Bread by Scott Cutler Shershow is another in the Bloomsbury Academic series. Shershow is a professor of English at UC Davis. His MA and Ph.D. are both from Harvard University,
Bread is a simple thing. It is taken for granted. It is also mentioned in the most known Christian prayer and came down from heaven to feed the fleeing Israelites. The debate between bread and beer linger on as to what actually lead man to settle in cities and cultivate the land. Shershow reminds the reader that early beer and bread did have much in common. Bread not only sustained early civilizations but it also sustains many of us who carry sandwiches to school or work. In fast food, Subway ranks 2nd in the nation between McDonald’s and Starbucks. Panera Bread and Jimmy Johns are in the top 25 fast food restaurants.
Shershow tells the reader about the simple magic of making bread and includes a few pieces of wisdom from food guru, Michael Pollan. Bread is a creation. It takes time and effort. Even more so if one uses their own living starter. There are many types of bread and many of them associated with class. The whitest of the white flour was reserved for the rich. The famous quote “Let them eat cake.” is mistranslated. The French word was “brioche.” Brioche is a white bread fortified with butter and eggs, not really cake at all. Heavy wheat breads were for the poor. These breads were even stretched farther in bad times with additives and even sand.
Bread takes a look at the historical health aspects of bread from the modern gluten-free craze, the paleo diet, and earlier to the chemical leavenings instead of unhealthy yeast. The discussion also includes the religious aspects of bread from the unleavened ,to the last supper, and the miracle of the loaves and fish. Bread has played a central role in the West. In bad times there were bread lines in good there are artisan breads. Even Wal-Mart has jumped on the bandwagon of hot, fresh baked bread in their stores. Bread has rebounded from ever challenge modern society has thrown at it. It outlasted the Atkins diet and will probably be around as long as man walks the earth. A nicely written tribute to an underappreciated food.