Preserving Bread Culture

Well, I think the discussion about the idea of preserving the authenticity of food is interesting. Personally, I just can't agree in its entirety of it when it comes to bread.

Preserving food culture may be important but to some extent it makes certain foods become less accessible to the masses and hence a luxury item that only the wealthier classes can afford. It's bread. Which is (or at least used to be) a staple food for most western cultures. Non-white flour sourdough breads used to be what the poorer classes ate to which the wealtheir folks probably held in disregard at the time. Now it's suddenly important to preserve the authenticity of sourdough breads? I doubt anybody in their respective countries would be too thrilled if one day someone came up with the idea of controlling what can be called 'authentic' fu-fu, chapati, egg noodles etc. etc.

Okay, the French did that with baguettes. Yes, to preserve food culture partly, but more importantly to make it something everyone could afford regardless of class. The price for a baguette is always the same regardless of if it is a mass-produced one or an artisanal one. I'm sure if it were otherwise, some 'artisanal' baker who got famous would come up with the idea of overpricing their baguettes like Poilane did with his miche. I think his bread is great btw, but I can't for the life of me agree with what the business is doing to the bread. It's not about preserving French bread culture at all. It's just marketing. I was quite happy to listen to Jeremy's podcast interview with Jeffrey Hamelman the other day to hear J.H. has somewhat similar views on Poilane.

Besides, what makes one sourdough bread for a particular recipe (say a pain au levain) considerably different/better than another? Region? Climate? Sourdough cultures? Sacc or no sacc? My point is what kind of standards would one have to meet in order to have his/her bread labelled as authentic pain au levain of a particular designation?

Another example, Max versus Lionel Poilane's? Their breads are probably made using the same culture that their father used, right? Perhaps it was modified down the line. Who's is authentic then? There are also other bakers in France and elsewhere in the world who also make the same kind of miche breads. If one day there was regulated labelling for 'Poilane-style' bread, who would qualify?


2 comments

Maybe it's just the add in ingredients as yeast or ascorbic acid etc, instead of just water, salt and flour is what I think is being pointed out as pure sourdough from the wild yeasts! Thanks for the plug for JH's interview. John's interview is still in progress, still another half hour of chopping out an annoying echo in the recording, figured out how to avoid that mess, but the conversation John and I had was great so I will do my best to get it on line soon!

Cheers!

Gul, I've been thinking about a few of your statements such as these: "...preserving the authenticity of food is interesting. Personally, I just can't agree in its entirety of it when it comes to bread.

"It's bread. Which is (or at least used to be) a staple food for most western cultures. Non-white flour sourdough breads used to be what the poorer classes ate to which the wealtheir folks probably held in disregard at the time. Now it's suddenly important to preserve the authenticity of sourdough breads?"

I can see your point, but staple makes it more important than most. Isn't it a mark of sophistication and refinement of any culture to 'know' its food as well as its other cultural attributes?

Lets just take one facet, a pet subject for me.

My theory is that since bread has been a political food, by necessity the rulers and their class, needed to keep it cheap. Of course, in the recent past until today, to maintain bread's discount it has morphed to be relatively poor comapred to times past. I still believe it's notorius political status as in the past has been maintained, but for reasons with a twist. If quality bread was staple and appreciated to its realistic price, there'd questions from below to the hallowed halls above. Why has bread appreciated in price? However, today the cry should be more precisely, why has it depreciated in substance?

The answer could be sought in many given reasons, but quirky as it seems, it's just as valid to point the finger at our debased or depreciating money. I realise that most people have no patience with an analysis such as this and crow that wages are also growing, so what's the beef. Not quite, since the differential, though varied at different times is always there and growing.

I'm now getting off the topic but it's food for thought.