Well Bread Festival, Barry Road Community Centre, Lalor; Sunday, August 24
“Go north, young man, go north …”
These were the words of wisdom proffered by my Star Weekly colleague Helen a few weeks back.
Her point being that while Consider The Sauce is up to its neck in western suburbs food, it may as well occasionally turn its attention, enjoyably and profitably, to what is happening in Melbourne’s north and north-west.
She’s right … indeed, that process and mind-shift has already started, as detailed in this celebration of the ring road, my current employ in Airport West and a marvellous visit to Meadow Heights.
Whole new vistas of of people and their food – easily accessed.
Thus it is that I find myself exiting on Elgars Road, turning left on to Barry Road and parking at the Barry Road Community Centre for the City of Whittlesea’s Well Bread Festival.
While I’m busy getting a handle on the slightly different dynamics and demographics of Melbourne’s north, there is no mistaking the vibe, the people, the whole deal of the festival as I enter the hall – it’s all very, very familiar in the best possible way.
Having been unsure of just how the festival will unfold, I am thrilled to discover – via the day’s running sheet – just how full-on and intensely bready it will be:
And so begins a thoroughly enjoyable, enlightening and delicious day.
To take in the colourful bread wisdom and lore of so many diverse part of the world in a single sitting is a superb experience.
First up is Luba, who makes a Macedonian bread called lep.
Grace cooks Ghanaian meat pies, here being handed around by her pal Esther.
They’re buttery rich, a bit like a meat pastie and, according to Grace, a legacy of colonisation.
Then it’s Esther’s turn … to prepare beignets de mais (corn doughnuts) from Cameroon.
She’s an entertaining hoot!
Also including banana, the beignets are starkly different to the beignets of New Orleans with which I am familiar.
These are chewy nuggets that Esther serves with a red bean stew.
The stew looks dodgy to me – positively ugly, in fact.
But, oh boy, it tastes marvellous.
Just another example of ugly food tasting great, I tell Esther and her friends afterwards amid much laughter.
Salma, with help from son Ahmad, prepares chewy Iraqi flatbread.
The big star here is the family’s wonderful home-made tandoor oven that blazes away right there in the hall!
Then it’s time for lunch …
… which consists of Turkish bread with yogurt/cucumber dip, cheese and spinach gozleme and a tangy vegetable soup.
It’s all excellent.
Zahra prepares noon shirmal, a plain sweetbread from Iran.
Then it’s the turn of Whittlesea councillor Kris Pavlidis and daughter Zoe and their spanikopita.
Ali Fael’s contribution is nan barbari (Turkish flatbread), which …
… is served with fresh mint and salty fetta cheese.
Finally, it’s the turn of Deepali and her tawa parathas.
Despite having eaten countless parathas and chapatis in my life, I’ve never really understood the difference between the two.
Now I do!
The former are folded many times – sometimes with the inclusion of, say, potato or cauliflower. The latter are simply rolled and pan-fried.
What a great day it’s been.
Much kudos to MC James Liotta and council staff Caitlin, Helen and Julie.
Despite the packed schedule and numerous unpredictable variables, it’s all run like clockwork – and on schedule!