The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

history of bread in america

breadslinger's picture
breadslinger

history of bread in america

What forces have led to the near death and then rebirth of artisan bread in America? Increased industrialization? Supermarkets? (the in-store bakery) Consumer change of taste? And how has artisan bread risen to ever-higher popularity today? Does it have to do with the organic/whole foods movement? Consciousness surrounding additives that are in many industrialized processed products? Any books to point me to would be great. Thanks,

-the breadslinger 

holds99's picture
holds99

Breadslinger

I vote for Supermarkets.  Without sounding like a smart alec, if the supermarket bread in the "bakery" depts. of supermarkets around the country is as bad as the bread in the supermarket "bakery" dept. where I shop, then that definitely accounts for some of the migration to home baked breads.  Hey, it's a matter of survival.  On a more serious note, you have raised a very interesting question, which has me thinking that I have seen this play before.  Back in the 1960's Julia Child went on PBS in Boston with The French Chef cooking program at about the same time she, along with Simone Beck and Louisa Berthold, had written Mastering The Art Of French Cooking Vol. I.  In the 60's, where I lived, you couldn't find a shallot if your life depended on it.  But as knowledge and interest in French cuisine increased so did the demand for fresh, quality products.  Anyway, she truly started a revolution in cooking and I see a lot of that kind of fervor in the folks who bake artisan bread at home, or any kind of home baked bread for that matter.  Now, there are a fairly large number of excellent books and videos out there, which remove a lot of the "fear factor" in tackling artisan breads.  These books and videos just did not exist until a few years ago.  Baking is sort of like riding a bicycle.  The first time you try it you're going to take a tumble or two but after you get the hang of it's thoroughly enjoyable.  As for any type of statistical analysis of the phenomena, haven't heard of anything.  It might make a great master's thesis (economics or marketing).  Like I said, you have raised a very interesting question.  Hope you're are able to find sources for answering your questions.

Howard

JERSK's picture
JERSK

    Julia had a lot to do with "the foodie" movement in the U.S. In her later years, even though she wasn't much of a hands on cook, she gave a venue for up and coming chefs throughout the country. Her "Baking With Julia" ,from 1996, has a chapter devoted to artisinal breads. A bit before it was a common term. Also, the Bread Bakers Guild of America has a network where professional and aspiring bakers can share ideas and methods. And, well, the internet changed everything, giving people a quick and easy way to access info that previously was inaccessible.

holds99's picture
holds99

Jersk,

I agree that there are numerous factors that keep expanding and pushing the home baking movement forward.  One thing that I failed to mention, in my previous post, is that in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. II , first published in 1970, Julia Child devotes Chapter 2 (approx. 100 pages) to French baking with emphasis on the baguette (pain Francais as she refers to it).  I personally believe the baguette is the real test of a bakers ability.  I've been trying for years to get it right and as close to the "original" as possible, which I remember from living in Paris.   After years of experimenting and composition books filled with notes on my various interations I have almost concluded that it's the French flour that makes the difference, because I have tried nearly every type white flour I have available to me, including King Arthur French style flour and haven't succeeded to my satisfaction yet... but I'll keep trying.  I'm a lot closer than I was a few years ago.  As the old saying goes: "onward ever, backward never.

Howard