Traditional Bacteria Leavened Breads Project

Ursula Daniels and Jenny Bardwell

The Traditional Bacteria Leavened Breads project focuses on the sociology and microbiology of bacteria-leavened breads, as opposed to yeast-leavened breads. Long ago, in isolated locales, perhaps where beer-making wasn’t prevalent, ancient women gathered pulses and grains that were indigenous to their specific region of the world. These women devised just the right conditions to capture wild bacteria and ferment their pulses and grains to create unique and superbly delicious “raised” breads. Only a few regions in the world have established these culturally-rich food heritages. This project focuses on Cyprus (Arcatena bread), Sudan (Gargoush bread), Turkey (Eftazymo), and the Appalachian region of the United States (Salt rising bread). Each of these traditional breads evolved in an isolated world region, yet the methodology is surprisingly similar. In each region, the knowledge of how to make this bread was passed down orally, along matriarchal lines. But now this method of bacteria-leavened bread is at risk of being forgotten.  The Traditional Bacteria Leavened Breads project aims to preserve this indigenous knowledge through the establishment of an international community of women bakers. Central to how scientific discovery occurs, thinking and working together raises the intellectual value and sense of confidence among stakeholders. These bakers will learn from each other, thus inspiring respect and pride for their own cultural food heritage. Through shared social media formats, these women will build platforms to promote the exchange of information, images and discussion.  In addition, this project has sparked a collaboration between microbial molecular biologists from the Cyprus University of Technology and University of Khartoum in Sudan. Jenny Bardwell will be working with them to identify all the microbes and gain a better understanding of the symbiotic relationships between the microorganisms. The work in Cyprus and Sudan are currently funded through a Fulbright grant, but additional funds are needed to expand the project into Turkey.