Are you the kind of person who gets poetic about your abuela’s cooking or the cafe con leche that keeps you fueled every morning, or even the mangos that fall from the trees each summer?
Well, Zak the Baker wants to trade your poems for a loaf of freshly made bread.
Zak the Baker’s Zak Stern is no stranger to bartering: in June, he traded backyard mangos for bread, and last month, he did the same with avocados. “We want to continue to think of ways to interact with the community to trade items for bread.” So, with the help of O, Miami, Stern is offering a unique trade this month.
Just walk into the Zak the Baker bakery in Wynwood any time throughout October with a poem, and you’ll receive your choice of a loaf of bread. “We’re trying to collect poetry from South Florida to get people to start talking about Miami food,” said Stern.
However, there are a few guidelines in place. The poetry-for-bread trade is only available in person at the bakery. Participants must handwrite the poem on a recipe card provided by the bakery. There is only one trade per person per day, and poems must be themed “What is Miami food.” Finally, the poem must be in a Haiku form.
Melody Santiago Cummings, senior director of operations for O, Miami, explains how to write a Haiku. “A haiku is a Japanese poetic form that consists of three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third - 17 syllables in total.” Cummings calls these poems “one bite” or “one breath” poems for their ability to be recited in a single breath.
But don’t worry if your creativity falls outside the box. “The beauty of poetry is that there are no wrong answers,” says Cummings. And, the poems can also be in the language of your choice, explains the O, Miami director. “There are so many languages in Miami, and we collect work in every language.”
Stern says the reasoning behind the theme of “Miami food” is to help create a conversation about how food is the connecting thread that runs through our different cultures and experiences. “The idea is to get people thinking Miami can have its own unique regional cuisine. We have incredible agriculture here if we allow ourselves to celebrate and be proud of it.”
For Stern, food culture is influenced by agriculture, politics, religion, immigration, the economy, and industry. He uses his bake shop as an example, where Stern substitutes local mangos and bananas for traditional ingredients like apples and apricots. “We are a traditional kosher bakery in 2023 when Miami is surrounded by Caribbean and Latino cultures and flavors. It’s a time when the Jewish community is different from the 1960s and 1970s. We bake and use kosher rules, but we also look to see what’s growing and allow the community's flavors to come in. And that’s how you get a unique food culture.”
Throughout October, Stern and O, Miami will collect and curate the poems traded for bread. Cummings said that some poems will be shared on Zak the Baker and O, Miami’s social media, some displayed in the bakery, while others will find homes throughout Miami. “We go beyond traditional publishing. We use the entire city as a canvas. The poems shared with Zak the Baker will be broadcast throughout Miami in various ways,” she said.
O, Miami will also offer a workshop at Zak the Baker in October to invite people to explore poetry and “dig deeper,” according to Cummings, who will announce details at a later date.
If you’re seeking inspiration for your poem, Cummings says from the poems received at O, Miami, thousands are about food. “There are so many poems about mangos and pastelitos — I think we have 600 poems about guava.” She adds that some people may write about bread, while others write about family or favorite meals. “We are inviting people to share,” she adds.
For Stern, sharing stories — and bread — is how culture is created. “Miami is a beautiful combination of immigrant flavors and what we can grow here. Many of us long for that deep, meaningful life and use food to help us feel connected.”
Zak the Baker is located at 295 NW 26th Street in Wynwood.