Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition
Oral Presentation Session
In the debates about craft production, bread occupies an important niche. Food systems historians tie the production of wheat to different “food regimes,” to hierarchies and inequalities of settler societies, and to the nutritional degradation of diets. And yet, artisanal bread persists alongside its industrial cousin, despite contemporary fears of gluten and “carbs.” Grains are quickly becoming the key factor in the revitalization of regional food systems through regenerative agriculture, which converts high-till crops to perennial and ecologically sustainable ones. The question remains how these grains will be used, in large commercial or small regional production, recognizing that even these distinctions are based on cultural evaluations of commodification, technology, and scale. One version suggests that an “accessible, approachable, affordable” loaf is a critical economic goal. Another argues that global culture demands both variety and craft. Many critics still consider home production to be the gold standard, albeit without considering the question of whose labor is tied to the household. In comparison, projects like Hotbread Kitchen in New York and Barrio Bread in California suggest alternatives based in valuation of immigrant and racially-defined culinary cultures that centralize the worker at the heart of production without getting lost in discussions of craft. In this talk, using ethnographic analysis from bread training programs, grains consortiums, and different scale producers, I explore what makes regional bread “craft” and how it relies on both existing and alternative cultural economies.