Wednesday, January 23, 2013


So much has been written about bread... so much history, such a variety of grains, across so many cultures... so many traditions, recipes and variations of recipes.

Its hugely political for a host of reasons ... debate rages over seeds and copyright, seed sovereignty, costs and availability, health properties, what's in the bread and how its made, who's missing out on their daily bread, and why!

There are updates coming in as to where bread-making might have begun and for how long humans have been cultivating grain for flour to be used for bread-making.

Now we have Molecular research adding layers of knowledge... and bringing more debate... and then there's the archeological research spectrum. There's a museum for bread and certainly the popularity of bread has not waned so much as been challenged for the fact it is not everyone's best friend!

In the West we thought we could rid ourselves of labour by having our bread come from huge factories. Sliced and ready. Well it speeded things up but it took away taste and nutrition too.

Some, by necessity or choice, make their own bread or if able to afford the option, buy from artisans bringing us quality breads. We've often tasted breads from around the world and delighted in leaving behind some of the more bland offerings that might have shaped our childhoods, if we could. 

What is your daily bread?  Where do the grains come from?  Do you know whats happening with seeds and 'wild relatives'? 

In my new book in planning I want to bring some focus to the place of bread in our lives. Its a big story... and there is plenty to think about!


pRiyA said...

My daily bread is chapati, rolled out from whole wheat flour and water. However, until I read this post, I must admit I never gave a thought to where the grain is coming from. I am curious now and I will look for the sources.

Sophie Munns said...

So great to hear from you on this Priya.
who makes your chapatis?
what do you have them with?
are they hot or cold?
when you lived here in Brisbane what did you eat?

I am very curious about daily life and rituals around the world. if you have time... tell more ... please!
It is so interesting!

india flint said...

when i am home i bake my own bread...because i react badly to most shop-bought stuff. my bread is wheat-free but includes yeast and honey. damn fine stuff, on the rare occasions i am home to cook!

Valerianna said...

I get my bread from a local baker... and when I can, I eat their "granary" bread, made soley from local grains. Its soooo expensive, so only occasionally. Otherwise I get their other breads, still expensive, really, but I understand why and have a very hard time eating breads that are light as air and come sliced in plastic bags. It really is quite a subject. Along with coffee and tea... staples. Eggs here are now hugely expensive to get the neighbor's organic ones, and I can't keep chickens. Food is such a issue these days. I want good, local, organic, but on my budget, its a challenge.

Ooo... long comment. Take care and happy January in the studio! ( yikes, I guess almost February!)

Sophie Munns said...
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Sophie Munns said...

Hi India and Valerianna,
great to read your comments!

Ideal baking your own to suit all requirements India... hard when you are on the road so often though.
You must be seeing a lot of bread offerings though in all those travels!
Now wondering what bread you discovered where that ticked your boxes!

so understand your priorities and budget restrictions.
I can plug all the good stuff but not always afford it. Shopping at farmers markets is my best bet for quality food and prices... and keeping strictly seasonal helps too.

A swiss friend yesterday told me artisanal bread is cheaper is Switzerland than in Australia. We had quite a talk about it. I put it down to artisanal breads being virtually a fledgling industry in Australia in terms of the main stream food culture. Melbourne, our largest southern city has the most European kind of food culture and more diverse and longer-standing inroads into artisanal breads and bakeries.
We've had to endure bakers throwing vinegar in the dough and and calling it sourdough.
Hence a good bakery is a big event, especially here in the subtropics and further north where humidity is a stalling factor.

Your baker sounds excellent... local grains are special. Good to hear from you!

Sophie Munns said...
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Maggie Neale said...

Hi Sophie, I'm trying to eat less bread, and that from local bakers, using local flours. My favorite bread is a rye/spelt bread, sourdough and delicious from Deeter's Bakery; doesn't take much to satisfy.

Best of luck with your book.

Velma Bolyard said...

sophie, my local food coop built a bread oven a few years back. their bread, especially day old bread, is not so much different in cost than store bread (at least i think so, i don't even look). i learned to bake bread from a friend and from walnut acres bread mixes, long ago, when all my bread was home baked.

Donna Heart said...

Hi Sophie! Unfortunately i don't make bread as often as I'd like to - but when I do it's a family affair. The children's teacher is from Switzerland, and she makes bread with them in class almost every day for their recess treat, so we use her recipe as well. The children all help, and get to twist their dough into interesting shapes. It's about being together - and taking time as a family to just 'be'.
I have a bread maker, but I really prefer to take the hand made approach. Not sure if this counts, but we have a family night each friday evening and I make pizza. I make the dough for the bases, and it's actually one of my favourite times of the week. The process slows me down. It brings me back to centre after a busy week. Prepare the yeast. Wait... Mix the flour, wait. Rise... Wait some more. Knead it again, roll it out and make something nourishing for the family! Bread, so simple, so complex and such a grounding force!

Sophie Munns said...

Lovely to read your comments Maggie, Velma and Donna!

I've been thrown into a strange space for the last few days watching the weather go from something one might mutter about when getting soaked from constant rain.... to watching in dismay as people dealt with tornedos in places not known for tornados north of here .... to seeing the impact of serious deluges on a vast coastline of communities.. with major flooding and wind damage all over the place.

Right about now... people talking of the rhythm of family pizza nights and baking bread from scratch... and all those comforting, age old sustaining things.... feels just right.

One thing I take from seeing people displaced from yet another natural (or other) disaster is the enormous disruption that can come from being thrown from one's home and routines and such. The degree of difficulty and length of time of displacement can vary hugely... but for a short while many are united in a common experience... having felt the impact of something threatening.

In the stories one is reminded that, at heart, that we all need some pretty simple things to make our lives work. Baking bread or knowing where to get something as sustaining and good as a well-made loaf is actually important. Shelter, water, food , health, company... these things are central.

One of the big losses in contemporary life worth pondering surely concerns awareness of the essentials and gratitude for those things. I got the sense from reading each person's comment at this post that something much deeper is happening when making or procuring the loaf of special bread.

Donna reminds me of the rhythms of making and the sharing that can happen around such a simple but beautiful ritual as the weekly pizza dough and shared making sessions.

Sounds like you have forgotten the cost of commercially baked bread Velma because your bread making ritual and history is so centrally embedded into your life! Such a part of your week!

And Maggie... you hint at a lovely truth for you when you say it 'doesn't take much to satisfy me' ... reminds us an appreciation for the simple everyday things is part of the beauty of life.

Stories I've shared with some wonderful people have also spoken of this deeply felt appreciation for what we are able to access and be sustained by. I posted a beautiful story from Lebanon last year here:

It discussed how in war-torn Beirut communal ovens emerged as very popular and necessary. If you have a few minutes do read the story!! Consider this point in the post: Private ovens encouraged segregation; public ovens led to mixing, cross-pollination, and negotiation – in a word, relationships. And probably, I imagine, a fair amount of food and recipe sharing across religious and ethnic lines.

I think that is what is so essential for me about bread ... and food ... that it not be something we use to assert our superior knowledge or circumstances over others but to make us feel connected and more human.

Here's to many opportunities for breaking bread together...or with those we meet and share our lives with!


pRiyA said...

Hi Sophie,
saw your questions to my comment just now -
I make my own chapatis. It takes just a few minutes. I use flour made by an Indian company rather than the American Pillsbury.
I eat it always hot and freshly made with a vegetable curry.
When I lived in Brisbane, I ate ready made food out of bottles and packages and was enthralled by their convenience.
I put on 10 kilos in Brisbane and my face got covered in zits. I was told that was because people from third world countries were used to freshly made foods rather than packaged stuff. Probably true.

Sophie Munns said...

So glad to get the rest of your story Priya.

Your daily routine of chapatis and fresh vegetable curry sounds delicious and very nutritious.

Working out the best flour too is an important difference no doubt.

All that packaged food is not good for anyone... convenience yes...but at a big cost. I have been amused and delighted by the recent opening of a store near my studio that sells only salads.

Its takeway ... but they use yoghurt not mayonnaise and many grains and nuts and spices and herbs and vegetables.

Its unbelievably fresh, complex and satisfying fresh food with a great level of nutrition.

And the good thing is they sell out of everything by midday because people are coming in droves. Its says a lot about what people will eat if they can get their hands on it.

bon appétit!

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