Human Recipes

Time is an important ingredient in bread making. You have to wait for the yeast to feast on the sugar and bubble up. You have to wait for the dough to rise, doubling in size and finally wait for it to bake. This spring, THUNK!theatre hosted a series of five bread making workshops at the Parkdale Food Centre. The workshops were run in lead up to performances of our show bread during the Wellington West Happening Festival. Each workshop featured a different baker from the community teaching a different recipe. We knew that each recipe would require either a resting time or a baking time. We knew that this time would be the perfect opportunity for our participants and workshop leaders to share their own stories.

To facilitate this storytelling we adapted a Mad Lib-style exercise so participants could fill in a template provided, based on prompts for words or phrases from their own experience. When combined, the template became a story unique to each participant. In these workshops, the stories were structured as recipes, inspired by each guest baker’s recipe. Each week we also worked from a theme based on the recipe and the baker; for example. Emalia Wani’s Aaysh recipe was used to explore the idea of a “journey”, based on her experience as a refugee from the war in Sudan. Pamela Wildraut’s Sprouted Rye Sourdough recipe and her experience being an apprentice baker at Bread By Us gave us the theme of “growth”.

Vivian writing.JPGThroughout the workshops, we discovered different ways to introduce and run the exercise. We learned that a prompt sheet with suggestions was the best way to begin the conversation. The prompts were designed to have the participants begin to think about the themes. We offered questions like: “What five things would you be sure to take with you if you are leaving your home and don’t know when you will return?” These were printed and handed out at the start of the workshop. After we had completed the first stage of bread making, usually the mix and knead, we would gather round the large table in the Food Centre and invite participants to work in pairs and discuss their answers. Then we would bring the group and their responses together to lead
the collective creation of what came to be known as the Human Recipes.

IMG_20170406_141254Sitting around the table, enjoying samples of the bread that we had just learned to make, this portion of the workshops became an opportunity for participants to share their experiences and tell stories. Some participants boldly shared their experiences of coming to Canada, witnessing changes in their neighbourhood or discovering a new sense of community. Others were more shy, preferring to share their personal stories of trauma, growth and connection on anonymous pieces of paper.

It was a time to make connections with the other participants in the workshop. Small moments of meeting and warming to new people at the table. Connections from the shared experience of making, baking, waiting and sharing. Connections that will hopefully continue outside the kitchen of the Parkdale Food Centre, throughout the neighbourhood.

THUNK!theatre, July 2017


Baking Bread and Breaking Barriers in Hintonburg


A new theatre and community building project is rising out of the kitchen at the Parkdale Food Centre in Hintonburg under the guidance of THUNK!theatre. This Neighbourhood Arts 150 project entitled bread school is a series of five workshops that invite participants to take part in a group a bread making lesson.

bread school is an extension of our performance bread, which we presented a few years ago at Undercurrents,” explains Geoff McBridde, co-founder of THUNK! Theatre. “I had just started making my own bread I found it to be a kind of transformative process. Karen Balcome and I wanted to find a way to theatrically make bread and involve the audience. Bread itself has a lot of different ties to religion and myth, and the sharing of food figures prominently stories across cultures, so it seemed like a good fit.”

While THUNK!’s original performance centred around the narrative of a brother and sister leaving the neighbourhood and sharing recipes with their neighbours, bread school is unscripted. This performance is about audience participation; the participants become the characters and help write a human recipe of each workshop.

“For each bread making lesson we look at the recipe and the workshop leader, then create a recipe outline around a theme for the day, such as change and transformation. While the bread is baking, the group fills in the ingredients or actions based on their lives and experience in the workshop. The human recipe becomes a living document of the people who took part bread school and will be put on display during the second part of the project, a remounting of bread as The Happening from May 3rd to 5th.”

During these workshop participants don’t only learn to make bread but get the opportunity to connect with members of the community. Each workshop is capped at 12 participants, half of whom are Parkdale Food Centre neighbours and four from the community at large. The collective learning and then creation of the human recipe helps bring these different groups of people together.

Working with Parkdale Food Centre for Neighbourhood Arts 150 has turned out to be a perfect match for THUNK! because the values of the performance are very much in line with those of the organisation.

“We’re learning a lot hanging out at the Parkdale Food Centre. They are really passionate about giving people the resources to eat well and teaching them how to prepare their own food. The community members who use the centre area incredibly curious and they want to learn the skills. It is a really productive partnership because we are learning from and helping each other.”

Throughout the project, THUNK! participants will make a variety of breads with bread makers of diverse backgrounds and bread making levels. In the first two workshops, participants made sourdough with Jo-Ann Laverty from Cake Lab Ottawa, and Feteer Meshaltet with Hala Goname from Ottawa Egyptian Kitchen. Two of the workshops will be led by neighbours of the Parkdale Food Centre, one from Sudan and the other from Afghanistan, who want to develop their leadership skills, and in a third Pam from Bread by Us will show participants how to make sprouted rye bread.

Want to take part in THUNK!theatre’s bread school at the Parkdale Food Centre? Click here to register on Eventbrite (spaces are limited).

Find a Neighbourhood Arts 150 project near you!