I would like to announce that I am now under contract with UC Press for a comprehensive history of bread. This work work, due in October 2016, expands on the history I wrote for Reaktion Books, Bread: A Global History (Reaktion Books – Edible) The book is in three parts, the first section offers a history of bread from the period before agriculture up to the present. I talk about bread in the context of the major bread-based civilizations in as many was as I can — a general who, what, when, where, and why of bread through the ages. If you read my current book on bread you will see that I am interested in bread as both a material object, something very real that we can bite into and taste, and bread as invention of culture that we can us to ask questions about how people saw themselves at various points in history. I am very interested in the breads of today and how we got to where we are. The book will be very strong on the history of bread in the last couple hundred years, particularly in France, as French ideas about bread are so important today in the international self-described artisan bread movement. In addition to this more general and traditional historical narrative, the book includes a recipe section and an extensive glossary of historic bread terms. The recipe and the glossary sections will also, in their own way, tell the history of bread.
This is a Northern California seed company with a vision for a sustainable future which in the context of its Northern California location includes minimal irrigation. The Sustainable seed company sells seeds to both small farmers and the home gardener. All seeds are listed as being “hierloom”. It is a basic collection of vegetable seeds. The most notable collection is the tobacco collection. If you are looking for tobacco, this is a good source. They also offer a selection of grains. While not an especially deep offering, the grain selection may inspire you to add grains to your garden or small farm and certainly offers enough choice to get you started. They display a shade of paranoia with their “Safety Seed Collections.” Unless one were already gardening on a substantial scale a collection of seeds will do you little good in a real economic emergency, one that sweeps you, your neighbors, and all local seed purveyors into an economic black hole. However, if your thoughts turn toward apocalypse then you may find their advice on which seeds store the longest of some help.
I am giving a talk on the history of bread at the Roger Smith Hotel, in New York, on Monday, March 19. It is a joint program with the Culinary Historians of New York and the Edible Conversations Series. The talk includes dinner, a book, and costs $50. Registration closes the day of the even. I hope to see you there!
“Bread: A Global History” with William Rubel
Bread was the most important food for thousands of years—and arguably the food that built the civilization that we enjoy today. Bread has been a food for humans, a food for gods, and a manufactured object carrying multiple layers of cultural meaning. While it is no longer a staple in Europe and North America, bread continues to be very important to us, as the care with which we select the loaf for dinner attests. William Rubel will talk about issues of crust and crumb, of white versus whole-wheat flour, of yeast versus levain, offering historical context for current debates. What is good bread? What bread is best for us? A history of bread is largely a history of attitudes regarding what constitutes the best loaf.
William Rubel is the author of “Bread: A Global History.” It offers a wide ranging revision of what—up to now—have been the accepted facts about the history of bread, as well as a fresh view of bread culture today. In this talk, William Rubel will discuss what he has uncovered about the history of bread from 10,000 years before the invention of agriculture through to the twenty-first century bread revolution currently underway. Using a combination of different research methods, including traditional archival searches, online databases, agricultural records, paintings, contemporary descriptions and other sources, as well as extensive milling and baking experiments in his own kitchen, Rubel has delved deep into the history and culture of this staple food. He will share some insights into his methods as well as some of the historical recipes he has discovered. Moderated by Andrew F. Smith.
Location: Roger Smith Hotel
501 Lexington at 47th Street
New York, NY 10017
Time: 6:30-9:00 pm
Fee: $50, which includes a copy of Bread: A Global History, a four course tasting dinner inspired by the book, and a beverage
Advance registration required. Please note different time and cost. To register: http://bread.eventbrite.com/
This is one of the earliest bread recipes known to be written in English and this is its first publication. Continue reading “Sir Hugh Plat’s Manuscript: An English Bread circa 1560”
Like many recipes published prior to the stricter copyright laws of the twentieth century this recipe for candied angelica is found in many cookbooks. I include two version here, one from 1717 and one from 1788. They are identical but for one detail. The later recipe leaves off the option of drying the angelica before the fire. The only suggestion is drying in the oven. This offers us a hint both of a use of the fireplace to dry herbs and candied fruits but also offers a rough date for when cookbook authors no longer assumed that a fireplace was available for cooking. At least in England, by the late 1780s, the age of the range had arrived.
Gather your Angelica in April, cut in lengths, and boil it in water till it becomes tender. Having put it on a sieve to drain, peel it, and dry it in a clean cloth, and to every pound of stalks take a pound of double-refined sugar finely pounded Put your stalks into an earthen pan, and strew the sugar over them. Cover them close, and let them stand two days. Then put it into a preserving-pan, and boil it till it is clear. Then put it into a cullender to drain, strew it pretty thick over with fine powder sugar, lay it on plates, and dry it in a cool oven, or before the fire. The accomplished housekeeper, and universal cook by T Williams, printed for J. Scatcherd, London 1717
TAKE it in April, cut it in lengths, and boil it in water till it is tender, then put it on a sieve to drain, then peel it and dry it in a clean cloth, and to every pound of stalks take a pound of doublerefined sugar finely pounded, put your stalks into an earthen pan, and strew the sugar over them; cover them close, and let them stand for two days ; then put it into a preserving-pan, and boil it till it is clear ; then put it into a cullender to drain, strew it pretty thick over with fine powder sugar, lay it on plates, and dry it in a cool oven. The English art of cookery, according to the present practice: being a complete guide to all housekeepers, on a plan entirely new; consisting of thirty-eight chapters, by Richard Briggs. Printed for G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1788
This photograph, taken by Reaktion Books publisher Michael Leaman in Tiblisi, Georgia, very clearly shows that the top of the oven is angled so that breads stuck to its side will receive direct radiant heat from the embers or fire at the bottom of the oven. If you build a tandoor oven I would use this photograph as a model.
The impromptu Peruvian oven that is is built in the Peruvian highlands to bake potatoes can easily be adapted to bake bread. While the Peruvian watia dome is heated and then collapsed onto the potatoes, one can use the form to bake bread the usual way.
The Peruvian potato oven is constructed in situ with sod or weedy soil. If your soil has a high clay content then using clumps of soil that are already bound with roots is more or less equivalent to building a cob or adobe oven. I don’t know how big a dome one can build out of sod but if one doesn’t have a weedy field to dig up I imagine the following experiment: seed a prepared bed of clayey soil large enough to construct the dome of an oven that is three feet (1 meter) in diameter with grass and when the grass is well established shovel clumps to build an oven as illustrated below. Continue reading “Peruvian Watia Oven made with Spaded Soil”
This story was told me by Donald “Babu” Zakayo, of Wamba, Kenya in the mid to late 1990s along with several other stories, a few of which I offer here. The edited transcription is mine.
OMAR WAS NOT crazy before. When he was eighteen he was a little bit crazy, but the Muslim took care of him and he was normal again.
This man was selling. This man was a business man. He had to sell his brother’s shop. For so many years he had been selling shop without coming out of the shop.
When he was around thirty years the brother said, “It’s too difficult to stay with this old man without a wife. Lets marry him a wife.” Continue reading “Omar”
This story was told me by Donald “Babu” Zakayo, of Wamba, Kenya in the late 1990s along with several other stories, a few of which I offer here. The edited transcription is mine.
THE OLD MAN was very very old. He had two sons. Only. He was not rich. He was poor.
Yes, he was very poor.
That old man told his two sons, “Now I am about to die. What do you think I owe you now?” Continue reading “The Two Sons”