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Good Bread is Back

Good Bread Is Back is a beautifully illustrated book for foodies and Francophiles alike. Widely recognized as a leading expert on French bread, the historian Steven Laurence Kaplan takes readers into aromatic Parisian bakeries as he explains how good bread began to reappear in France in the 1990s, following almost a century of decline in quality. Kaplan sets the stage for the comeback of good bread by describing how, while bread comprised the bulk of the French diet during the eighteenth century, by the twentieth, per capita consumption had dropped off precipitously. This was largely due to social and economic modernization and the availability of a wider choice of foods. But part of the problem was that the bread did not taste good. Centuries-old artisanal bread making techniques were giving way to conveyor belts that churned out flavourless fluff. In a culture where bread is sacrosanct, as it is in France, bad bread was more than a gastronomical disappointment. It was a threat to France's sense of itself.With a nudge from the millers (who make the flour) and assistance from the government, bakers rallied, reclaiming their reputations as artisans by marketing their traditionally made loaves as the authentic French bread. By the mid-1990s, bread officially designated as "bread of the French tradition"--bread made without additives or freezing--was in demand throughout Paris. What makes this artisanal bread good? Kaplan explains, meticulously describing the ideal crust and crumb (interior), mouth feel, aroma, and taste. He discusses the bread making process in extraordinary detail, from the ingredients to the kneading, shaping, and baking to the sound bread should make when it comes out of the oven. He offers a system for assessing bread's quality and a language for discussing its attributes. A historian and a connoisseur, Kaplan does more than tell the story of the revival of good bread in France. He makes the reader see, smell, taste, feel, and even hear why it is so very wonderful that good bread is back.
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Promotional Information

In the last two decades the French have reclaimed bread-making as a symbol of French identity and culture; Kaplan offers a synthesis of the history, the taste, the production techniques, and the legend of modern bread.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1 1. Good Bread: Practices and Discourses 13 2. Bread: The Double Crisis 63 3. White Bread: A Western Story 100 4. The Enemy 122 5. Bakeries and the State 162 6. Bound to Quarrel, Condemned to Get Along: Millers and Bakers 212 7. Rue Monge Rivals and Other Mavericks 258 Conclusion 304 Acknowledgments 325 Notes 327

About the Author

Steven Laurence Kaplan is the Goldwin Smith Professor of European History at Cornell University and Visiting Professor of Modern History at the University of Versailles, Saint-Quentin. His many books include a guide to the best bread in Paris, Cherchez le pain: Guide des meilleures boulangeries de Paris, and The Bakers of Paris and the Bread Question, 1770-1775, also published by Duke University Press. The French government has twice knighted Kaplan for his contributions to the "sustenance and nourishment" of French culture.


Praise for the French edition:"It is to an American citizen that we owe the most masterly work ever published on the genius of French bread. Its mastery lies in the immensity of the undertaking, the rigor of the research, and the incredible erudition amassed in this voyage to the heart of our national bakery." Perico Lagasse, food and wine critic for the weekly newsmagazine Marianne "Good Break Is Back is a fascinating book that sums up the history of bread baking in France over the past several centuries. The author does it lovingly in a style that will move you to repair to your kitchen and oven to make bread that 'sings' as the golden yellow crust crackles as it cools, and a bite of it does not melt in the mouth right away but reveals the force of its taste only gradually as you chew. It is a welcome addition to the libraries of those seriously into breadmaking who wish a deeper understanding of the why and wherefore of their own French bread recipes."--Bernard Clayton Jr., author of Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads "You will never look at a French baguette in the same way again. Chock full of delicious details about every aspect of breadmaking, prepared with verve and loving devotion by a master of his craft, this book has something to appeal to every reader. Bread will never again seem a simple food; Steven Laurence Kaplan uses it to open up the deepest secrets of French life in the modern world."--Lynn Hunt, coauthor of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution "Like its subject matter, this book is a delicious and irresistible labor of love. Steven Laurence Kaplan has distilled his vast knowledge of France and French bread into a delightfully readable story that is also a brilliant, illuminating model of how to write contemporary social history."--David A. Bell, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, Johns Hopkins University "Historian and French bread expert Stephen Laurence Kaplan takes readers into aromatic French bakeries as he explains hwo good bread began to reappear in France in the 1900s following nearly a century of decline in quality. Kaplan looks in detail at the change in production techniques that have affected the taste, flavour and aromas of French bread over the decades and why we enjoy great artisanal French bread today."--France April 2007 "A magnificent combination of polemic and scholarship, it asks how the superlative French bread of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries gave way to the disappointing industrial loaves of the 1960s onwards; and how these in turn, have been happily supplanted by a new generation of artisananal baguettes, batards and boules."--TLS, Bee Wilson "A magnificent combination of polemic and scholarship [Good Bread is Back] asks how the superlative French bread of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries gave way to the disappointing industrial loaves of the 1960s onwards; and how these in turn, have been happily supplanted by a new generation of artisanal baguettes, batards and boules."--Times Literary Supplement, June 8 2007 "A 20th century story, Good Bread is Back charts the long decline and recent revival of French baking... a punchy, compendious account of how French baking returned to its artisanal roots. But for Kaplan, bread is not just about gustatory pleasure; it also offers a unique window in to French history, one that he has explored in exhaustive, exhilirating detail."--Financial Times, 20 Oct 2007

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