By Melisseus


A late night in a Lebanese restaurant. Of course, we had flatbread - 'pitta'. Bread of this type does contain yeast, but it is only allowed to rise for a relatively short time (less than an hour), before being flattened and baked for a short time in a very hot oven. If I make yeasted bread, it rises for several hours. The sourdough in the picture took over 27 hours from mixing the dough to putting in the oven

Bread is a highly political issue in Lebanon. Like in much of the middle-east, it is considered an essential part of almost every meal. It is less than two years since there was serious unrest in the country caused by the limited availability and spiralling price of bread. In this context, it is distressing to see pictures of Palestinian children hurrying to salvage spilled flour from the ground during the distribution of an aid shipment. 

On the next day, there is "chaos" in our parliament as our politicians bicker about parliamentary procedure during a debate about a Gaza ceasefire

If you sniff sourdough bread just as it has come out of the oven, your lungs react much as they do if you breathe in the fumes of vinegar from a hot chip - an autonomic reflex to stop you breathing in and to cough out the 'harmful' acid that your body has detected. In vinegar, it is acetic acid; in sourdough it is the lactic acid created by the lactobacilli in the starter during fermentation. It always surprises me that the acid in the fumes from the hot bread is concentrated enough to provoke a reaction, but it almost always does. A kind of gag reflex; much as I feel about parliament

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