500 years of bread, yeast and wheat history in 200 pictures.
There is something particularly wonderful about getting close the bread that we used to make through looking at pictures and reading recipes, especially when trying to understand how we got to the sourdough bread that we make today. It is bread that has shaped civilisation. Empires were built on bread. Wars were lost and won based on bread. Kingdoms fell on lack of bread. Riots, revolutions and governments were dependent on wheat and bread. Our laws were formed around the supply of wheat and flour and production of bread. Bread was even used as payment. It has taken quite some time and effort to catalogue this collection, and I am delighted to finally be able to share it here as well as on the sourdough bread making courses I teach.
I started collecting bread history aged 19. I remember the first addition to my collection. It was late summer of 1992 in the South West of France. I wandered into a beautiful 18th century shop which I soon discovered had a secret compartment where the owner had once hidden residence fighters from the Gestapo in the 2nd world war. There was a memorial high on the crag overlooking the town not 100 yards away where many of the locals had been shot and thrown over. I hesitated because of the cost. It was a the small feisty old French woman, who had risked her life hiding the resistance that assured me that finding an old image of bread was rare thing. She looked right into my eyes and said I must never pass up on something rare. I wasn’t earning much as an apprentice baker, and I had rent to pay. I could hardly afford it but I figured I should take the advice. I’m still grateful to that wonderful, brave lady because it was the beginning of a collection that I truly treasure.
The earliest picture is from the 1500’s. The photos are shown in date order.