I want to start our entry into this astonishingly amazing text with the following paragraph. As you see, it is not the first paragraph of this chapter. It is the most all encompassing poetically written description of what bread meant in Early Modern European culture that I have come across. Amongst many of us, the link between a meal and bread has been broken, Many of you reading this, as with me, can sit down to a meal and be perfectly satisfied, even though there is no bread. This was not the case in 1616. A meal had to have bread. It is also not the case today in Egypt, Iran, or Turkey to name a few of the countries where bread is the staple food. .
The text we are working with here was written during a time when bread was life. It was central to meals, alike for rich and poor, with the difference being that in poor households there was little else served besides the bread. There is also a conceptual difference between our understand of bread and theirs. Our approach to medicine and nutrition is completely different from what it was in the 1550s when the core of this text was written. This work is anchored in the humoral system of medicine of Classical Rome. This following paragraph offers insights into how people thought about bread in the early sixteenth century in terms of its medicinal value and function. But, for me, the real gold in this paragraph is where it speaks to aesthetic qualities of different breads. At least in the English-language literature, there is nothing on the kinds of aesthetic goals the baker might have been striving for.
IT is most certaine that bread is the chiefest thing whereby man is fed and nourished: and that it is so, we see that other victuals, how pleasant soeuer they be vnto the tast, how vvel soeuer prepared and set out with good sauces, do (for the most part of them) cause very oft a distast and loathing of themselues; but onely bread holdeth out without dislike growing therupon whether it be in sicknes or in health, it is the thing which appetite doth last of all refuse, and ﬁrst like of and receiue againe in time of sickenes: in health it is the beginning and ending of our meat, very pleasant and delightsome with all kind of meats. In like manner of a certainty bread is by a maruellous beneﬁt of nature endued with all sorts of tastes and relishes, which particularly are the prouocations and allurements causing vs to affect and eate this or that or any kind of meate whatsoeuer. Some whereof do please vs by reason of their sweetnes, other some by reason of their sowernes, some by reason of their saltnesse, and other some by reason of their sharpnesse, and some by reason of their pleasant smell: and all these well pleasing relishes, making sauourie vnto vs all other sorts of meate, doth bread containe and comprehend in it selfe. Againe other victualls, haue they neuer so good a taste, can neither bee pleasant nor proﬁtable for the health in eating, if bread bee not eaten with them, in as much as the bread by its owne good nature doth correct the faults that are in other meates, and maketh them stronger and of more power in their properties and 580 qualities: and hereupon grew the common prouerbe, which is that all meat is good and proﬁtable, when it is accompanied with bread
The portion of the text I’d like to all out here is the portion that focuses on aesthetics. Please go back into the above paragraph and find the passage that begins, “In like manner of a certainty bread is by a marvelous benefit of nature endued with all sorts of tastes and relish ….” It clear that the Rustique authors are living in a bread culture in which there is a wide variety of breads with distinctive tastes and aromas: sweet (might simply mean yeasted, which is how we use the term as in “sweet French bread”), sour, salty, sharp (not sure what that means), or have a lovely smell. I can’t think of a contemporary cookbook saying, this is a salty bread, this one has a lovely smell, this one should be sour, etc. This may be a direction some restaurant baking may be taking as artisan restaurants shift to selling bread made with menu intentionality, but I can think of no text from any period that is as explicit as this regarding bread tastes and tonalities.
Opening Passage for the Bake House Chapter — Growing grain and producing breads and cakes for profit.
IN vaine should the husbandman toyle himselfe in tilling his ground so carefully according to the forme and manner which we haue before described, and in like carefull sort to gather in, heape together and keepe his corne, if hee hoped not for some fruit and proﬁt of his paines and labours. But what that proﬁt is which he receiueth of his corne, I referre my selfe vnto the sale, which hee may yearely make vnto foreine and strange merchants, as whereby there redoundeth vnto him an incredible summe of money. Witnesses in this point may be the inﬁnite number of rich husbandmen in France, and namely in Beauce, Brie, and Picardie, who liue in better estate and fuller of money, than many great Seigneours and Gentlemen: and I referre my selfe likewise vnto the diuers sorts of bread which they make of their corne, for the feeding and sustaining of themselues and their families, as also their cakes, cheese-cakes, custards, ﬂawnes, tartes, fritters, and a thousand other prettie knackes and daintie conceits, which may be made and wrought of the meale which their corne yeeldeth. And yet further I report me to the beere, (which standeth in steed of wine in the countries where the vine cannot beare fruit) made commonly with wheat and barley. And lastly to the sale of bread which hee may practise and vse euery day, whithout any whit disaduantaging himselfe; as wee see in the husbandmen of Gonesse neere to the Citie of Paris.
It is the early 1600s. Europe is agrarian. But, something is stirring. It is the stirrings we find in Sir Hugh Plat, entrepreneur, curious mind, a man of many projects. You can feel it in TTs bread manuscript from the 1550s, a kind of systematizing mind focused on the here and now. And you feel it super strongly in this opening of the Maison Rustique’s bake house chapter. Channelling the authors of Roman agricultural texts, particularly that of Columella’s Res Rustica, a text referenced within the book, the authors of the Maison Rustique — and there are many authors! — are archetypal men of Europe’s cultural re-birth. They know their classical literature. The intellectual refocus of European intellectual thought from philosophy — religion — to the world of the here and now. Works like this one, in which practical knowledge was systematized, took place in a different cultural context from that of ancient Rome. Columella’s and other Roman agricultural texts, did not really go anywhere. The texts did not evolve. There was a thousand-plus year break in literary tradition before agricultural texts similar to Columella’s appeared again. This time, one text led to another and another and and another in a process that is ongoing.
This 1616 edition of the Maison Rustique is the second English edition based on the already very revised 1598 French edition. The revisions of this text did not stop until well into the 19th century by which time text had been joined by a huge number of similar agricultural texts. Gervase Markham himself, editor of this 1616 edition, wrote multiple texts written in the identical spirit but focused on agriculture in England, as subject he was personally close to as an affluent Englishman with a large estate. Each of the myriad agricultural works that began to proliferate in the 17th century fed the next. Innovations were recorded, disseminated in writing, forming the foundation for more innovation in a process that has not stopped. As for the “Maison Rustique” itself — it became a brand. Louis Liger, who wrote some some very nice bread recipes, edited a massive 18th century version of the “Maison Rustique.” The 19th century edition, edited by Maison Rustique de XIX Siécle and is a massive multi-volume sumptuously illustrated compendium of agricultural knowledge that is so expansive that in a way it is a general encyclopedia of all knowledge. Fortunately, the edition I am working on is simpler, and I am also primarily focused on the bread chapter.
Chapter XX is the chapter that focuses on bread. It was was not in the first edition. The bake house chapter is in the 1598 French edition that is the basis for the 1600 English edition translated by Richard Surflet. This 1616 English edition is based on the Surflet edition. It was revised and expanded by Gervase Markham, a prolific agricultural writer and literary figure in the first decades of the 17th century.
The Maison Rustique follows in the footsteps of Cato and Columella and anticipates Diderot’s Encyclopedia of the later 18th century. If you could work out the referenced tools, then you could run yourself a country estate pretty closely to how such an estate — at least an idealized estate — was run in the Gervase Markham’s time period.
The revolution that took place in France at the end of the 18th century was partly fed by the dynamic you read in this opening paragraph to Chapter XX. Just from selling grain, mere farmers became money bags.
whereby there redoundeth vnto him an incredible summe of money. Witnesses in this point may be the inﬁnite number of rich husbandmen in France, and namely in Beauce, Brie, and Picardie, who liue in better estate and fuller of money, than many great Seigneours and Gentlemen
At some point, this self-made elite — and other self-made elites that were forming along with these agriculturalists — came to feel that it was not really OK for political power to be held so closely by hereditary elites. There is aline fro the grain fields of Beauce, Brie, and Parcardie celebrated in this book and the overthrow of the French monarchy.
This opening paragraph is a translation from the original French and does not include new material from Markham. It is a 16th century French idea that we read here that suggests that creating value added products like bread and pastries is smart way for a farmer to maximize wealth. We call it “vertical integration.” Instead of just getting commodity prices for ones commodity — whatever that is — you get to reap the benefit of increased profit from having added value to that commodity. Sticking an agricultural example, in the US, where prohibition era laws against alcohol production are still on the books nearly one-hundred years after prohibition was repealed at the federal level it is only now that on the state level (the US is a federation) an increasing number of states are permitting orchardists to distill the product of their trees.
This Chapter XX, the Bake House is addressed to entrepreneurial farmers. One of Markham’s contribution to the text is to add English horticultural details to details given for French agriculturalists – for example – a small section on English wheat to compliment the extensive section on French wheat. One of the biggest contributions Markham makes to this text, and one that helps us understand the bread world of the period more clearly than ever is the addition of information about how the English classified bread based on flour type. This work follows his own works on horse breads and on breads for us humans published in his 1614 English Housewife. As with any author, the more times he visits the material, the clearer ones ideas become.
For centuries, the French village of Gonesse, today a city situated between the Charles de Gaulle airport and the or the airport, was famous for its white bread. The bread was shipped three times a week into nearby Paris. I have always imagined the village of Gonesse during its entire period as a bread supplier Paris consisted of what was basically a village of bakeries. But in this text it turns out that the bakeries were actually commercial adjuncts to farms. Surflet translated the French “laboureurs de Gonesse” as the “husbandmen of Gonesse.” Neither text refers to bakers. It was small, and not so small farms that were sending the bread to Paris, at least at this period. Perhaps, we should be thinking in terms of the monasteries that also produced (and produce) farm products.
Poetically, the text focuses in on making the farm a base for artisan production: “For it is my intent […]nd […] countrie house should bee another Pandora, furnished and ﬂowing with […] all manner of good things and commodities, in such sort, as that the neighbour townes might haue recourse …” In other words, a farmstead with bread, pies, cakes, beer, and other value added products of the farm, presumably hams, sausages, and potted meats producing for the local market. This is how the text sets up the chapter on the bake house.
ANd to the intent that I may enter into my purposed matter of the Bake-house, I doe not here intend to crie or search out, who was the ﬁrst inuenter of Bread-making, or what meates were in vse amongst them of auncient time, before the making of Bread was found out, or whether it was the man or womans labour to play the Baker: these I leaue to such as make their whole profession that way, to discourse of; contenting my selfe to teach and instruct my Farmer what graine or corne hee may imploy and vse for the making of bread.Chapter XX, Maison Rustique, 1600 & 1616 English editions
This formal opening of the bake house chapter responds to the kinds of questions anyone working on bread is familiar with — who made the first bread, who invented sourdough, and etc. Origin questions. Firstly, I’d like to call out the sagacity of not engaging with origin stories. Says the man who is deep into bread’s origin story! In my defense, we know have the kinds of archeological and ethnographic data that can offer us a pretty good guess at at least near beginnings. Think of cosmology. We keep getting nearer and nearer the actual moment of the Big Bang. As we get nearer, we narrow the range of possibilities making us increasingly sure of the current range of gases at the origin of our universe. The authors of the Maison Rustique have sense to realize that they have no data. But I do think it’s important to acknowledge that they clearly understand bread as an invention of culture. I always begin my talks on bread referring to it as an intention of culture and it is actually this passage that inspired that idea. But, it was not this passage in this book! This exact idea, clearly inspired by either this text or a text that voice text maybe referring to, which one can be zoom was written and either French or Latin, is found in Health’s Improvement, or Rules for preparing all sorts of Food by Thomas Muffett, London 1655.
Whether bread was invented by a man or a woman, and I do personally have an opinion on that subject, the origin story is not relevant to breadmaking in the 16th and 17th centuries. Or, actually to breadmaking today. But the office of this work we’re aware and are paying attention to the fact that the types of bread made by women with different from the types of bread made by men. In this., Women worked inside the domestic sphere, nearly exclusively, all men worked outside the house. In baking, if you divide between baking bread for your family and household, and baking bread Ashley, in a bakery who are as a baker in a large house. In England, at least, women could and did inherit bakeries from their husbands. So they were definitely women who were working in a commercial context. But, it is a fair generalization that women baked at home and men baked at a paying job.
So, avoiding mythology or guesses at the origins of bread, the authors of the Maison Rustique set out to “instruct my Farmer what graine or corne hee may imploy and vse for the making of bread.” This is a classic work of the Renaissance. It does not look back to Greece and Rome as a source of authority. It looks back to Greece and Rome for models of ways to think and act. This work hews closely to the tradition of surviving Roman agricultural texts. For this text Columella, a writer who was was rediscovered in the 15th century, at the beginning of the Renaissance, is an obvious classical source for the Maison Rustique’s genre. Following is an extended passage from Columella’s Res Rustica, On Agriculture.
The seeds of first importance and most useful to mankind are grains of wheat and emmer. We know of several varieties of wheat; but of this number that called robus or ” ruddy ” is most suitable for sowing, because it is supei-ior in both weight and brightness. Second place must be given to siligo or winter wheat, which is of excellent appearance in bread but lacking in weight. The third shall be the three-months wheat, the use of which is most gratifying to farmers ; for when, because of rains or some other reason, an early sowing has not been made, recourse is had to this. This, again, is a variety of siligo. The other kinds of w^heat, except for those who find pleasure in a great variety of crops and in idle vainglory, are superfluous. Of emmer, however, we commonly see 3 four varieties in use : the, far which is called Clusian,” of a white and shiny appearance ; that called vennuculum,” one kind reddish and the other white, but both of greater weight than the Clusian; the three- months far, called, halicastrum,’^ which is excellent both in weight and in goodness. But these kinds of 4 wheat and emmer should be kept by farmers for this reason, that seldom is any land so situated that we can content ourselves with one kind of seed, as some strip which is either swampy or dry cuts through it. Further, wheat grows better in a dry spot, while emmer is less harmed by moisture.
Of emmer, however, we commonly see four varieties in use : the, far which is called Clusian, of a white and shiny appearance ; that called vennuculum, one kind reddish and the other white, but both of greater weight than the Clusian; the three- months far, called, halicastrum, which is excellent both in weight and in goodness. But these kinds of wheat and emmer should be kept by farmers for this reason, that seldom is any land so situated that we can content ourselves with one kind of seed, as some strip which is either swampy or dry cuts through it. Further, wheat grows better in a dry spot, while emmer is less harmed by moisture.Columella, Res Rustica
After passing up the opportunity to talk about the unapproachable past, the text moves into the foundation territory of defining what are, and are not the bread grains. In the Oxford English Dictionary, the dictionary of record for the English language, bread is basically defined as a cultural contruct.
As a mass noun. A staple food made by mixing flour and water or other liquid (often with yeast or other leavening agent) to form a dough which is then cooked, usually by baking.Oxford English Dictionary
The Rustique authors accept that bread is really whatever you say it is. A lovely pale manchet is bread, and so is a pea pancake. That said, the manchet is real bread, as are all loaf breads made with wheat or rye, but more or less, no matter how palatable they might be, everything else are only breads one would choose to eat when horrible conditions — famine, war, impossible prices — makes acquiring the truly proper bread grains is impossible. Perhaps a way to think of it is that during good times we all know what “bread” means, and that is a very specific meaning, but during bad times anything and everything can be bread.
Barley, a grain we know was a staple bread grain in the ancient world — Egypt — Greece — nonetheless never had the status of wheat, even in those cultures. In the Roman army, barley bread was a punishment ration. Of course, there are always cultural exceptions. William Ellis, writing in the 1750s, describes loaves of barley bread as the normal thing amongst the yeoman farmers in his neighborhood – and they don’t seem, at least in his telling, to come with attitude. On the other hand, the attitude is implicit in the association of barley with farmers who, though reasonably well off, did not live in country houses. And, of course, with the exception of Ellis, barley bread is pretty invisible in the written record. The primacy of wheat is challenged throughout the bread world. Whenever it can be grown, or whenever the household has the money to buy it, then wheat is what bread is made of. As you read the list of grains the following paragraph it is important to keep in mind, Scottish oatcakes notwithstanding, oats are for horses. It is true that in Southern France the cicci — a fried chickpea batter bread that is nothing less than utterly delicious is a popular tourist food , but it will always have been secondary to a wheat loaf. As you read the grain hierarchies in the following paragraph do keep in mind that the famine breads can actually taste quite good – at least when eaten in times of plenty. We are reading thousands of years of cultural valuations compressed into a single paragraph. In this paragraph there is also a lovely distinction made between grasses – grains harvested with scythe or sickle — and pulses. The authors do not seem to really know how rice grows, as it is thrown in with list of pulses. The reference to “ferne rootes” that the authors say they are seen eaten in Britaine, is also referenced in William Harrison’s English History volume of the Holinshed Chronicles published in 1577. An England with desperate times is not far away from this volume. Famines continued to grip Europe, even in peacetime, long after this book was published. So, this listing of famine foods, while totally academic to us, was a living tradition in 1616.
Of course, famine because of war never ended in Europe. Besieged cities in the recent Yugoslav wars, and as I write these words, the war going on in Ukraine, means for an absolute certainty that people are, right this moment, in a situation where wheat bread has dropped off the list of available foods, even in Ukraine, one of the world’s most important wheat producers. It also means that people right now, as I write this, are having to make bread from dirty water, an historic issue with bread making prior to recent times when water became a safe clean commodity.
….contenting my selfe to teach and instruct my Farmer what graine or corne hee may imploy and vse for the making of bread. For certaine there may be bread made of all sorts of corne, but not of all sorts of graine: for Pulse (as we call them) that is to say, such graine as is inclosed in coddes or huskes, and which are not cut downe with Sythe or Sickle, but gathered by plucking them from the earth by the rootes, as Pease, Beanes, Rice, Lentils, great Cich-pease, small Cich-pease, Lupines, Fasels, Fetches, Fenugreeke and other such like, are not ﬁt to make bread of, except in time of famine, and when as other corn doth faile altogether, or else fall to be exceeding deere: according as wee see in such times of hard distresse, bread of Oats, Barley, Beanes, Rice, Millet, and Pannicke (for such I haue seene in Perigord) yea of Bran, Fishes dried in the Sunne, Acornes, Chesnuts, and Ferne rootes (for such haue I seene in base Britaine) or which is more, of Brickes, Tiles and Slates, as is reported to haue beene made by the inhabitants of Sancerra, who during the time that they were besieged, did make and eate bread made of Slates.
The famine referred to in Sancerre was 1572-73. It sounds like fillers may have been added to bread-like products. I have not tried to check up on this reference. If you know something about this famine, and its breads, please make a note in the comments.
The bread made of other sorts of corne as also of certaine pulse.
BArley bread [Note: Barley bread. ] must bee made of the best barley that may be found or gotten, and not of the meale whole and entire, as it commeth from the mill, but of that part of it which hath beene temzeded and cleansed from his grosse bran. It is true that the bread will be very drie, very apt to crumble, and of a sower tast; so that it would be better to mingle amongst this meale, some meale of pure wheate, or meslin. The maner of seasoning it with leuen, as also of kneading and baking of it, is no other, than is vsed in wheate. After the same manner is bread made of Secourgion: but neither the one nor the other is ﬁt for the eating either of the Lord of the farme or of his farmer, but rather for the seruants, and that especially in the time of dearth, for their better contentation, although there bee no great store of nourishment to bee looked for from the same. After this sort also they make bread of oates, which is Seldome or not at all eaten, except it be in the time of extreame famine; for indeed it eateth very vnpleasantly.Maison Rustique, 1619, p. 714
This passage is golden. It is precisely explains the hierarchy for barley bread, at least in the view of Markham. This text is unchanged from 1598 French edition, so Markham must have approved of its content. We see in this passage one slice of the hierarchical social system of Early Modern Europe — understood in England and France.
As for the barley bread, it is sifted — no whole meal bread! It is sour tasting, one of its faults, and so we can infer that this is made with a sourdough starter – which is consistent with the coarse cheat described elsewhere the text. The temze is a grade of sieve that is is coarser than a searce. My guess that it is in the range of the late 18th century’s thirteen-shilling cloth — which is around 30 wires per inch. This is just a guess! That is the cloth used for military grade bread for the ranks.
Barley is held in such low esteem that it is recommended only in “the time of dearth” and only for the servants, not for the “Lord of the farm” or “of his farmer.” We have here a social hierarchy in which there is Lord, farmer, servant, and elsewhere in the text, the hind servant, or landless peasant. There is also a hierarchy of wheat, secourgion that seems only to be defined by Markham’s use here as a degenerate kind of wheat, and then, lastly, “oates, which is “Seldom or not at all eaten, except it be in the time of extreme famine; for indeed it eateth very unpleasantly.”
For a very long time I had a girlfriend who grew up in Scotland. For her, oatcakes ate pleasantly. Indeed, it was one of her favorite foods. A reminder that there is always a point of view.
In Markham’s English Housewife published a few years before this, he mentions barley as an option for his Cheat bread. In that text, the recipe for cheat includes both leaven and barm. In Maison Rustique, leaven, only for a bread of this quality.
The last notes I’d like to make on this passage is to note the association (negative) of a sour taste and the comment (negative) on its crumbly texture. Between the sour and the crumbly we find a taste and texture profile.
It is possible to get a sense of regional wealth — or poverty — through the breads people eat. The oatcakes of Scotland speak to its historical poverty. Its land is not suitable for wheat — or apparently even rye — and so, alone amongst European populations (I have no knowledge of other oat bread eaters. If you do, please leave comment with details.) they eat horse food. In this excerpt from Maison Rustique we find a region in France that makes some kind of bread-like product with millet. Note here, again, negative sensory properties — dry and brittle. The durum wheat Sardinian shepherd bread, pane carasau, is thin, dry, and brittle. Until relatively recently, it was also often made of barley.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines pancake as follows: Originally: Italian or foxtail millet, Setaria italica(formerly Panicum italicum). Later: any of various cereals and other grasses of the genus Panicum or of allied genera once included in it, esp. Setaria or Echinochloa. Also: the grain of any of these plants. Cf.
Bread may bee made of millet as also of panicke, [Note: Bread of milles ] but such as is verie drie and brittle, and yet the Gascoines vse it very commonly,
Polenta! From a form of millet called panicke, plus, Gascony millet bread.
Bread may bee made of millet as also of panicke, [Note: Bread of milles ] but such as is verie drie and brittle, and yet the Gascoines vse it very commonly, and especially the Biarnoyes, who for this cause are called millet mangers of their neighbours dwelling there about. The Biarnoyes do make hastie pudding after this manner: They take three or foure [p. 579] pounds of the meale of the millet for the morning, and as much for the euening, they set it vpon the ﬁre in a Kettle whereinto there is powred ﬁue or sixe pints of water: thus they let them boile together, vntill such time as that it swell vp to the top of the kettle, and then taking it from off the ﬁre, they stir it well about with a round sticke, so long as vntill the paste be very throughly broken and made all one, then afterward taking it out of the kettle, they diuide it with a thred into many peeces and eate it in that sort with cheese, or with thin salted milke.
It looks like millet is to the French as oats are to the British. It is a grain that is not eaten. The bread made from it is “verie drie and brittle.” Bad sensory qualities. Reverse them – moist and chewy – to find the kind of bread they liked. Nonetheless, millet bread, presumably in the form of millet cakes, were eaten in Gascony. In this sense, think of it like Scottish oat cakes.
The panicke, panic in modern spelling is any number of millet grains, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. “Originally: Italian or foxtail millet, Setaria italica (formerly Panicum italicum). Later: any of various cereals and other grasses of the genus Panicum or of allied genera once included in it, esp. Setaria or Echinochloa. Also: the grain of any of these plants. Cf. panicum n.“
A recipe that sounds like the method for corn polenta: The text days that people ate three pounds in the morning, and three pounds in the evening. You boil it until it swells and fills the kettle, then stir to form a homogenous mass. Dump out of the kettle, cut into pieces with a thread and then eat with cheese or salted milk.
Rye Bread: Prejudice and affection. Class and regional culture.
It is but a verie small and starued graine in respect of Wheat, and the bread vvhich is made thereof is vnpleasant, fattie, […], heauie, like paste, blacke, and more proﬁtable in the time of dearth to slay and kill the sharpenesse of hunger, in the base and rusticall people, than to feed wholesomely, and make good nourishment of: againe, such as be wealthie, and men liuing at ease, make no reckoning of it.Maison rustique, 1616 edition, p. 549
The attitude to rye bread is all over the place. The cultural center is that the bread is bad. Unpleasant, dense, black — the opposite of what a good bread should be like. It is therefore, in this passage, relegated to the rustics during famine — its highest and best use taking the sharpness out of hunger. In this passage, the wealthy and people, “mean at leisure,” do not eat it. Ever. Presumably not falling victim to famines.
It is true that many doe mingle it with wheat, to the end that the bread made thereof may continue a longer time moist and tender: yea, and which is more, the physitians of the Court doe giue directions for the making of bread of this kind of Corne for Kings and Princes to feed vpon in the beginning of their meales (especially in Summer) to procure them a loose bellie:Maison rustique, 1616 edition, p. 549
Maslin — wheat and rye — is a classic mix. But, there was at least one other wheat/rye mix. It is a mix we know from the 1777 edition of Avis! by Parmentier. He talks about maslin — meteir — and then also a flour he calls “ble ramé.” That is a flour made with 8 parts wheat to 1 part rye. Parmentier says it smells like violets AND that it keeps longer. Note here, the “moist and tender” qualities being ascribed to this maslin bread while keeping in mind the many dry and brittles used to describe breads made with grains like oats and millet. Parmentier is explicit that the addition of rye makes bread last longer which means stay more moist. This tells us that then, as now, people appreciated fresh bread over stale.
Name dropping here, the text says that even the king a France, who, when this chapter was written in the 1570s was King Henry III, were prescribed rye bread to eat at the beginning of meals in order to provide something that would loosen their bowels. This suggests that even in France at this time the elite diet was weak on fiber rich foods.
but they that are carefull of their health, especially such as doe not exercise and toyle their bodies, and students in generall, the Monkes and such like, must auoyd to eat the bread made of the meale of this Corne alone,Maison rustique, 1616 edition, p. 549
Pure rye bread is to be avoided by anyone who is “carefull of their health.” And, again, a list of non-laboring elites are advised not to eat something — in this case 100% rye bread.
howsoeuer the plow-Swaine haue this opinion of it, namely, that it maketh the bodie strong; and for certaine it is found by manifest and daily experience that the vvomen of Lyons, Auuergne, and Forest, by the vse of this bread doe become verie faire, and to haue more solide bodies, and more abounding in good and laudable juice or humours, than others commonly haue.Maison rustique, 1616 edition, p. 549
At the same time, the text explains that what is bad for people like us it’s good for laborers. This distinction runs throughout the early modern bred literature – a fundamental difference in constitution between the rich and the laborer. Fantastically, we want to read that super sexy peasant women — beautiful, solid and “abounding in good and laudable juice or humors” live on the stuff. While we might want to read “laudable juice” as a type of bodily fluid, the primary meaning is basically, women who are the picture of health.
Some likewise are of judgement, that the vvater of Rie-bread is more pleasant, and farre better than that of Wheat-bread be it neuer so vvhite.Maison rustique, 1616 edition, p. 549
I have not looked up how to make a “water” of bread. There are a few references to distilled water of rye bread in other texts. Perhaps a simple maceration of bread in water. If you know about this please leave a comment.
Cookes, vsed to vvorke in pastrie, doe make such crusts as they would haue to endure long, of Rie-ﬂower. This bread is made to feed dogges, and to fat swine: all other kinds of cattell, especially hens and horse, do abhorre and loath it altogether: . . . .
. . . . And thus much for the opinion and custome of the French, whose soyle is so frequent vvith Wheat, that they little respect the vse of other graines. But to resort to the better-knowing husbands, and to whose opinions Seres and diuers other later Writers agree, you shall vnderstand that Rie [Note: Rie. ] is a most excellent graine, pleasant, and sauourie in taste, and verie wholesome to be eaten, in as much as it keepeth the bodie open, and breedeth not that costiuenes[…]e which other graines doe: and although the bread which it maketh, being made of the meale as it commeth from the mill vnsifted and vncleansed, be blacke, and vnlouely to looke on, yet it is verie wholesome, and more sauourie, and better to eat than any bread made of any other graine, except Wheat; nay if it be sifted and cleansed through a ﬁne raunge, scarce, or boulter, it makes bread as vvhite, as comely, and much more pleasant to eat than any course or leuened Wheat whatsoeuer.Maison rustique, 1616 edition, p. 549
Whole meal and other crude breads, even unleavened, are assigned to the working poor.
The bread that is made of wheat meale whole and intire, [Note: Bread made of the whole ﬂower. ] as from which there is nothing taken by temze, is ﬁt and meet for hindes and other workefolkes, as deluers, porters, and such other persons as are in continuall trauell, because they haue neede of such like food, as consisteth of a grosse, thicke, and clammie iuice, and in like manner such bread ﬁtteth them best, which hath no leuen in it, is not much baked, but remaineth somewhat doughie and clammie, and which besides is made of the meale of Secourgeon, of rie mingled with wheat, of chesnuts, rice, beanes, and such other grosse sort of pulse.Maison Rustique, 1616 edition
Wow! Wow! Wow! Can you even begin to believe what the authors are saying! “…. and in like manner such bread ﬁtteth them best, which hath no leuen in it, is not much baked, but remaineth somewhat doughie and clammie, and which besides is made of the meale of Secourgeon, of rie mingled with wheat, of chesnuts, rice, beanes, and such other grosse sort of pulse.” This is describing an execrable bread — but is positioned as the bread that “fiftieth” the hindes — landless peasants, and other super low status people.
White bread for people like us.
The bread that is made of the ﬂower of the meale, [Note: Bread of the ﬂower of meale ] being the purest and ﬁnest part thereof, is good for idle and vnlaboured persons, such as are students, […] and other ﬁne and daintie persons, which stand in neede to be fed with food of light and easie digestion. Such is the white bread which is sold of the bakers, and […] bread: as also that which is wel leuened, knodden, somewhat salt, somewhat hollow, and well risen, like vnto court bread.Maison Rustique, 1616 edition
We have here a juxtaposition of human types – laborers who need good that is gross, thick, clammie, etc, and “fine and daintie” persons, like you and me, the kind of people who read about bread history, who need to be fed food that is of “light and easy digestion.”
For sensory qualities, the text enumerates leavened, “somewhat salt” by which I think we can infer a slight salty taste, and with enough air within the loaf for it feel “somewhat hollo.” Think the hollow sound when rapping ones knuckle on the bottom of a baked loaf.