A slice of history: new exhibit explores diversity of bread in Calgary

Calgarians are getting a new chance to discover surprising things about something that’s been fuelling the growth of the city for more than a century.

A just-opened exhibit at the Lougheed House historic site features the history of bread in Calgary, including a section highlighting a local chef who is carrying on a long tradition of providing people their daily bread.

Karhikeyan Stalin makes dosas as part of the meals he serves at his Masala Bhavan restaurant, modifying methods he learned growing up in southern India.

Read more: How to bake artisanal quality bread at home

“It’s a rice and lentils batter,” Stalin said. “We used (a stone grinder) to crack our lentils and rice, soak it under water, then grind it.”

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Lougheed House curator Erin Benedictson decided to include a dosa tray and customized apron from Masala Bhavan in the exhibit she helped to create.

“This exhibit is called YYC Bread Stories,” Benedictson said. “We really wanted to showcase the diversity of bread in Calgary.”

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The exhibit includes items from a long-running Japanese bakery and a loaf of challah, which is “very central to Jewish traditions,” Benedictson explained.

The displays explore how bread brings people together.

“One of the inspirations for this exhibit was actually during the early days of the (COVID-19) pandemic, a lot of people were baking bread,” Benedictson said. “We’re still brought together by this super simple, basic thing.”

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The exhibit features stories going back decades.

“(Here’s) a flour sack dress made out of five different flour sacks made during the 1930s — a very difficult time for everybody,” Benedictson said. “You really needed to use what you had.”

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YYC Bread Stories continues at the Lougheed House until June 26, with more information available at https://lougheedhouse.com/.

“Every culture has their own bread,” Stalin said. “So we need to keep our old traditions, but we are mingled all together here (in Calgary).”

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