This story has been amended to correct a date error. The exhibition runs until June 30.
The crust crackles. The story begins.
Before she had a seat at the Coquitlam council table, Trish Mandewo remembers having a seat by the fire.
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As a girl in Zimbabwe, Mandewo grew up in the era before colonization and automation coincided to punch a hole in the African nation’s culture.
Today, much of Zimbabwe cuisine is “one of the most boring,” Mandewo says. “Those traditional recipes were totally lost.”
But Mandewo remembers the bread. She remembers the way her grandmother would put the dough between leaves and set it on ashes.
“When you take if off you’ve got this steaming hot bread that has the flavour of the leaves infused into the bread.”
They never saved that bread for later.
“We’d eat while we are sitting around the fire,” Mandewo notes. “We knew that when grandma is making the bread, that’s storytime.”
That recipe is part of the new Breaking Bread exhibit at Mackin House.
This Saturday, Mackin House is set to welcome bread buffs and lifelong loafers to a celebration featuring a DJ and craft beer courtesy of Mariner Brewing.
“Beer is bread,” noted Markus Fahrner, exhibit manager at Coquitlam Heritage. “Up till the 19th century, all bakers would get the product from the breweries.”
The idea for the exhibit was to find a common element amid Coquitlam’s rich cultural mix, Fahrner explains.
“Everyone has a story about, ‘Grandma taught me to make bread,’” he explains.
The exhibit features a roundup of music and literature about roti, dresses made from Second World War-era flour sacks, and, from the Kwikwetlem First Nation, Bannock.
The exhibition, which runs until June 30, features kid-friendly elements such as a memory game, tiny loaves hidden in the exhibit, and a recreation of different types of bread so kids can get the feel of kneading dough.
Mackin House has also recruited Ghanian caterer Delali Adiamah to serve as the baker-in-residence.
Besides giving newcomers that welcoming smell of bread baking, the notion is to tell a story about the community.
For Mandewo, it’s a reminder of how easily those stories can be lost.
A year ago, Mandewo was in Zimbabwe where she sits on a board that runs an orphanage. She riding in a car with a nun when they both saw a tree that brought back old memories.
“It was like déjà vu,” Mandewo says.
Mandewo and the nun both had grandmothers who used that type of tree to make bread.
They told each other their stories and Mandewo encouraged the nun to make that bread for the children in the orphanage.
Recently, the nun made the bread.
“Me telling the story about this bread keeps that story alive,” Mandewo says. “When we stop telling the stories, then pieces of our culture are gone.”
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