Discover LA cultures through bread in new digital series

A lot can be learned about a culture or community through food.

What You Need To Know

  • The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles has debuted “Kneaded: LA Bread Stories”
  • It’s an online, multimedia exhibit that highlights the history of bread-making through various bakers and their connections to the craft
  • Karen Hirsch, owner of Apron Strings Community Bakeshop, is one of the bakers featured

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles is using this concept to educate in their new digital series, “Kneaded: LA Bread Stories.” The online exhibit highlights the history of bread through our unique and diverse local bakers.

One of the bakers is Karen Hirsch, owner of Apron Strings Community Bakeshop. She pours herself into each loaf in her at-home bakery.

“Bread is emotional for people,” she said.

In 2003, Hirsch started selling her baked goods before home businesses were the trend they are today. She then immersed herself in sourdough selling in farmer’s markets before the COVID-19 pandemic and later from her front porch.

“The experience of cutting into a fresh, crusty loaf, the sweetness of cinnamon roll or pan dulce or the crackle of that, there is a sensory connection I think that we all have around bread,” said Hirsch.

This is a passion project for the baker. While a school teacher most of her life, Hirsch takes a few pickup orders a week, which she can handle on her own, and sells dozens of loaves through local businesses. She even continues her passion for teaching by hosting baking classes.

Hirsch’s bread journey compelled her to be part of the new digital series for the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles. “Kneaded: LA Bread Stories” is an online, multimedia exhibit that highlights the history of bread-making through various bakers and their connections to the craft.

Samantha Avitia, community engagement coordinator, explained how she and her coworkers are Latina and started discussing their connection to panaderias. This sparked the idea for the series.

“We just started thinking more deeply about that, [how] so many different cultures and neighborhoods in Los Angeles have their own favorite type of bakery and bread. We figured, ‘Oh my gosh. This is something that so many people have in common here.’”

“Kneaded” uses the theme of baking as a way to discover the different traditions and identities that make up LA by hosting it for free online. The museum can expand educational access to more people through video interviews and photos featuring new, diverse bakers each month until December.

“Exhibitions take a long time to develop and set up,” said Avita. “This is something we can be more nimble with and share more quickly. The website is a resource we were excited about trying out this way.”

Hirsch was happy to share her bread story. As a child, she would bake with her grandmother. Over the years, realizing that no matter the culture, grandparents are usually an integral part in a family kitchen.

“How all the grandparents across Los Angeles who come from every country in the world, for most of them, their job was to sustain their families, feed them,” said Hirsch.

Hirsch feels bread has been an essential food for thousands of years, with each culture having a connection to their own version of it. So, being fed by ancestors was an important story to tell.

“Where do we come from? How did we get there? And how do we fit together?” she said.

A cultural conversation through breaking bread might be just what LA County “kneaded.” Check out the online series here.

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