Bread

One thing that was a lot better in the USSR – and we all know how I hate the USSR, so this is really true – was bread. I have not tasted in North America anything remotely resembling the little Soviet 7-kopeck loaf. Or the big black 22-kopeck loaf. Or the round golden loaf.

And I’m not talking gas station bread. I’ve been to all sorts of fancy bakeries in the US. And it’s all trash compared to what we had in the USSR.

Germany has great bread, so it’s not like the USSR had some secret recipe.

13 thoughts on “Bread

        1. The packaged old bread is a different story. We didn’t have that at all in the USSR. You either eat it while it’s fresh or it’s gone. As packaged goes, this Lithuanian bread is great. But it’s a different category.

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  1. The US uses a different wheat cultivar, and the flour is processed differently. A lot of Americans who bloat up like balloons and have other nasty gastrointestinal and other problems when they eat bread, and so think they are “gluten intolerant” find that when they travel overseas, they can eat the bread and it doesn’t bother them. Soy flour as a “texturizer” is also common in the US, but I don’t know how our use of it compares to the rest of the world.

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    1. I went off to camp as a teen, and met a nice Belgian girl there. I was sitting with her one afternoon, and she was so homesick she was in tears, and one of the things she couldn’t get over was how bad American food is: “Everything is sweet! Why does there have to be sugar in everything? Even the bread is sweet!” It was the first time it had even occurred to me to think about this. It really solidified when I went to Vietnam and had a real baguette for the first time– a revelation! Why are such things not available in the US? Clearly, it’s not for want of a market! One taste, and your bakery would have a loyal customer for life! Who could possibly go back to American bread if the real thing were available?

      My working theory is that we can’t get it here, because the supply chain is too complicated. You’d have to import the wheat, or commission your own farmers to grow it. If you commission your farmers, they’d have to grow the wheat in buffered fields so that it could not accidentally cross with standard American Bt dwarf wheat (resulting in the farmer getting sued by Monsanto for “stealing” their copyrighted genes), would not suffer glyphosate overspray (glyphosate is illegal in many other countries, but has detectable residues in all non-organic flours sold in the US, because farmers use it to make sure their wheat is uniformly dry at harvest, called “dessication”) from other farmers’ fields at harvest time, etc. In addition, flour ground in the US has been stripped of the germ as well as the bran, to make it shelf-stable (the germ contains a tiny amount of oil, and this will cause it to go rancid after a while). The result is that most flour available here is stale and flavorless. To get flour that’s actually fresh, you’d need to set up your own flour mill to supply your bakery. Most flour here is also bromated, which makes it friendlier for giant mechanical dough hooks. Potassium bromate has been banned in a number of other countries, as a potential carcinogen. If you’re in the US, and you bake your own bread, I think King Arthur flour is the only widely-available brand that’s not bromated.

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      1. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia all have baguettes because they were French colonies. Myanmar and Thailand don’t have them because they weren’t colonized by the French.

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  2. “a lot better in the USSR – was bread”

    In Poland in communist times (and immediately afterward) bread was very… hearty and filling, in part because it had to be. With so much else being hard to get or very expensive it occupied a much more central place in people’s diets than anywhere in the west where it’s more an accessory than a real staple.
    Starting in the late 1990s or early 2000s the basic quality of bread started to decline gradually getting lighter and lighter (in cities in the countryside it was still more… formidable).
    At present supermarket style bread is kind of blah (better than anything in the US but not great by local standards). But bakeries began offering more artisanal or specialized kinds including reviving older methods or preparation and types of bread.
    Almost all the bread I get now is from a local bakery. It’s a small chain with no website and maybe half a dozen stores in town and incredibly delicious.

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  3. When we visited Germany in 2019, I noticed that the bakeries in Germany were amazing. A couple of other notes:
    . The comment on different types of wheat being grown in the USA is correct, it’s different again with Canadian wheat.
    .The best way to get the kind of bread you want is to bake your own, Russian bread needs rye in the blend

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  4. Agreed on the poor quality of bread in the US and especially on the sweetness. I find all pre-packaged bread that’s used for toast or sandwiches completely inedible.

    However, we’ve had the good fortune that there’s usually at least one grocery store around that carries quality artisanal bread fairly similar to what we used to eat back home, as well as baguettes with a nice crust, sourdough, Italian country loaves, etc. But I gather it’s dependent on where exactly you are in the US, and yeah, you probably have to work hard to find good bread, as opposed to what you do in Europe, which is just go to a random store wherever and the bread is always amazing.

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