Back at the end of March, just before I left for Europe, Anestes over at PortlandFoodMap.com alerted me to a post on Kay Horton's blog about a guy who was baking Samoon bread in the middle of the night in the community kitchen at the Portland Public Market House. "We have just started carrying “Samoon” made right here in our Community Kitchen. A gentleman from Iraq, thirty years a baker, has started making them. He speaks almost no English, but his wonderful joy and energy speaks clearly. He works in the middle of the night, baking in his Tandoor oven, so as we walk into the Market in the morning we are greeted with heavenly smells. Samoon is a oblong shaped air pocket bread. We slice it the length, open it and fill it with any of our wrap ingredients."
Last tuesday I contacted Chris from Kay Horton Foods at the Public Market trying to get in touch with the gentleman and to my surprise she called back later to say I could stop by later that night... as in 5AM! later. Now I'm not an early riser, never have been and if I'm up at that hour it's because I haven't been to sleep yet. And I haven't been up that late for a long time, 1-2 ish is about it nowadays. I was more then a little worried about my ability to focus my camera, even thou it is an Canon EOS with auto focus. Usually any pictures I take before mid day are pretty bad. So off to bed at 11:30 and up at 4:15 hoping for the best.
Five o'clock rap on the backdoor of the market and a 40-ish man in shorts, a tee shirt, flip flops and a baseball hat, turned backwards lets me in. It's Mr. Audai Naser. He leads me down cellar goes right back to work as I take a quick look around for a place to put my gear down and introduce myself. For the first half hour I mostly watch noticing how his hands move quickly in making the bread.
As I start to wake up I take a few pictures trying to get good exposures in the two main work areas. Finally I try a little conversation. We stick with short simple words and a few hand signals and I find out that he comes from Karbala, which is south of Bagdad. His father owned a bakery and he has been making bread for thirty years. He first moved to Atlanta in the fall of 2008 with his family, to get away from the fighting. Coming to Portland seventeen months ago. He has six daughters and one son. He started his business in December 2009 and now works mostly 7 days a week making two types of bread.
Tenur, a round flat bread made of a mix of white and whole wheat flour, water, yeast , sugar, salt. And Samoon, the smaller diamond shaped pillows, which have only the white flour and which he had finish making before I arrived. When I leave just after seven, with a package of each bread, he still has a couple of racks to bake up and clean up to do before he loads his van and makes his deliveries. 3000 loafs a week.