People get awfully romantic about bread, don’t they? All this artisan this that or the other seems a bit inflated given that baking bread is a skill that our grannies mastered (seemingly!) in their sleep, and that really anyone can acquire provided they’re willing to put in the time. And it does take time; there is no way around that.
But before I get accused of dissing bread bakers all around the globe, I’d like to clarify: I believe that everyone who took the time and put themselves through the frustrations of learning to do something really well deserves all the recognition they can get. What I’m saying though is that through generations women simply “made bread”, not for the fun or the satisfaction of it, but purely to feed their families, and nobody thought there was anything particularly artisanal about it. Surely our grandmothers were every bit as skilled as the next artisan baker at a present day (oh so earthy) farmer’s market, but they got none of the fame. I wonder if the very word artisan isn’t, at its root, exclusive: Our grannies, making bread. The artisan baker, drawing from some divine inspiration: creating a piece of art that is only half human-made. This is obviously a hyperbole, no need to tell me I’m exaggerating. And yet the suspicion remains that “artisanal” somehow looks down on just “making”, and excludes those that weren’t fortunate enough to live in its catchment area. We don’t go back over old photographs where our granny sits in her kitchen and say, “Oh my, her bread was so artisanal”, do we? We say, “She made lovely bread”. It doesn’t work retrospectively, and it breaks the line of tradition of simply “making bread”, the line that honours the unseen work done by women for thousands of years.
(By the by, “artisanal” also carries a hilarious connotation for me: Artisan paninis of the Celtic Tiger. Remember them? Those sad, only half-baked, limp baguettes with goats cheese and pesto? Ha! Those were the days!)
So: I don’t make artisan bread. I just make bread.
(Head over to the Food section for an actual recipe.)