Almost mystically, the wild yeast would connect me to the ancient Egypt baker – in his prebiblical time, in an infinite and mundane timeline – who told me about stucco houses, temples, feudal collective ovens. The bread that came under the arm, in the saddlebag, crossing towns and continents, mountains and deserts on the back of a mule, reached me, in that apartment in downtown Vitória-ES, Brazil, in the twenty-first century, when this wildly fermented bread was no longer the same: far from the banality, it was now gourmet. (why do we call it levain?) Now it has boutique, authorship, concept. (Even anti-anti-gluten tendency that bread turned out to be.) Art. What a contradiction!
(… but I didn’t understand it that way, or didn’t want to admit it. This draft is an attempt at commitment, or ground zero, with bread, so that it overcomes the metaphor … sharing… but sharing among whom? That’s what I try to make you ask with me.)
Coming back … close to the trip with history, it was that with time (I don’t know if you know, but this way of making bread takes much longer than the »ordinary« way that it’s done nowadays). The time that has nothing to do with the time on the clock … would it be, perhaps, a more »pure,« »intuitive« time? (… what is the time needed by everyone in this world to have bread on the table?)
… mainly, I traveled on the idea that the bread is made due to the invisible life that is in the air and if we took care of it, it could serve as food, and growth (doesn’t it look like the way thoughts are for you, too?) … And how about biology? The fact that bread is actually a contamination … (yes, I am thinking I could talk about Covid-19 here, and also how we don’t know how to deal with what we don’t see, or how we refuse to see certain things … well … should I talk about it? … I need to wipe the slate clean, to draw a line, I don’t know, in order to delimitate, for sure, what I can talk about bread.)
So, another way to ask this is: how to provoke the privileges for them to leave the romanticized (gourmetized) den where they hide the bread? This is much more serious than a trip of a »philosopher«/»artist.«
This is my place in the bread line and this is what I must talk about: there has never been a lack of bread for me (and there is only at the expense of other people’s bread) … I’m talking about it to make it visible that bread is much more than a thousand-year-old heap of stories, recipes, miracles. »My« bread is a »hard bread.«
For this very reason, another trip is about death. Bread represents death … well, I think. In many ways. First, bread is, in fact, something rotten, since it is the mixture of water and wheat contaminated by microorganisms, which start to eat that dough making it »rot,« »mold,« just as they do with apples and corpses.
Because, it happens with everything that is alive, it rots. Biology here again … But it’s not this kind of death I’m talking about now … I could talk a lot about this kind death too, because we have a lot of problems with it, like … why do we pretend that death isn’t a part of life? Well, it depends on which death … (and that’s the question …) the death of bread I wanted to talk about is another … I don’t know if this trip is mine alone. (Does it sound like I want to create a fuss speaking like that? … but I’m not!)
… bread is the opposite of what they say it is … bread is avarice. (»There it is, I said it«) … but, think with me: don’t they say that bread is the food of sharing, of communion? No, it’s not! It has never been. Does everyone have bread on the table? No, they don’t!
»In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.« And since ancient Egypt, sweat drips from the forehead, but not necessarily, bread is eaten. And the one who fights for the »daily bread« is choosing between sourdough, brioche, ciabatta, focaccia, Hokkaido bread with Tangzhong method … baguette? Organic wheat? Spelt? Rye? Little seeds? And going back: wild fermentation?!]
Well let’s see … do you know what a »premix for bread« is? I don’t know much, so I copied the formula:
»Wheat flour enriched with iron and folic acid, salt, sugar, stabilizers: esters of diacetyl tartaric acid and mono and diglycerides of fatty acids, calcium stearoyl-2-lactyl lactate and polysorbate 80 and flour improvers: ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, and flavoring. CONTAINS GLUTEN.«
»Stabilizers« and »improvers.« What to say about it? Words that we can talk so much about that makes my job even more difficult … the quality of the bread that most people eat is so low that it needs to be stabilized and improved … (Glad it CONTAINS GLUTEN!)
… as if you could call it food, what would bread be if it were a »destabilized« food that showed what it really is, without »improvements?« Would that make us rebel? But that’s the point … while eating that bread, people are kept dying, little by little, without even knowing why … (because, what would the bread have to do with that? Bread represents the miracle, doesn’t it?) … and sick (and out of time, with trade wages) how do you rebel? It’s not up to the people to pay that bill.
… bread is avarice. Going back to wild fermentation (now, hopefully, less romanticized), which was the only known way of fermenting bread until it was replaced by little packets of yeast (to produce more and faster)
… what changes did that bring about?
»While conventional bread has a high concentration of these carbohydrates, the natural yeast bread we have developed has much smaller amounts, and can be consumed without the presence of the symptoms of intestinal inflammation. (…) These disorders cause intestinal symptoms (bloating, change in bowel habits – diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pains) and nonintestinal symptoms (headache, tiredness, fatigue, skin problems, among others). (…) The yeasts normally available on the market present as sole functionality the growth of the dough, without adding the nutritional quality researched. »Natural-yeast bread has a greater amount of bioavailable minerals because of the action of yeast, which also makes it easier for our body to digest protein and is capable of producing some vitamins.«
… well, I could keep putting other things together, but I believe you can already have an idea of the problem, right? So … what to do in face of this problem? I make and eat wild-yeast bread, trying to use organic ingredients (for good reasons – and should even be the standard! – but, still far from producing many effects outside the restricted group that can produce and consume this wheat) … finally, I, a privileged one: what can I do to reduce the material and symbolic gap between the sourdough and the premix?
I once thought that the revolution would happen if everyone made wild-yeast bread and ate better, and thus transform the world with the so called »micropolitics.« I am not invalidating this. Everyone can make this bread (and it would be great if it were this way!), but this is not a matter of technique, but of … crumbs. If the bread is for yesterday, how to talk about long fermentation? To transform working and living conditions (the material and metaphorical bread) … for those who have been in the bread line for so long, supported by the meager $1,300 of »bread from the sweat of your face,« standing on the bus at 2 am, much more needs to be done, and in less time. (Sometimes I even think that the defense of this bread can produce the opposite result: without even realizing, as the process of concentration of income becomes more and more intense, functions previously relegated to »lower« levels of education, by the way, who can afford that Senac specialization?), they are being occupied by »educated« people, saying what bread is or what it is not, in the kitchen and in the word, pushing even further the ones who used to make the daily bread to the end of the line. Yes, by promoting this autonomy in the production of bread, and defending this »healthy« bread – and by talking about bread here, when it is not my breadwinner – I may be doing the opposite of what I want and even silencing anyone who doesn’t live between focaccias and footnotes. I may be helping to make bread even more avaricious … and if so, how to make use of my place in the line, that place of someone who always had bread on the table, so that that line ceases to exist?
… so, as I said at the beginning, all I can offer at the moment is this draft, where the punctuation of each sentence is changing. I try to expose here my anguish, my self-demand, my only, open and sincere question: how my work, and ideas as important as those of this journal, all nourished by bread somehow, can make it the true miracle of sharing?
Joana Quiroga’s work examines daily life and its philosophical depth. She is currently researching the parallels between social inequality and bread. Quiroga understands her work as a dialogue between social causes and the struggle for civil rights. In 2010, she completed her master’s degree in philosophy from the Federal University of Espírito Santo, Vitória, with the aid of a FAPESP scholarship. She was resident artist at the Academy of Arts – Novi Sad (2018–19), an invitation extended by the Artist Menu program. She has participated in artist residency programs and exhibitions in Italy, Bosnia Herzegovina, Mexico, Serbia, and Germany. She is also part of the artistic duo Pêndulo with artist Fredone Fone.