CULTURE: Ramazan Pide ‘Bread is Life’
Note from Catie: Every bit of Turkey and its food revolves around seasons and events. Ramazan is no different! Here in Turkey, there is a special bread made only during the Ramazan, the 30 days of fasting. It is a must have when attending Iftar with locals or even if you aren’t fasting, it’s worth a try.
P.S. – And no, I didn’t spell that wrong. The most common word used is Ramadan but in Turkey, they say Ramazan!
Imagine having gone an entire day without eating, walking into a busy bakery, and being washed with the smell of the most delicious bread. Toasty, soft, warm and slightly sweet, Ramazan pide is a treat that is available in Turkey only once a year. During the Muslim holy month of daylight fasting called Ramazan (or Ramadan), this special bread is at every bakery, churned out at incredible rates. The almost mundane ritual of the loaves sliding in the oven, out and into glass cases, the question, “how many” and the varying answers is as rhythmic as a heartbeat. The line moves quickly and efficiently as the pide, still warm, is wrapped in paper and handed over to grateful hands. Everyone rushes home to beat the sunset when friends and family gather to break the fast together.
Like in other majority-Muslim countries, Turkey has a high respect for bread in general, as it holds an important position in life. Bread represents the ability to feed one’s family. In Turkey, it is as ubiquitous as it is fresh and delicious. Bread is shared around the table at most meals and has a starring role in kahvaltı (check out my blog post about Turkish breakfast here). It is made and bought fresh every day. Since it is made without preservatives, it goes stale quickly.
But rather than throwing stale bread away (or using it to feed ducks, like my mom would take me to do as a child), Turks share their leftover bread with the less fortunate. If you walk the streets of Turkey long enough, you’ll see bags of bread tied to fences and trees for those who cannot buy the staple for themselves. Even bakeries have systems in which patrons can “pay it forward” by buying an extra loaf to hang up for those who may come in later to ask for free bread. Here in Izmir, there are many who feed the street animals with leftover bread as well.
The month of Ramazan is a particular time of being generous and charitable for Muslims. People are encouraged to not only fast during daylight hours, but also to be generous toward the poor: two of the five pillars of Islam.
The very structure of Ramazan pide is a reminder of that community of generosity, as it is perforated to be easily torn and shared around the iftar table. Alongside the various Turkish dishes at the table, this bread is a great absorbent of flavorful sauces, a structured vehicle for sandwiches, or (my personal favorite) a treat all its own, slathered in fresh butter. However you eat it, the bread itself is an enduring symbol of sustenance, generosity, life.
Now tell me:
- Have you ever had Ramazan pide?
- Do you have a favorite way to eat it?
- What does bread represent to you?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I am a lover of words and stories, student of culture, amateur photographer, adult cross-cultural kid, English tutor to TCKs (Third Culture Kids), and aspiring foodie. We will probably be instant friends if you give me good coffee, invite me to cook with you, or start a conversation with me about personalities, culture, and how the two intersect. I’m a life-long nerd, believer, and creative-in-the-works. I am all about the journey, so traveling and cross-cultural living is always something that has captured my heart and inspired my imagination.
In 2016, after teaching in an inner-city school and needing a change of pace, I spent a year abroad in Izmir, Turkey with a friend. I absolutely fell in love with the city and the people. The conveniences of a big city with a friendly, slow-pace-of-life atmosphere is all found between the mountains and the sea. What’s not to love? So, after my year of adventure, I knew I wanted to come back to Izmir to live.
Positioned on the perch of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, Turkey is both a mix of cultures, and a unique culture all its own. The more I learn, the more I want to learn, and this desire to learn is what drives me to write. As a pretty quiet person, I write to learn, to discover, and to process. As someone who grew up in a cross-cultural context, Turkey’s diversity and mix of cultures is something I personally relate to. Plus, if you’ve ever tasted Turkish food, you know that it is definitely something to write home about. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Funks’ blog and to grow and learn in the process.