Baked with love
Every time I go to a market, I can’t walk by Atis Gavars – and not just because I need bread. No, because I always have homemade bread at home. But because I love talking to one of the most sincere people I have ever met.
The story about Gavars bread started about 100 years ago when the grandmother baked bread. The starter and the bread trough remain from those days, and each loaf of sweet and sour has a bit of that history. The starter from the early 20th century is placed in the bread through – these things are twice as old as the bread bakers themselves today. Bread baking has always been in their family – careful kneading, forming the loaves with love, and respecting each bite of the bread.
Each week, their travels to markets starts on Wednesdays, when a pot of water is put on the stove to boil. Once boiled, the water stands for a day, after which it is poured over the flour; the starter is added and bread begins to happen. One thing has changed from the old days – kneading by hand. Both Zaiga and Atis agree that it’s not easy, and gets harder the older they get. So they use a mixer today. But everything else remains the same. The bread is baked in a 300-year-old oven. While Atis stokes the fire and prepares it to receive the bread, Zaiga prepares the dough. Once it is mixed together, you can watch as it slowly rises, hour after hour, until it is time to turn it into the trough and form the loaves. They place each loaf on bran and maple leaves (they collect the leaves themselves, btw). Then Zaiga forms the loaves (they are big and heavy) and puts them on the baker’s peel and lovingly arranges them. Although she says it’s just forming the loaf, you can sense every step is done with great love and respect for what she does and what she is creating.
When that is done, the bread is put in the oven where is fills the house with an incredible aroma as it bakes – the best smell in the world – freshly-baked bread. When the bread is baked, it is removed, brushed with some water, cuddled, and covered to rest. It’s better to eat it the next day. And then it should be eaten with a thick slice of pork fat, which my grandmother always had in her pantry. That was all we needed in the winter months. And it was the best.
Zaiga and Atis Gavars bread
Saturdays at Kalnciems market
Story and pictures: Signe Meirane
Camera: Sony Alpha 7s