Thursday, September 15, 2011

First Experiences With German Bread


When I first bit into this loaf of bread, I wanted to cry. It was sour, a little sweet, and very bitter (not in the way that medicine is bitter, but rather more like coffee made from dark roast beans). The flavors seemed to morph--first bitter as I chew the crust, then sour near the center. The crust is hard and painful to chew but with a very satisfying graininess, and the center of the bread is soft enough for a baby's palette. I think to myself, "My god, how have I been missing out on this my whole life, why do Americans not demand their bakeries for bread with CHARACTER, bread that weighs like a brick and FIGHTS BACK against even the sharpest knife and conveys a taste that contains all the bitterness and joy of life itself? (Images come to mind of a Nietzschean Over-man standing on a cliff, watching his weaker brethren fall into the abyss below whilst he chews heroically on a loaf of bread. A tear trickles down his expressionless face.)" 

The picture you see above was taken 10 minutes ago. Right now I've eaten about half of the loaf, because I can't stand the thought of letting it sit and lose its freshness. Every waft of breadiness that I smell now is another miniscule fraction of the bread's vitality, lost forever. And another thought strikes me. I need to start using a bread knife! Ripping out chunks of bread entails digging my fingers into the exoskeletal crust and compressing the soft interior, thus ruining to an extent the wonderful contrast of texture that this bread offers.

Shockingly, I have no reason to believe that this loaf of bread is anything special. There seems to be a bakery in nearly every block near Bismarckplatz (the commercial hub of Heidelberg), all offering similar varieties of bread, baked fresh daily. I can already guess at what I will miss the most when I return to the States. Before I thought it would definitely be German beer, but the bread is now a contender, for sure.



3 comments:

  1. Thoughts: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2010/06/dining-in-berlin.html .

    Also, you're not the first person to have asked why bread in Europe is much better.

    My best guest, based on something I read a while ago and forgot: Americans tend to go much longer between market trips than Europeans. So they need bread that will last longer, has more preservatives, and thus is more boring. Europeans will buy bread as they walk places; so it tends to be fresher and more interesting.

    If this is true I would guess bread in NYC is better on average than elsewhere, although I haven't noticed this. Bread in Seattle is boring for the most part, and the bakeries that pride themselves on good bread are mostly selling marketing.

    I didn't notice good bread in England; this might be because I was in a somewhat isolated university.

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  2. It also seems to be the case that Americans view bread more as a sandwich component than a side dish. The sandwiches that I've tried in Germany have very little filling and are quite unimaginative.

    My roommate (in the States) once complained that the bread I bought was too dense for his taste. He actually preferred generic white bread because it made for better peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

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  3. It also seems to be the case that Americans view bread more as a sandwich component than a side dish. The sandwiches that I've tried in Germany have very little filling and are quite unimaginative.

    I wonder which way the causal chain runs: Americans move to the suburbs, shop less often, and the bread gets worse, so it becomes a mere sandwich receptacle, or if Americans see bread as a mere sandwich receptacle, don't shop as often, and retailers respond as expected.

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