a way for you to go out and to interact with your peers," she said. 

In addition to pieces of baking history borrowed from Fort Calgary and Heritage Park, there will be bread from several local businesses: Sidewalk Citizen, Carriage House Inn, Foster's Bakery, Oguraya Bakery and Masala Bhavan. The bakeries will share stories about their sourdough, challah, shokupan and dosa — some dating back to 1926.

Chefs Karthikeyan Stalin and and his brother Muthukumar Stalin making naan at Masala Bhavan South Indian Cuisine. The restaurant is sharing the story of its dosa at the YYC Bread Stories exhibit. (Submitted by Lougheed House)

"It's flour and water. And yet despite those few ingredients, there are hundreds of different types of breads across the world. And every culture has some sort of bread product," Benedictson said. 

Over the past two years, many Calgarians embraced pandemic baking, trying out recipes for banana bread and sourdough, which served as the inspiration for the exhibit, Benedictson said. 

"At the beginning of the pandemic, everyone was huddled in their homes and a lot of people turned to baking bread. Flour was really hard to find, yeast was in short supply for a while.

"I think the vast majority of us get our bread at the store. It's something that's been around for so, so long. [Baking bread is] something that lots of us don't really do anymore. And yet, we all went back to doing it."

A flour-sack dress from the 1930s, made from five flour sacks, and thread from another flour sack. Created for a dance in Fort St. John, B.C. (Submitted by Lougheed House)

Bread is so simple but a staple in almost every culture, said Emily Hoven, another exhibit curator, along with her sister Katarina Hoven. Emily is also working on a PhD on bread at the University of Alberta. 

"It's a simple food, it's just flour and water and yeast. There's something really elemental about it…There's something kind of universal about it," Hoven said. 

YYC Bread Stories opened Thursday and will run until June 26. 


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