The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread in literature?

jstreed1476's picture

Bread in literature?

Like a lot of you, I suspect, I have been compiling a kind of "commonplace book" about bread. It's a notebook of recipes--some handwritten, some cut'n'pasted--and pages of things like easy substitutions, conversions, etc.

I've started adding short passages from literature that involve bread in some way. Here's one from Raymond Carver's short story, "A Small, Good Thing":

He had a necessary trade. He was a baker. He was glad he wasn't a florist. It was better to be feeding people. This was a better smell anytime than flowers.

    "Smell this," the baker said, breaking open a dark loaf. "It's a heavy bread, but rich." They smelled it, then he had them taste it. It had the taste of molasses and coarse grains. They listened to him. They ate what they could. They swallowed the dark bread. It was like daylight under the fluorescent trays of light. They talked on into the early morning, the high, pale cast of light in the windows, and they did not think of leaving.

If there's a passage you think would be a nice addition to this project, please share it.

Janknitz's picture

I was listening to a Selected Shorts podcast from PRI this week, and there is the story of Gimpel the Fool--I think by Isaac Bashevis Singer.  Gimpel was a baker, who--despite being a fool--rose from being a worker in a bakery to owning his own bakery--it's an amusing story and nicely read on the podcast.

In Eastern European Jewish villages of the time (late 1800's), women would prepare bread dough (like Sabbath Challah) and other baked dishes (such as "cholent", a kind of stew that could heat all night in a heavy pot to provide a warm dish on the Sabbath when fires could not be lit--an early version of the crock pot!) at home and take them to the bakery to be baked for a fee--fuel must have been too precious to bake in your own home.  The bakery would also make and sell baked goods for those who could afford to buy them.  There is a good descripton of this in the story. 

The bakery would become a gathering place of sorts, because the women of the village would meet there at the appointed times to leave their doughs and pots or to pick up their baked goods. 

Was the movie "Moonstruck" based on a book?  There's lots of bread as metaphor in that story. 

jaheim's picture

The beginning:

"On 25 March an unusually strange event occurred in St. Petersburg. For that morning Barber Ivan Yakovlevitch, a dweller on the Voznesensky Prospekt (his family name is lost now - it no longer figures on a signboard bearing a portrait of a gentleman with a soaped cheek, and the words: "Also, Blood Let Here") - for that morning Barber Ivan Yakovlevitch awoke early, and caught the smell of newly baked bread. Raising himself a little, he perceived his wife (a most respectable lady, and one especially fond of coffee) to be just in the act of drawing newly baked rolls from the oven.

"Prascovia Osipovna," he said, "I would rather not have any coffee for breakfast, but, instead, a hot roll and an onion," - the truth being that he wanted both but knew it to be useless to ask for two things at once, as Prascovia Osipovna did not fancy such tricks.

"Oh, the fool shall have his bread," the wife thought, "So much the better for me then, as I shall have that much more coffee."

And she threw one roll on to the table.

Ivan Yakovlevitch donned a jacket over his shirt for politeness' sake, and, seating himself at the table, poured out salt, got a couple of onions ready, took a knife into his hand, assumed an air of importance, and cut the roll open. Then he glanced into the roll's middle. To his intense surprise he saw something glimmering there. He probed it cautiously with the knife - then poked at it with a finger.

"Quite solid it is!" he said to himself. "What in the world is it likely to be?"

He stuck in his fingers, and pulled out - a nose! .. His hands dropped to his sides for a moment. Then he rubbed his eyes hard. Then again he probed the thing. A nose! Sure enough a nose! Yes, and one familiar to him, somehow! "


jstreed1476's picture

Exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for. Strong work, friends!



TimW's picture

A wonderful book about waking after 100yrs to find yourself in an England transformed by the 20th century into a Socialist Utopia. The bread of the new age tastes of paradise:

 ...we fell to on our breakfast, which was simple enough, but most delicately cooked, and set on the table with much daintiness.  The bread was particularly good, and was of several different kinds, from the big, rather close, dark-coloured, sweet-tasting farmhouse loaf, which was most to my liking, to the thin pipe-stems of wheaten crust, such as I have eaten in Turin.

As I was putting the first mouthfuls into my mouth my eye caught a carved and gilded inscription on the panelling, behind what we should have called the High Table in an Oxford college hall, and a familiar name in it forced me to read it through.  Thus it ran:

Guests and neighbourson the site of this Guest-hall once stood the lecture-room of the Hammersmith Socialists.  Drink a glass to the memory!  May 1962.”