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  • Good morning, Hank. It's Tuesday and I've been thinking a lot about bread,

  • specifically about what bread tasted like

  • right before the women's march

  • on Versailles in 1789 in which a group of

  • French women who were, depending on your perspective, either protesting

  • or rioting, besieged the King's palace in Versailles

  • and forced him and his family to return to Paris.

  • It was a big moment in French Revolution, and it was caused, in part,

  • by bread, mostly the price of bread, which had

  • risen dramatically due to failed harvests and bad monetary

  • policy, but also the quality of bread

  • which always declined in hard times. Like the

  • French peasant bread in 1789 often included lots of chaff

  • the indigestible husk surrounding the

  • edible kernel of grain and wheat. But it was also common to bulk up

  • wheat or rye or buckwheat dough with sawdust or hay

  • or even animal dung. And at that time bread wasn't just, like, a staple

  • of the French people, it was the diet.

  • Like, the average French adult ate two to three pounds of

  • bread per day, every day

  • And while they did sometimes have access to other foods,

  • many days, possibly most days, it was just bread.

  • Sawdusty, possibly animal-poopy

  • bread. I've been reading about these partly for the cooking history videos that

  • Sarah and I are gonna make later in the year and partly because I -

  • I don't know, I just fall down research rabbit holes, like I'm reading one book

  • book and then another, and pretty soon I'm looking up 5000 year old

  • recipes for grain paste and my kids are like "Dad! Can you make

  • breakfast?" and I'm like "Oh my God it's morning?!" Anyway the thing that

  • gets me about bread is not how shockingly horrible

  • it used to be, it's how recently

  • it was shockingly horrible. Like you know Hay-ley's comet

  • or possibly Halley's comet, or Haw-ley's comet, depending on

  • who's pronunciation you believe, it's this comet that is visible from

  • Earth every 75-ish years. So,

  • like a good human lifetime. The last time Halley was visible

  • from Earth in 1986, I was 8; the time before

  • that was 1910, and the time before that Louis

  • the XVI's cousin Philippe the first was king of

  • France having become king after the so-called second French Revolution

  • which was caused, in part, by

  • you guessed it, failed harvests and rising bread prices.

  • Put another way, we are two human lifetimes

  • removed from the US Civil War and only three

  • removed from the time when not just the poorest people but

  • most people were eating sawdust bread in France.

  • Of course this doesn't mean that we've achieved some

  • great victory that we ought to celebrate or anything, there are still

  • lots of people who don't get adequate nutrition and not only in

  • impoverished countries but also in wealthy ones. But it does mean that

  • we can make progress, and when you look at history through the lens of

  • lifetimes, both the pace of change and the nature

  • of change are to me really encouraging. And frankly I could

  • use some encouragement in these strange times because I find that despair

  • mostly just makes me complacent, like "Oh there's

  • nothing to be done about this horror or that

  • horror. It's just the nature of things." On

  • the other hand, feeling like progress is inevitable also makes me

  • complacent, like "Oh I can just sit back and watch rising

  • grain yields feed the world and Elon Musk fix

  • climate change and disease cure itself."

  • But reading history fills me with the uncomfortable but productive

  • feeling that better human lives are possible but

  • not guaranteed. Of course it's overly simplistic

  • to say that the women who led the march on Versailles brought about a

  • freer, more equitable, less hungry

  • France. The French Revolution, like so many revolutions,

  • failed to achieve many of its ambitions. In my experience

  • anyway the changes we seek in the world almost always

  • prove harder to make than we first think they'll be. But

  • looking at history in lifetimes shows that change

  • can, and does, happen anyway, something I'm reminded of

  • every time I bite into a nice, sawdust free slice of bread.

  • Hank, I'll see you on Friday.

Good morning, Hank. It's Tuesday and I've been thinking a lot about bread,

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B1 中級

おがくずパン (Sawdust Bread)

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    林宜悉 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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