An Atlantic feature titled ‘The National Bread of Afghanistan,’ accompanied by a 21-photo slideshow, got me wondering what kind of last minute editorial bind they must have been in to produce such an extensive piece on bread in their food section.
Certainly, Afghanistan is somewhat unique in actually having a national bread with a history that, according to various sources, is so intertwined with the country’s tradition and community roots. According to one website, this goes back to the time when ‘Tandoor (a kind of oven) was used as a community oven where people would come with the dough, the facilitator (Nanwaee meaning ‘naan maker’) would bake bread for a fee.’
But I needed to be further convinced that there was a story beyond that.
And, as I began looking through the photos, I found that Afghan naan indeed has a pretty remarkable presence in both the everyday lives of the people there and also in the current situation of conflict plaguing the nation. From the photo of a little boy walking along a riverside with a bazaar-bought naan tucked under his arm like a textbook, to the various casual shots of off-duty Afghan police officers with naan in hand, the bread itself becomes an effective subject-emitting its own narrative light. Says the piece:
‘There is no morning, afternoon, or evening in Afghanistan without naan. Does not matter if you are a soldier, politician, or even a Taliban–naan is always part of the meal.’
It goes on to quote a local who supports this notion in a profound statement:
‘And that’s the only thing we have in common with the Taliban.Neither the soldiers nor the Taliban will start their day without a naan.’
I am convinced. And it is interesting seeing that even with so many ‘bigger’ stories unfolding, unassuming objects can become worthy stories.