Dorcu Florin Cătălin, teacher at the Technological Gymnasium “St. Ioan de La Salle”, Pildesti researched on the rituals people have by bread baking in the region Moldau. Together with his pupils, he organised a special baking action in the school’s yard in order to show the individual steps of bread baking.
In the world of old peasant bread was always considered “the king’s food”. Regional called “pita” (Transylvania), “pitan” or ” pâne ” (Moldova and Muntenia), bread was made from wheat and rye, barley or corn. Beliefs about wheat are spread among the Romanian people. Among the villagers it was said that the wheat is “the first bread, greater than all breads”. Also, the peasants believed that ” on the summer wheat is written the Lord Christ’s face: eyes, nose, and mouth.”
“Wheat is the honor of the meal and corn is house’s food,” said folklorist Simeon Florea Marian. Bread, says Nicholas Panea (Romanian Literary Folklore: bread, wine and salt: hospitality and death), helps to know one another by the way people behave towards it. Offered bread becomes more than food, is almost a “cultural icon”.
Honoring bread is still a sacred ritual in the villages of Moldova. When the village housewives prepared bread it was a real celebration because, especially during the communist regime, it was difficult to obtain. Most peasants prepared bread in the house, in a family, if it was a large family or with the neighbors. Making bread is a ritual, this craft being elevated to art.
In many villages, the ritual of preparing bread persists. I was in Gherăeşti, a village where I witnessed with emotion a ritual of preparing and baking bread in a wood oven. The ritual begins in the evening when women prepare the leaven. They are dressed in traditional costumes, knead the dough in a pan, and then let it to rise for several hours. This process, although time consuming, is not dull, because women spin memories of their youth, memories full of nostalgia and mystery. Meanwhile, they make a fire in the oven, a mighty fire that will burn until the ceiling of the oven lights up. When it’s hot, the women move the shooting embers around the hearth preparing it to introduce the bread. No matter its shape, whether it’s woven, simple, round shaped, or put in trays, prepared in advance or directly in the fireplace, before being placed in the oven, the women make the sign of the cross over the bread. When it’s ready, the bread is divided between them and they enjoy its flavor and freshness.