January 10, 2014

Nepal: Missionary’s Impact Endures in Bakery

A bakery high up in the Himalayan mountains serves American-style cuisine, using recipes developed by a pioneer TEAM missionary.

  • Legacy

    Many of the recipes used by Sundari were developed by TEAM pioneer missionary Dorothy Seaman, who was forced to be creative when cooking for her family in this remote region of Nepal in the 1970s.

  • Baking Time

    Dawn Bove, who grew up in Nepal as the daughter of TEAM missionaries, started an organization to help those in need. She helped provide some of the kitchen equipment Sudari needed for the bakery.

More than a mile up in the Himalayan mountains, there’s a bakery where you can buy a cinnamon roll and a cup of coffee for breakfast. Or, if you’re there around lunch time, get the soup-of-the-day and some fresh bread.

You can order chai and cookies, or you can order a cake. You can enjoy a Nepali-style pizza with cilantro, coriander, and cumin, or you can try an Italian pizza with imported herbs.

All because one Nepali woman said, “I want to start a bakery.”

The baker’s name is Sundari. She and her husband, Tara Datt Pant, live in Dadeldhura, a village of about 10,000 in far-western Nepal, where TEAM ran a hospital until spring of 2013.

The story of the bakery begins with the story of the hospital. In 1968, TEAM missionaries Maynard and Dorothy Seaman hiked six days from India to newly accessible Nepal. Their four children and another TEAM family were with them.

With their teammates, the Seamans began a medical clinic – a precursor to the hospital in nearby Dadeldhura – and found new routines in a new place. Dorothy home-schooled her children and hired a local woman to cook Nepali food for them at lunchtime. For dinner, she cooked an American-style meal.

“My mom is a tremendous cook,” says Dawn Bove, one of the Seaman’s children, a nurse now living in Port Orchard, WA. “She could make miracles out of nothing.”

Rice, potatoes, and onions were about all Dorothy could buy from a store. Produce had to be garden-grown, and things like sugar, butter, and flour had to be carried in from India once a year. Somehow, under conditions that would make today’s housewives cry, Dorothy created culinary delights like pasta and donuts from scratch.

And housewives cried even then. Bove remembers new workers in the region telling her mother: “We don’t know what to cook! We don’t know how to cook like this!” So Dorothy put together a how-to cookbook – sharing recipes for things like baked goods, and even homemade ketchup and mayonnaise.

Though the Seaman’s retired in 1995, Dorothy’s culinary impact lives on at Sundari’s bakery, thanks to her daughter’s frequent visits to Nepal. Over the years, Bove has shared many of Dorothy’s recipes and cooking tips with Sundari.

After visiting Dadeldhura to cure her homesickness in 2003, Bove began Dare to Care, Inc., a non-profit that serves orphans, prisoners, leprosy patients, and impoverished women in Nepal. On her regular visits to Dadeldhura, Bove rents a flat from Sundari’s husband Tara Datt Pant, who continues to work with leprosy patients at the local hospital.

On one of her visits, Sundari told Bove, “I want to start a bakery.” When Bove asked if Sundari had ever seen a western-style bakery, Sundari said “No.” She’d tried things like pizza and cake, though, and thought a bakery would do well in Dadeldhura. The next time Bove was in Nepal, she and Sundari took a 30-hour bus ride to Kathmandu to see a bakery in action. Bove recalls Sundari’s reaction: “Yep, that’s what I want to do.”

So Sundari’s apprenticeship began. “Every time I was with her, I taught her more of Mom’s recipes,” Bove says. They used Bove’s tiny electric oven – the size of a microwave – and gleaned recipes and wisdom from Dorothy’s how-to cookbook.

When Bove returned to Nepal in 2010, she noticed construction near Tara Datt and Sundari’s home. “What’s going on?” she asked. “We’re building the bakery,” they answered. So Bove got a grant for an electric oven and water heater and had them brought from Kathmandu.

Tarabucks Coffee Shop opened in May 2011. (“Tara” means “star” in Nepali.) Sundari bakes bread for a few local hotels, and people on their way to more remote mountain towns stop in for lunch and sweets. Bove says the bakery has been a real success. “God has just blessed this little shop,” she says. “[Sundari and Tara Datt] want their business to succeed for God’s glory.”

In the spring of 2013, the managing of the hospital was transferred back to the Nepali government and many of the employees changed. Tara Datt and Sundari were concerned about the future of their business. Bove encouraged them, saying that she was sure the new hospital employees will like their tea and cookies and that God will provide. “The Lord built this and he will maintain it,” she says.

-Written by Esther Kline
-Photos provided by Dawn Bove