Kunta Kinte (Roots)

Whenever I think of the slaves, captives and prisoners from my childhood tv shows, they directly bring me back memories. You can see how we were taken by them! They were always eating corn porridge, there was no bread to eat. Slave, prisoner, captive… These people have never been treated very kindly.

In ancient Egypt, these slaves, who laid down their lives to build a pyramid like Giza, were given only bread and soup-like beer dark enough to drink with straw. But the thing they called bread was like a tanned leather… Then, something happened. When Ancient Rome invaded the Ancient Greek Empire in 146 B.C. in the Battle of Corinth, the final battle in the Achaean War, slaves who knew how to bake bread were taken to Rome. These slaves, who taught the Romans how to make bread, were eventually set free and continued to produce bread. In fact, they had no choice as although they were granted their freedom, children of the bread makers, just like their parents, had to labour until death.

Esteemed Esra Mumcu’s master’s thesis at Balıkesir University was on the Shipyard Dungeon (Mumcu, 2016). I was stunned while reading it. Our people, too, were quite cruel in the way they treated those galley slaves. You wouldn’t believe what is recorded in the archives of Goldenhorn Shipyard dungeon. What I saw in the catering section of the records was incredible. Every slave, criminal and worker was given 2 loaves of bread a day. Soup or hot food was given to the ill to help them recover quickly. From time to time, Christians were given wine from the island of Marmara.

Miss Mumcu mentions the writings of a European traveller who stayed in this dungeon: “I’d rather stay in a Turkish dungeon for 4 years than a year in a Spanish dungeon”. Additionally, in the writings of a captive Spanish sailor named Pedro, he states “In our ships, we were rowing continuously, while this was only done in summer on Turkish ships. While smaller portions of rusk are given on our ships, Turkish ships give both plenty and very good rusks.” Having read that made me realize there was a point beyond working for one’s board and there were those who were grateful even for that small sustenance.

This bread is Pao de queijo; the most famous Brazilian bread. The story of this bread also comes from slavery. When the Portuguese occupied these lands in the 1700s, they enslaved the local people. This bread of the slaves, who soaked, peeled and cooked the local cassava root like dough, has turned into this wonderful bread over the years. Of course, the Portuguese have put their traditional Minas cheese to the bread, which is an essential ingredient.

This is the breadfruit tree. In 1768, British Captain James Cook and botanist Joseph Banks saw the potential of the breadfruit fruit when they embarked on a three-year voyage and stayed for three months on Polynesia’s largest island, Tahiti. They thought this fruit could be an important source for feeding the slaves in England’s West Indies in the Caribbean Sea. The tree, which grows fast without requiring maintenance, would begin to bear fruit with plenty of calories in a short time. It was such a big problem during those days to feed the slaves that when they told King George III about their discovery, the king made great promises to those who would transfer a thousand trees from Tahiti to the West Indies.

During 1877-1878, in the period of Abdul Hamid II, The Ottoman Empire went to war with the Russians also known as The Russo-Turkish War. We lost many captives subsequent to our great defeat. Russians sent these thousands of captives to prison camps which were set up in places where Turkish or Muslim populations were not concentrated. One of them was in Cercis, Latvia…

In the autumn of 1877, several hundred Turkish prisoners were brought to the city of Cesis and placed in the former Russian army barracks on Gauja Street. Some were taken to nearby neighbourhoods. Initially, all Turkish detainees were under the surveillance of Russian soldiers, but when they realized that it was impossible to escape, they were released and lived in freedom. They were allowed to walk around the city and to occupy various professions. In 1930, a Latvian citizen named Karlis Dzirkalis referred to our soldiers as: “Turkish prisoners wore grey-brown coats with light shoes on their feet. They wore red felt with a black tassel on their head and a crescent moon in front. At first our women and girls were terrified, but later on we loved these kind and respectful people who always walked around with their heads bent.” In his memoirs, another witness of that period in Lazdins says; “These honest, kind and respectful people could not stand the northern climate. Most of them died from their wounds or typhoid fever. But the survivors did not return after the Russo-Turkish War. As it was said at the time, they opened a “Turkish Bakery” on the 22 Rigas with bagels and a Turkish crescent on the street sign. Several bakers worked at the bakery and made very delicious breads there. Turks used to bake their straw bread in small round loaves. The cleanliness of the oven was exemplary and Cesis residents were happy to shop there.”

Until 10-15 years ago, there were some owners of the Turkish bakery established by these people wearing the “Akyıldız” white-starred fezzes, but now that bakery does not exist. I don’t know about their bread, but they changed their butter making technique after our people and I think it’s legendary. Besides, I think I had the best apples I ever ate there. (I used the photo from the article titled fez fashion in Europe just to explain the shape)

During the First World War, our soldiers who fought in the Gallipoli, Hejaz and Suez Canal fronts were taken prisoner by the British, and were settled in Famagusta, Cyprus. Although the prisoners were allowed to meet with the public at first, this permission was later revoked. People wanted to provide more help to them, due to the malnourishment caused by lots of zucchini and barley bread, mistreatment of the ill and the disgraceful attitude of the Armenian and Greek doctors, but those who provided help were severely punished. By the way, Cyprus is a barley paradise, but our people never use barley to make bread. At least, they didn’t do at that time, and it was deemed proper only for the prisoners. We find the experiences of the prisoners during World War I in the writings of Yusuf Akçura, one of the founders of the Turkish Historical Society. Prisoners of War were treated in such horrible ways with complete disregard to any treaty; they were fed with nothing but pickles and bread was an unobtainable blessing.

Furthermore, WWI has another side to it. The ethical code of only soldiers being captured as prisoners of war was altered by the English. The English added the concept of CIVIL PRISONERS OF WAR to the international terminology. Foreigners of military age were recruited; the rest were deported, and camps were set up. Followed by the World War II, this is where the real trouble started. What the Russians did, the Germans, the British, these civilized countries changed their tune when it came to war. Yet in so many labour camps etc. BREAD was the main meal of the prisoners.

By the way, the only thing you could have in these camps was bread, so it was used as a currency instead of money. They were keeping their bread rations, ate some, and then exchanged it for other things. Prisoners of war cooked the bread too, but the bread types were different when they were served to soldiers and prisoners… Prisoners of war weren’t treated differently from slaves and petty criminals who were only given bread and soup in prisons during the period. And the bread was too dense and rough that it gave stomach-aches.

By the way, there is this one exception: Nelson Mandela. For 10 years, no bread was given to him. The book written by his friend, who was sentenced with him, describes the happiness he experienced when he was given bread and tea ten years later. Literally “Tea all around, except for Mandela” (original version: no bread for Mandela). After all that he’s been through, it wasn’t in vain when he said: “Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.”

Over the years, food and bread have ceased to be a burden for prisoners all over the world. At first it was still bad, but the bread was always plentiful. Logic behind this was to present an option for those who disliked the regular prison food. All over the world, prisoners were used as a work force to produce their own bread. Each country has developed projects to solve this problem in its own way.

In 1997, our Ministry of Justice made a decision. PRISON WORSHOPS were established to satisfy the prison’s needs and to reintegrate the prisoners into society. By doing so, now we have 65 bakeries in our country where prisoners work and they produce 450,000, yes, four hundred and fifty thousand loaves of bread. Inmates are usually covered with an insurance policy in these places where they work not only for the prison’s needs, but also produce bread for the military and some other official organisations.

This enabled their families to benefit from this health insurance. They can become apprentices, undermasters, masters and even master trainers. They do not necessarily have to be a baker in their civil life. In other words, they learn a profession in these establishments. Only exception being the Imrali Island prison complex where soldiers are responsible for bread production. As you know, there are more soldiers and officers than prisoners in there. When it was first established, there was an old stone oven on the island, but later, when the number of soldiers increased, the oven was no longer sufficient and they started to bring bread from the mainland. When that proved inadequate as well, new ovens called rotary ovens were brought in. They also malfunctioned. Finally, stone-based electric ovens were brought, and the problem was solved.

Why did I mention Imrali now? Because, as you are aware, what went on in Imrali is a life lesson in itself. The climatic influences on the machines, the island conditions, the use of salt water are vital, as well as choosing the right machine, just like in Cyprus… Besides, you have to come up with solutions to problems. Just like when increased bread rations lead to a bread waste problem, which ended up with the introduction of smaller, roll breads in prisons…

As Leo Tolstoy describes in his prison memoirs: “They were especially grateful that their bread was given not by weight, but communally. The ration method would frighten them. For if the bread had been weighed, a third of the men would have gone hungry. It was enough for everyone because they ate in common. Our bread had a unique flavour. Moreover, it became famous throughout the city. They would associate this feature with the convenient construction of prison furnaces.”

Dave is the son of a baker family which has been making bread since 1955… He commits a crime and goes to jail… He spends 15 years and gets out when his sentence ends. His brother Glenn runs the small bakery left by his father with his son. He offers Dave to work with him after he served his sentence…

Dave agreed, but on one condition and said: “We’re going to be different from everyone else. Our father was already using germinated grains, seeds and grains, but we will only use organic and non-GMO ones.”. In 2005, he attends the Portland Farmer Market Summer Loaves festival with his nephew. They get a lot of attention, but Dave introduces not only breads but also his new brand here: DAVE’S KILLER BREAD. By 2011, they were among top 5000 companies with the highest growth rate according to the INC MAGAZIN. In 2016, they reached a larger sales capacity in domestic and foreign markets from Canada to Mexico. According to Dave, the main reason for his success is that his products are clean, but another very important reason is that the employees consist of inmates who are given a second chance.

According to the system Dave has set up, they give the inmates a second chance if they want to be a baker, no matter what crime they committed. Thus, they provide employment to hundreds of people and serve as a model. They told the backstories of all the staff and made an animation of the life of their manager colleagues.

The aim is to state that ‘you can be redeemed like us’. They even established a foundation. They set an example for many other establishments. They don’t only serve as a model on this subject. They are also very assertive and exemplary about the contents and types of breads. Now, after all this talk, should we not make some bread as well? A little of us, a little of them. Both small and tasty. Here it comes then, THE KILLER BAZLAMA (flatbread).


  • 1 ¼ cup organic flour
  • ½ cup 2 tbsp organic whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 tbsp organic millet
  • 2/3 tbsp organic sesame
  • 2/3 tbsp organic sunflower seeds
  • 2/3 tbsp organic quinoa seeds
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp organic malt flour
  • 71 tsp yeast
  • 2/3 tbsp organic flaxseed
  • 2 tsp organic corn flour


  1. Mix millet, quinoa, sesame, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, malt flour and cornmeal. Add 50 g of hot water and leave it to rest for 3 hours.
  2. Knead the flour, yeast, salt and 150 g of water thoroughly.
  3. After kneading well, add the soaked seeds piece by piece. (So nice!)
  4. Leave the dough to rest for 30 minutes like this again.
  5. Divide the risen dough into 8 equal parts, ours weighed 63 gr. Roll them into balls.
  6. Go back to sleep but don’t forget to cover them with a clean cloth so they don’t dry out!
  7. Press and shape them like a pillow.
  8. And to cook!
  9. They can burn easily, be careful! You can use a pan.
  10. Cook the other side.
  11. I present to you, the killer bazlama

The point is, we jokingly used the name “Killer Bazlama”, but do you know, these workplaces come after refugees and immigrants in terms of training personnel in bakery… It’s a good practice, but why can’t there be Bakery high schools, academies, or universities in our country? We are definitely waiting for your opinions on this weak point of ours.