10 December 2019

Last night I had a dream about bread and forest. That's all I remember.

The thing is, if you ask me what the two most important things are for Germans, I would answer bread and forest. I realise there are people who would choose beer and soccer, but when it comes to places and memories, items of longing and belonging, of anything that could spell home - and that's a difficult word for Germans for too many reasons - it's forest and bread.

Both are usually dark. And I don't mean black as in pumpernickel or Black Forest, these are quirky exceptions.

We Germans may do have many faults, but bread making is not one of them. In fact, we are the best bread bakers on the planet and we have earned the right to ridicule whatever white mushy tasteless spongy whatnot, often wrapped in plastic, goes for bread in other countries.

I grew up with Franconian sourdough bread, big round loaves of about 2-3 kg, a hand width high, the dough (mostly rye) raised in a woven basket, baked with a splash of well water thrown on it to form a thick dark crust and most importantly, the spice mix.
The mix differs from region to region, from village to village, from baker to baker. To this day.
Could be caraway, could be coriander, could be fennel, ground or whole, any or all, in various proportions, plus an added secret ingredient.

Franconian bread is never sold ready sliced or, worse, wrapped. My 92 year old father prefers to struggle with his ancient bread cutting implements than buy something that's "dry inside and out and stuffed in plastic". Before a loaf is cut, a cross is carved into its base. Even my atheist mother would do this and my father still does it automatically. My grandmother cut the bread by hand, holding the loaf against her front and cutting slices with her big knife towards her stomach.
A loaf can last for a week, easily. It just gets more chewy.

In the city I grew up in, there are bakery shops that sell only Franconian loaves, the shelves stacked to the ceilings, the breads named by the villages that provided the recipes. Oberbernheimer, Spalter, Rother, Marktbreiter, Kornburger, Colmberger and so on.

To me, it tastes like bread needs to taste. Rich, sour, spicy. You come home from an exhausting day climbing trees and wading in carp ponds and you eat one whole freshly cut slice with butter and your mother's sour cherry jam.

We rarely eat that kind of bread now. There are too many varieties to chose from, with 10+ bakeries within walking distance (give or take 2 km). Maybe I'll write a bit more about it, something like: bread on a Wednesday.

As for the forest, that's for another day. Forest is holy.


  1. Forest is holy. And so is bread. With or without a cross.

  2. Ja. Der Wald ist heilig.

    I hope to eat Franconian sourdough bread some day.

    One of my German ancestors from the Black Forest was named Helena Roethler. When you mentioned the village of Rother, she came to mind. My mother's maiden name was Wald. My great great grandfather Wald was the weaver I have mentioned before who came from Stadtlengsfeld and made the decision to leave Germany to work in the textile mills in Massachusetts in the 1800s.

    Looking forward to the day you write about forest.

  3. what passes for bread here gives me gas. we generally get jewish rye as it seems a little better. I would love to eat some German bread though. and yes, the forest, all forests, are holy, filled with sentient beings.

  4. I loved reading this, Sabine. I often refer to myself as a "bread-a-holic." I baked my own bread for years, but haven't since we moved to the north coast. There are several bakeries here that make delicious rich, dark, tasty breads. I wish I could taste the breads you have there. They sound like something I would treasure. Yum!!!

  5. I love this. So many people have no idea what good bread tastes like. (I learned in Morocco, where they use French recipes.) Bagged bread is so awful it's laughable. It's really just a container for sandwich innards. I'm ready to try some Franconian bread!

  6. Oh how I would like to try that bread.

  7. Franconian bread sounds absolutely delectable. I am mostly avoiding bread these days, but surely the kind of bread you describe is so wholesome it could not be bad for you.

  8. Love this post. Good, really good bread, is so rare. Especially in the U.S.

    Bread like the ones you describe is the stuff of life, indeed. While near Strasbourgh earlier this year, I ate delicious bread. With local goat cheese and local honey. The BEST.

  9. I've started making my own sourdough bread, inspired by Ms. Moon. It takes time and patience, you can't hurry sourdough bread and I like that now. It's delicious and I made it.

    And forests, well, they're lots of trees, some of my favorite beings:)

  10. But how are you with Plunderkranz? Would you say the word was euphonious? And yes, I know it's not bread.

  11. I love fresh baked bread. After the holidays, I want to get back to making sourdough.