Last modified: Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The kitchen at the Congregation B’nai Israel in Northampton was full of warm bread and doughy hands last week.

“It’s a way to do things together,” said Jean-Paul Maitinsky, of Florence, who attended the World Food Day celebration hosted by Pioneer Valley Bread House with his wife, Ilana Polyak, and their sons, Stefan, 3, and Jakob, who is almost 2. “They really enjoy participating and cooking with us.”

Maitinsky and Polyak have recently begun teaching their children about cooking, so bread-making seemed like a good learning opportunity as well as family activity.

“There’s so many things you can learn through cooking,” said Maitinsky, a former preschool teacher. “There’s always something to eat afterward, which makes it really satisfying.”

Inspired by the Bread House initiative of the International Council of Cultural Centers, the Pioneer Valley project aims to bring the community together through monthly bread-making events. Co-founder Lily Herakova estimates nearly 30 adults and children joined in last week’s event.

World Food Day, officially Oct. 16, was established in 1979 by member countries of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Its objectives include encouraging agricultural food production and raising hunger awareness.

Maitinsky, whose children helped prepare a Bulgarian bread called fancy buns, said they have since been enjoying their creations at home and at school.

“Every day they’re excited to have a piece of one of their buns in their lunch boxes,” he said.

Alla Katsnelson of Northampton, said she came to the event with her husband, Geoff McKonly, and their 2 year-old son, Solomon, because it seemed like a good hands-on activity for him.

“It’s always hit or miss whether a 2½-year-old will want to participate,” Katsnelson noted. But she has found that when Solomon does get involved in the in cooking, it pushes him to try new foods.

Daniela Moreira, of Belchertown, said she has been baking with her son and daughter since they were toddlers. Instead of giving them Play-Doh, she said, she gave them real dough that they would use to make bread, cookies and pizzas. She said her daughter Analua, now 11, has recently taken over all pizza-making responsibilities at home.

While the bread was rising, participants enjoyed a talk by Jonathan Stevens, owner of the Hungry Ghost Bread, who spoke on the local grain economy and the historical role of bread as the “staple” food for the Western world.

Maitinsky said he enjoyed chatting with Stevens and meeting people in the community. Families who made breads with quicker preparation times allowed others to taste their creations, he said.

For future bread-making events, Herakova said she hopes to integrate more creative activities such as art and poetry.

The next Pioneer Valley Bread House event will be at the Congregation B’nai Israel Nov. 12. For more information, visit the initiative’s website at Herakova and co-founder Leda Cooks can be contacted at


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