A Great New Book on Bread, Thoughts on Globalization

The article, by NY Times reporter Tejal Roa, is a summary and background about a book released by Nathan Myhrvold, “a founder of Intellectual Ventures and… author of “Modernist Cuisine…” the photo above was taken at his office in Bellevue, Washington (Credit: Ruth Fremson/ The New York Times).

The book “chronicles the history and science of bread-making in depth…” Roa explains that the book is “a call for cooks to rethink one of the world’s oldest foods — to understand how bread is made, using more than their instinct and intuition, so they can push the craft forward.”

The book seems great, and as much as I am a locavore and try to be – an insight that stood out to me is the alleged defense of high fructose corn syrup that the book is cited to contain. I would certainly entertain the argument.

Additionally, the locavore in me became curious about Myhrvold’s ideas on sustainability and regional sourcing, specifically his views on the use of tapioca starch, which was cited in the article as: “to prevent the inexorable balding process in which bagels shed their toppings[;] a fine slurry of modified tapioca starch works like a powerful, edible glue, firmly affixing a dense, even layer of toppings to baked bagels.”

Tapioca, in my eyes is a global commodity, and according to Huffington Post: “It’s mainly cultivated and eaten in tropical regions; it started off in Northern Brazil, but eventually made its way across the South American continent and over to Africa and Asia.” Has he considered sustainability in his use of this commodity?

If, as a chef, he is simply using what works, I will admit that commodities that are traded on the world market are helpful – but they are shipped from quite far, and though it maybe easy to use the tapioca starch – is it better to find a local alternative?

The global market is beautiful in its own way – I do not deny that – but, it is not sustainable, at least right now. Should we enjoy it while it exists – or try to see it change before more places are affected by climate change? This applies to Bard as well – in short, how big is our commitment to regionalism, and why?

In conclusion, the article introduces us to what seems like a large step towards a more sophisticated and beautiful bread making practice for bakers. For example, the book also debunks “the idea that water purity affects the rise and flavor of bread.”  Do you think Nels will read it – or have thoughts?


Link here, some quotes I liked below:

“So Mr. Myhrvold is puzzled by the uniformity of bakeries and bread aisles, and the persistence of what he calls ‘an ethos of primitivism,’ or a resistance to innovation, among so many contemporary bakers.”

“‘Modernist Bread’ finds inspiration in a variety of sources, industrial as well as artisanal, offering a defense of high fructose corn syrup alongside a guide to caring for wild sourdough starters…”

“Mr. Migoya thinks that flour may come to be valued, like chocolate and coffee, as a product worth a premium price. ”

“‘I don’t want bread to be an elite thing that no one can afford,’ he said, ‘but there should be some breads that are highly regarded for their ingredients, and for the craft of their bakers.'”

For Huff Post article, go here:


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