History of Bread Production

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Although ovens can be built any size, there are advantages of time and function in having them fairly large. The same may be said of mills. Hence bread-baking has often been a communal activity to avoid duplication of expensive resources. Grain is ground at the village mill, often in Europe in the hands of the political master; dough is baked in a communal oven, owned either by the lord or the community, or in the hands of a tradesman who gains his living therefrom. In feudal Europe, bread seemed a gastronomic expression of the social order. In modern France and Switzerland, there are still examples of communal ovens, though few now work. In Greece and the Near East, the village baker cooked bread fashioned in the homes of his customers, as well as baking joints of meat after the first heat had gone off, just as did his professional equivalents in societies where ovens were at a premium. In Quebec, too, the oven was a community venture.