Through the shining glass windows of E5 Roasthouse in Poplar, two women are making flatbreads on a floured counter top. In a well-practised dance, the dough is cut into stretchy balls, weighed, laid out on trays and covered with plaid tea towels.
Both women arrived here at E5’s new site through the Just Bread training programme. They laugh about taking the test for their Level 1 hygiene certificate all that time ago, guessing the temperatures, timings, techniques, when some of those words were less than familiar. They all passed, says Jean the baker. He lifts a new batch of dough from its resting place: “It’s good today, no? Very light.”
Today the new Just Bread cohort will sit the test for their food hygiene certificate. It’s a window into working here at the Roasthouse and an industry requirement. For many of us, the knowledge needed to pass isn’t so new, it’s often kitchen common sense. But a return to formal learning might be – a reminder of experiences in the classroom from long ago.
Some of the women share memories from other learning they’ve experienced – training courses which cultivate well being like this one. We hear that stories from our past are like a closed circle, but if that story contains trauma, parts of that circle may be lost. Simply, if you remove a slice from a pizza, the other slices move in to close the circle, but that piece will still be missing. What we need are new stories to encompass all of our experience – a bigger box.
Over lunch we eat spicy squash soup made by Fifi, with some of the flatbread straight from the oven, and talk about growing vegetables. In Algeria, Fifi’s family often took a weekend drive outside of town to the family plot of land, picked beans and unearthed potatoes for the week ahead. Baking bread, growing food, it’s the kind of second-nature knowledge learnt from childhood, through watching parents, not something she needed in her career as a teacher, but she’s making use of it now she says.
Next week, we’ll be learning how to produce flatbread for the café. Already ideas for recipes are exchanged between us. Roti, msemmen, kisra. New recipes to ground us in this new story as the autumn sets in.