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Bread: A Global History (Reaktion Books - Edible)
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Bread: A Global History begins with ancient history in the fertile crescent of the Red Sea. The use of wild grains in bread-making probably predated agriculture and the domestication of animals. This book, which is the 24th in a series of edible histories, is ably edited by Andrew F. Smith.

The primary thesis is that bread is more than merely a food or a summary of ingredients: it is also a concept. Mr. Rubel strives to enlarge the way we think about bread by taking us on a bread tour across time and through international space. He is a serious food historian, excellent cook and baker, and the author of The Magic of Fire--an encyclopedic book of fire cooking, which is sadly now out of print.

As culture develops, bread becomes a social marker--the whiter the bread, the more desirable it is. The poor consumed a more primitive loaf--darker and less desirable. Fashions in food are generally guided by a wish to imitate what is eaten by the wealthy. This still tends to be true. Although the history of bread can be seen as a steady march toward whiter and finer flour, today consumers are being drawn to more primitive ingredients and techniques because of our awareness of the enhanced flavors and healthy characteristics of whole grains.

The book emphasizes leavened, kneaded dough, but also includes relevant information on flatbreads, pancakes and shortbreads. Mr. Rubel dispels the myth that cooking over a fire is a "primitive" activity. He appreciates that the campfire provides an "infinitely nuanced oven" for baking breads at different levels of heat. If the baker knows how to manage a fire properly, he has a far greater range of temperatures available to him than he does in the modern conventional oven.

Recipes for 7 different kinds of historic breads are included, as well as a glossary defining ninety-nine different kinds of bread. My only complaint about the book is that it is too small, which makes it difficult to see the detail in the excellent photographs and prints. This is a fascinating book to read, and has succeeded in changing the way I experience a loaf of bread. I think that's what the author had in mind.

Mercy Ingraham
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I pretty much devoured, if that's the right word, this book at one sitting; it prompted in me an uncontrollable impulse to eat bread, which I did (my current choice is Trader Joe's three-seed sourdough toast slathered with sesame oil). I had just finished reading Walter Emery's Archaic Egypt, where beer is mentioned, but not bread, so the first chapter supplied a lot that was missing there, especially the connections between beer and bread, and Egyptian portrayals of the process.

I was impressed with the quality of writing, an effective combination of intensive scholarship, cosmopolitan experience and friendly conversation. I was surprised to learn that some older practices had survived longer in the US than in the original European countries.

The book distinguishes itself from general bread recipe books, although it contains several detailed and unusual (horse-bread!) recipes. What sets it apart from other such books is its attention to the role played by bread in society. There are discussions of breadmaking as a cultural activity, and the attitudes of many different cultures toward bread, as well as the status distinctions between light or dark, loafed or flat, and crusted or soft breads. Also treated is the importance of bread in diet throughout history; whether it is a vitally necessary staple, or just an accessory to more lavish menus.

The inclusion of this book in a series (The Edible Series) dictates its small size; I look forward to the planned larger version.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Beautifully written, amazing photos and artwork, fascinating story! A book to treasure, a real gem! Rubel guides readers from ancient Egypt to the modern-day kitchen with concise, graceful prose.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This is a book I return to again and again when I need to check facts on the history of bread making, be it ideas or good stories.

It's probably good to mention that while the book does contain some recipes, it's not a cookbook. Which is what I like about this book. It's a good story that runs from beginning to end, inviting you to explore the vast world of bread making.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Purchased this book on recommendation of an associate who also bought it. It is very informative and entertaining with lots of detail.
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on December 29, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I love the history section, the discussion of the different grains and other ingredients that have been used in bread and the explanation of the different breads eaten by different parts of society. The photos and descriptions of the steps that went into producing flours at different time periods were fascinating. I do wish the recipes at the end were formatted better, they were conversational but not something you could just open the book and try - I needed to re-write them to be able to make them and see the steps without searching through the paragraph for the ingredients.
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on October 30, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Great Book, for anyone interested on the history and anecdotes about bread and mainly the wheat. Iliked it very much. Great for a present too !
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on May 5, 2015
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I have celiac disease, this book is boring AND terrible
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on April 23, 2015
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Was forced to buy this for a class. Brb, Pizza next
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I was disappointed with this book. I'd read the Sandwich one first and it was much more interesting. The writing style of this one is so dry, not an anecdote in sight and little about the cultures of the bread eaters. The flow was a little hard to follow sometimes, too. The thing that was very irritating to me was that US was spelled very consistently as us; as in England, us and Germany. It interrupted my concentration frequently as I was trying to figure out if this was a statement and what did it mean? Was it something political, did he assume that only Americans would be reading it, what?! For a typo, it was remarkably consistent.
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