By Amina Nazarli
The controversy surrounding Lavash, a thin, soft flatbread in round shape, have been resolved as UNESCO decided to include this most ancient and famous of all flour foods of Turkic peoples to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
The 11th meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage that was taken place in Ethiopia on November 28-December 2 passed a final decision over a document “Flatbread making and sharing culture: Lavash, Katyrma, Jupka, Yufka” developed and submitted to the organization by Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iran, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
The organization pointed out that this culture is a widely widespread tradition in these five countries.
Lavash has been a controversial dish long ago between regional countries and Armenia, which groundlessly claimed that this unique flatbread is an expression of Armenian culture.
A crisis brewed in 2014 when Armenia appealed to the UNESCO in an effort to present Lavash as a typical example of its cuisine, which was subsequently adopted by the organization.
However, the decision drew protests from these five countries and Azerbaijan categorically rejected the idea to include Lavash in the UNESCO list as Armenian.
Lavash stayed Armenian cultural heritage in the UNESCO lists less than a day and was removed from the list after the protest of Azerbaijan, submitting a resolution to acknowledge it as a common heritage of several regional countries.
The word ‘lavash’ comes from the ancient Turkish word "ash". Moreover, it is baked in tandir – a traditional bakery oven in the Turkic world.
Mahmoud Kashgari’s world-wide-known Turkish-Arabic “Divani-Lugatit-Turk” dictionary of 1072-1074 years contains information about Lavash. The book of Kashgari, the first Turkish philologist, is the oldest book containing Turkish words.
The Azerbaijani literature provides essential information about Lavash by the greatest poets and writers, including Nizami Ganjavi, Mehseti Ganjavi, Xagani Shirvani.
Baking Lavash is a ceremony involving at least two or three women. It is very hard for single women to handle its baking. The technology of its baking has not been changed since the ancient times. This tradition has been typically passed down from one generation to another for centuries.
Dough for lavash is made of flour, water, old dough (yeast) and a pinch of salt. You knead the dough with your hands, then divide and shape it into small balls and then roll the balls out with a thin rolling pin for dough. You need to roll the balls out to be 2 mm thick or even thinner. Then you put the lavash on a hot saj, a shield-shaped cast-iron multipurpose pan with a concavity, or tandir, a firewood oven.
Lavash bread is usually served as an appetizer in restaurants throughout Azerbaijan. Lavash is also popular in other Turkish-speaking states and the culinary cultures feature different lavash varieties.
Some kinds of lavash may be stored for a long time. Nakhchivan’s lavash, for example, is dried in the sun, and then kept in special cupboard for months in a dry form. In ancient times this type of bread was very convenient during military campaigns, traveling and for shepherds.