Rich aromas filled the air at an Ipswich college as Bangladeshi community showcased their traditional baking skills
Sarah Lucy brown
Food was the common language used to bring together east and west at The Bangladeshi Support Centre's fourth annual Suffolk Pita Festival.
Traditional costume, food, jewellery and body art were all on show yesterday but at the centre of the festival, held at Suffolk New College, was the pita competition.
Entrants proudly arrived with their work, hoping to impress the judging panel with their brightly-coloured, intricate creations.
Shayra Begum, project manger for the centre, said: “We have pita at festivals, perhaps at the end of Eid or at a wedding. It is like a wedding or celebration cake.”
The showpiece designs were left intact, but there were also plainer pastries stuffed with sweet and savoury fillings that were broken into for the judges to taste.
Ms Begum said: “It gives people a confidence boost, especially the ladies who are at home, when they enter the competition, and it means they are able to show off their skills to the younger generation.”
She explained that life has become a juggling act for Bangladeshi women as more and more of them go out to work, meaning some of their traditional crafts are not being passed down as they once were.
“We tend to eat Bangladeshi food regularly at home so families still pass cooking those skills down through the generations but we don’t have the pastries every day so there are lots of children growing up here in Suffolk who don’t know how to make them, our traditions are dying out.”
Centre manager, Mojlum Khan, added: “We don’t only have the Bangladeshi community here, we have people from all different backgrounds who are able to learn about our culture, society and food.“
There are thought to be around 5,000 Bangladeshi’s living in the county, with the first settlers arriving in the county after the Second World War.
“We originally came to help rebuild the local area,” said Mr Khan. “And now we run more than 100 successful catering business in Suffolk and contribute millions of pounds to the local economy every year.
“We have students who are doing well at all levels of their education and today we will be presenting trophies to those who achieved three or more A grades at GCSE, two or more A grades at A Level and anyone who got a 2:1 or a First in their degree.
“This is a celebration of our traditions but also our economic and educational success.”
Susan Mallam-White, who works for AXA in Ipswich, was invited to attend by her Bangladeshi tailor and said: “AXA off-shore to India so often we get the opportunity to go to India for work and it is an amazing place. I love seeing how people from Asian backgrounds dress, their outfits are beautiful and they were them everyday, not just for special occassions like we would.”
She added: “The food here is the real deal, and it is a great way of bringing cultures together. Food like this should be shared.
“There are a lot of misconceptions between different communities in Ipswich, there is a fear of the unknown but this could help take that away.”