> “I stopped thinking of myself as a foreigner a long time ago, but my origins make me the person I am today,” he said. “We all start with the same tools, the same teachers, but some people are going to understand things differently. That has nothing to do with origins; that’s just talent.”
For all the rhetoric on the right about how people from other cultures are not "suitable" for "western" countries - some of the proudest citizens and torch-carriers for tradition, are foreigners.
It also absolutely works both ways - Australia was virulently anti Italian and Greek in the 50s and 60s. Now we almost couldn't imagine brunch without espresso and feta on our smashed avocado. The diversity made us better.
The "official" results don't mention anything about his origins. The local press does say his parents are from Tunisia, but only after introducing him as a Parisian. The right national press does mention that he is... a chemist, which seems more relevant to the story than the country in which his parent were born.
Surely this is an anecdote, but it does match the general observation I've made. (although be sure that would he have killed a person rather than cooked a baguette, his origins would be of the utmost importance for the story telling).
> “Sometimes we get clients coming in saying, ‘The neighbourhood is full of Tunisians – thank God you guys are here!’” he said, referring to him and his wife, who works alongside him in the bakery. “But we have Tunisian origins too.”
That's another interesting thing to me - which makes me also think about what you said:
> What I've always found interesting as a Frenchman living in North Americ, is that there's no real equivalent to "black american" or "afro American" or "hispano American" in French. The closest you'll find is "of Tunisian origins", but that's usually left out, and not really the same.
I think the core truth here is that even though the effects of racism and xenophobia are quite pronounced, and cannot be dismissed, that all these terms are "made up". I was trolling /pol/ one day and I had someone say to me that the French people weren't "white" which is, truly, consistent with some conceptions of whiteness. But, the most strict original conceptions of whiteness that were made in the 1800s said that Scottish and Irish people weren't white!!! It seems that these sorts of identities twist and change over time, because there's no underlying truth to them. Imagine the rage and fury of those who see white purity as possible when they encounter white hispanic people, or white slavic people, or southern Italians (who made up most american-italian immigrants) saying they are white.
So I think the identity of "Tunisian origins" is just as valid as any other racial identity, and just as indistinct. I don't think the American categories are any better or worse, but it is an interesting point of difference.
The effect reaches well beyond France: as other countries fell in love with the model, they went after their own historical ethnic/linguistic minorities with the same determination throughout the 20th century.
I think you're totally right though, there has definitely been a loss of racial/ethnic/linguistic identity in the world. However, additionally there's been an explosion of other identities. Take from this example the idea that there are a large group of Parisians of "tunisian origin". That just could not have existed in the ages when people rarely travelled a few miles from home. Consider also that the subjects now exist in a nationwide community of baguette bakers - very niche, probably enabled by better communications and transport in this age. Then there's all the other subcultures the subjects probably find themselves at the intersections of, that we don't see talked about in the article. But sure, identifying with your small region of France has been homogenised away.
You say it like it's a bad thing.
The same happened for other regions (Bretagne, Languedoc, Corsica, Pays basque).
For example, the Roman Empire destroyed or assimilated hundreds of smaller culture, but it also have the long term effect of creating a common ancestor culture for most of Europe.
That's not quite right--the premise you're I think you're alluding to is that certain cultures themselves are not compatible with the values of Western society. But people like the bakers featured here, who choose to assimilate headfirst instead of creating an enclave of the country they left behind, can prosper.
>“Whoever wins the contest is a winner,” M’Seddi said. “He’s a champion, whether he’s descended from immigrants or not... That’s someone who’s passionate about French culture, who has become integrated as a French person. We need to make people proud to be French.”
The article states that the bakery was in an area with a large "tunisian origin" population - which I think the right might say is an enclave - and if their views had more nuance they might say was a cheap area where immigrants tended to settle.
Since the individuals in this story are eagerly assimilating, they are independent of the questions of whether these immigrant enclaves are real or whether they're compatible with French culture. They're only a counterexample if you conflate mainstream right-wing expectations of immigrants with hardcore Stormfront narratives, e.g. that foreigners are mentally inferior and incapable of adapting to a different culture.
Clearly the baker in the story, who wins, lives in what most people would call an ethnic enclave (if such a thing exists). There's an expectation on the right that it's easy to identify when an immigrant is "one of the good ones" but that identification tends to be done at a comfortable distance, that doesn't tell people on the right anything about the people they're actually judging. As a result, the default view is that immigrants often aren't integrating, and that's bad. That's not a stormfront view - that's a very mainstream right wing view. The truth is that immigrants often desperately want to integrate, and that culture, and even celebrating and maintaining one's culture, is not incompatible with integration. People can and do have both. St Patrick's day doesn't stop people from celebrating the 4th of July. The difference between integrating and not integrating, from the signals given off by the right, is approximately 50-60 years. Suddenly, the Irish in NYC have all mysteriously integrated for some reason, when back in the 1850s they weren't integrated. So strange how that works, right?
So now there’s a lovely assortment of brads available again...and with all that choice I still continue to enjoy a humble baguette as well.
As many things that people consider iconically French (Eiffel tower, "Haussmann-style" architecture...)
https://www.cnet.com/news/bread-making-robot-makes-everyone-... is a fully-automated bakery, although it doesn't produce baguettes, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zfb456YrsM is half-automated from dough to finish; maybe we'll get a IBM Watson-style "robot bread" entry in the competition sometime.
Btw I don't know if the comparison with chess is right. Maybe I would think of the cooking arts as any other art, like painting or sculpture - nobody is the "best" at art. Once a certain point is passed in terms of mastery of the technique, at the high end, the kinds of things that set apart different artists tend to be very subjective, and subject to changing tastes. Not to say machines can't do decent art, but perhaps it's a game where it is harder to define the rules...
"Today, 99.9 percent of humanity cannot beat the best commercial software at blitz chess. Within the decade, it's likely the machine on your desk will know how to play chess better than any human has played the game since its invention in AD 600."
I suppose that really just makes your point though. Even in 1995 we were only really trying to delay the inevitable. If playing chess is ultimately a mechanical process and baking bread is ultimately a mechanical process, then ultimately we should be make able to make a machine that does it better than we can.
Do people do this? Are there really people out there that are resistant to believing that machines can or eventually will outperform humans in any discrete task? I can see a reasonable doubt about general intelligence, but other than that surely every mechanical advance since the plow paints a clear trajectory.
These kinds of articles always strike me as absurdist handwringing. I suspect that it's just fear mongering for views. Is anyone here actually in doubt about machines performing better than humans? I mean despite all of recorded history.
I mean you, the reader yourself. Not speculation of other people's doubt, because I'm not sure these people exist.
But, what's the point then? I mean, if there's no point in pursuing anything because a machine will always be better and no one is going to appreciate anything handmade anymore... What's the point? To... eat, sleep and die?
I personally don't understand why a good portion of the population nowadays is okay with the idea that humans will be obsolete.
There are many things a human is better at, for example creativity and art. Maybe a computer will eventually be a better painter, but it's impossible for a computer to be a human. A work of art draws its power from how it speaks to the human experience, as such I don't think a computer will ever make good art in that sense.
Even speaking to something more concrete, just because a computer can play chess better than I can (as can the vast majority of humans), doesn't mean a game of chess with a friend is worthless. It's about the conversation, the challenge of matching wits, pushing your mind to see new things, all those things have meaning.
That's the point.
Now that farmers markets are 'in', you can go there and get the same stuff. But it's so marked up it's not funny. 12 dinner rolls for $5.50? $8.00 for a jar of jam? A loaf of bread for $4.00!
My grandmother is long gone but I guess I could get some mason jars and research on the internet, make my own jam and can it. I can already make bread, but only bother to do it a few times a year.
I'm sure in another generation or so it will be a black art. Very few people do that sort of thing anymore, but if you went back 60 years, everyone did it.
Bread and jam making and baking seems like probably the single most popular hobby for young women and many young men, next to something like running, from what I see from Facebook friends. Baking is also the subject of a major internationally popular TV competition for years. I can’t see why you’d think it was likely to become a black art.
For what it's worth, a large number of my friends also seem to be obsessed with making bread.
Canning equipment isn't cheap. You need to have storage space, time to actually can things, and access to bulk fruit (or food). If you go beyond a narrow selection of canning, you need a pressure cooker. All this, and you might find your jars didn't seal properly. Botulism is a real issue with home canning.
Freezing, however, is generally safe and you can make "freezer jam". Freezing most vegetables generally only takes blanching and prep. I'd suggest this if you have some freezer space.
I'd rather have small business farmers, bakers, and jam makers around, and although it costs me more I know that less of the money is headed to big food conglomerates.
Yeah, let's just throw basic economics principles out the window, shall we.
I don't think reliably good baguette is as simple as a recipe. The recipe conveys very little of what goes into it. It takes a lot of practice to get down all the manual techniques. Just learning how to knead the bread properly is an art in and of itself, and, even if you use a mixer, you'll still need to experiment with the speed and mix time to get things dialed in. A lame can be a tricky thing to work with, and your slashing technique will show through in the final product. Pre-shaping and shaping the bread takes practice, and, unless you're really into climate control at your house, learning how to adjust ingredient quantities and rise times to account for changes in temperature and humidity is a science in and of itself. You'll have to fiddle with the bake time and temperature and steaming technique to figure out what works best in your oven.
Baguette is the pale lager of breads: Most the flavor comes from the technique, and the ingredients - four simple ingredients, very nearly the same four simple ingredients - have such delicate flavors on their own that there's not really anywhere for even the slightest mistake to hide.
Which isn't to say that you shouldn't do it. But I would say that you should do it because you sincerely love the process of baking bread, not simply because you enjoy eating the final product.
FWIW, one of my favorite books on the subject is Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman. The recipes are mostly meant for baking on a commercial scale, but the book also covers everything you need to know to adapt them to your home kitchen.
In addition to what you say, my advice is: Don't be afraid of it, just give it a try with realistic expectations. Start with something easy. Rolls and breadsticks are quite forgiving, if for no other reason than that they're usually gone before anybody can complain. ;-) Virtually any "failure" of bread can be redeemed by making toast, french toast, croutons, dipping in olive oil, etc. White is easier than grains, but you can work more grains in as you gain confidence.
Nice shapely loaves that I can make into sandwiches are the pinnacle for me, because I love my sandwiches.
When considering recipes, look at the timing of the steps. A recipe that fits with your schedule is more likely to be successful in the long run.
"The simplest breads are the most difficult to produce, and the baguette is high on the list of simple breads, in that it is made with a minimum of simple ingredients; there are no strong flavors that dominate, and it is above all the flavor of the flour that prevails. Properly made, it is magnificent, poorly made, it is bland and insipid. One of the more beautiful aspects of the baguette is the amount of crust it has. A finished baguette should have a rich, russet crust, crackling and fragrant -- don't underestimate the virtue of a bold bake. At the same time, the crumb should be creamy and aromatic, with a cell structure characterized by lots of random-sized holes, with translucent cell walls (if the holes are big enough to hide a mouse, though, your shaping skills need some attention)."
In order to match the capacities of a robot and a household oven, let's start with 500g of flour, which will give you 4 baguettes of about 40 centimetres, the following recipe:
Flour T65: 500g
Water: 330 g
Baker's yeast: 10g
The French poolish is prepared from half the pouring water of the basic recipe; the equivalent quantity of flour is then added.
This gives us for our poolish:
Water: 165g (330g/2)
Flour T65 : 165g
We then have to add yeast to ferment our water-flour mixture. The amount of yeast depends directly on the time we allow our poolish to ferment at room temperature (generally from 3am to 6pm).
The quantities of yeast (per litre of water) are as follows: 3H: 15g 5H: 8g 8H: 5g 15H: 1 to 2g
Let's keep it overnight, about 12 hours, which will give a quantity of yeast of about 2g per liter of water. As we put 165g of water (or 0.165l), the amount of yeast will be 0.33g.
We see that the amount of yeast to put in a poolish over 12 hours is almost infinitesimal
So let's go back to our poolish recipe which will be:
Flour T65 : 165g
Baker's yeast: 0.3g
Note that you never put salt in the poolish
Mix everything together, cover with a cloth and leave to work overnight.
The next morning you will see your poolish full of bubbles and slightly dug in its center, a sign that it is ready. I invite you to smell the wonder you have just produced....
You will now have to add your poolish to your bread dough ingredients.
All you have to do is take the basic recipe and deduct the quantities used for your poolish, i.e.:
Flour T65: 335g (500g - the 165g of the poolish)
Water: 165g (330g - the 165g of the poolish)
Baker's yeast: 9.7g (10g - the 0.3g of the poolish), which can be rounded to 9g
and we add our entire poolish to it.
Then continue in the classic way.
Remember to cover the dough and dough pieces well during rest periods to prevent them from crushing.
Don't hesitate to bake your bread well; barely browned white bread seems to be out of fashion (except in baking terminals and supermarkets) and that's good.
Like the other reply stated, a lot of bread is technique. This is simply going to take some practice and/or experimentation. Sponge or no sponge? Are you going for a quick fix or are you willing to let part of the dough sit overnight, and the rest have 8 more hours to develop flavor?
Ingredients, as they said. Flour makes a difference. YEast makes a difference. Your water makes a difference, as does whether or not you put a bit of sugar in your dough.
But the other part of this is things like humidity. The humidity and temperature in the room is going to affect how much flour you need to use to produce identical results and will also affect how the bread rises.
All this stuff basically means that you have to practice, and then you might need to experiment a bit if you move to another part of the country or to another country - and why there is so much leeway in home recipes. Industrial bread can control for a lot of this stuff.
Not much actual work but it takes quite a lot of elapsed time.
Not interesting on a industrial scale.. which is why you usually get only the tasteless whitebread you usually get.
Producing a good baguette is an art, meaning that a good boulanger knows how to take into account many external factors like humidity in the air to adapt the recipe (% of water, prep time, cooking time). produce consistent result and a baguette that taste good and fresh for a full day.
As for the number of baguettes produced in one batch, it is also because baguettes (different from other bread that last serveral days) are really better fresh. Fresh from the oven (for breakfast !) is best, half a day is good, 1.5 day and still good means you have a very good boulanger.
I do agree that freshness is key with breads like this - there's nothing like a freshly baked one, and I still miss the morning croissant and baguette from when I stayed in Paris years ago.
I don't think the taste of mass produced baguettes is so bad as the lack of texture. And they are usually over cooked
I always find industrial baguettes under cooked, but you raise an important point : it all come back to personnal preferences and that's for me the special thing about the baguette, so few ingredients and so many variations in taste ...
In France, even in les supermarchés you get a nice crisp exterior and soft fluffy inside.
Maybe something about the volume of dough required to make bread on a truly industrial scale means it's not feasible to knead the dough properly? I was reading that you actually knead a baguette relatively little, but I can see that with a large volume of dough, it would be hard to achieve a uniform dough with very little kneading.
I suspect if anything was as elementary as "it's the kneading" they would have figured out a way to mimic the better technique. It's more likely that the logic of the industrial scale process itself is inimical to some of the finer points of producing top-shelf breads.
In many cases, the extra delay between production and consumption of a large industrial manufacturer also leads them to pursue solutions that improve shelf-stability.
The reasons may well be similar to bread.