Baking in Peace at Ihatov
Words and Photos by Ungelbah Dávila-Shivers
Yuko Kawashimo and Nobu Mizushima.
A poem by Japanese poet Kenji Miyazawa wraps around each cup sleeve that leaves Ihatov Bread and Coffee. The title is “Ame ni mo makezu,” meaning “Undefeated by the rain,” and the poem is about resilience and inner peace—the two main ingredients that have turned Yuko Kawashimo and Nobu Mizushima’s business into a unique success in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill.
They opened their doors in March 2020, mere weeks before the first pandemic shutdown, but say it turned out to be the perfect time because the pandemic allowed them to connect with their community on a deeper, more personal level. Across America, a theme from the early pandemic days was a widespread desire to bake bread. Looking back, it’s easy to see why. Bread is a slow art form. It connects you to yourself but also to the elements, and when it is finished and dripping with butter, there is no food on earth more comforting to hold in your hands. It was in this atmosphere of human vulnerability that Kawashimo and Mizushima nurtured their neighbors with loaves of sourdough made from a start that was created over forty years ago by their mentor, Willem Malten, owner of Cloud Cliff Bakery in Santa Fe.
Mizushima, whose day begins at 2 am with preparing the doughs that will rotate in and out of the oven from around 6 am until noon, says he takes a zen approach to baking. “Making bread is like art,” he says. “Your emotions affect the bread, so I try to keep calm to influence the bread and be like water. Water always changes and adapts, and if there is a log in the way, it finds a way around.”
He says that a recipe is just the base, designed to work under perfect conditions. But perfect conditions never exist. The bread responds to its environment—heat, humidity, emotions—so Mizushima’s challenge is to work with each day as it comes and keep “good vibes” so the bread can be happy as well. That happiness comes to life in an oven they imported from France, which took a technician from New York a week to assemble.
If one were to describe what a mother’s love tastes like, it would be this bread: boules and baguettes flavored with chunks of fresh pear and black pepper or Nigella sativa and caramelized onions, a rustica loaf made with whole wheat berries sprouted in-house, a buckwheat and amaranth loaf, ciabatta, and more. The space smells like heaven before you even open the door—fitting for a bakery called Ihatov, a word created by Miyazawa to name the utopia in which his poems take place. It is loosely based on the poet’s home in Japan’s northern prefecture of Iwate, about seven hours north of Tokyo, where Kawashimo and Mizushima emigrated from twenty-five years ago.
The couple moved to Santa Fe from New York City about nine years ago to find a more down-to-earth lifestyle, which, without their planning it, manifested in baking at Cloud Cliff for seven years. It was here that they learned the art of bread from Malten. Eventually, the demand for bread at the Downtown Growers’ Market became so high that the couple decided it was time to set up shop in Albuquerque.
Their background in art, photography, and design is apparent as soon as you walk in the door. The bakery is full of plants and storied wooden furniture that beautifully accents the various browns of the bread on display, giving the entire space a warm, earthy energy. Large north-facing windows let in the morning sunlight that falls across the patio and indoor dining area, where guests relax and enjoy coffee, muffins, croissants, breads, menu items such as sun-dried tomato and brie sandwiches with wasabi mayo, and all the good vibes coming from the kitchen.
3400 Central SE, Albuquerque, 505-539-5445, ihatov.us
Ungelbah Dávila-Shivers lives in Valencia County with her husband, Larry, and daughter, Tachi’Bah. She owns Silver Moon Studio in Bosque Farms.