What's wrong with the Swedish bread?
To step ahead of myself here - everything!
I am now living for several years in Sweden, but one of things I remember well are my first experiences shopping for bread. Being from Germany I had quite high expectations, however one of my first observation was - there and are no bakeries in Sweden. Well, there are a few, but they don't
sell what I would call bread. So where do Swedes get there bread from ? From the supermarket would be the general answer. In fact each average stocked Swedish supermarket has at least two shelves of different bread types. Probably over 100 types of so called "fresh" breads. That is of course if you consider factory made, pre-sliced and packaged breads as fresh.
I also quickly learned that out of this supposedly big assortment only a few breads were actually eatable. In fact one of the first Swedish words I've learned was "osötad", meaning "unsweetened". This was the one single word i had to look out for when buying bread, since most breads in Sweden would have syrup added to them in order to sweeten them. And this is just wrong! Unfortunately, the sole fact that I prefer my bread to be unsweetened reduces my choice from over a hundred down to a handful. None of them particularly good and definitely without crust. Funny enough a good crust actually makes a bread "sweet" to a certain degree due to the caramelized starches in the crust, but believe me that cannot be faked by adding syrup.
Anyways, that were just a few of my own experience, but why do I think it is worth blogging about this? Haven't I got used to the Swedish way by now? To a certain degree yes, but I just realized that I am not alone. I owe this insight to "Den Hemlige Kocken" from Mats-Eric Nilsson. This book opened my eyes. Not only did I finally realize that the "problem with bread" was not the strange excrescence
of a German living in Sweden. No, there are other people out there who think likewise. And they are Swedish! "Den Hemlige Kocken" shows you what is wrong with food production and habits in sweden or most parts of the the westernized world as a matter of fact. For example, it shows what a fake the seemingly big bread assortment is. Effectively there is less than a handful of factories producing all the same low quality product. The trick is to package and brand it in many different ways in order to create the illusion of choice. It is almost magic, until you look behind the scenes.
Sadly bread is just the beginning. I urge everyone who is interested in food (and able to read Swedish) to get a copy of this book. In case you are too lazy to read just watch "Unser täglich Brot". In the latter case you don't even need to understand German. The whole movie is without a single word, but it shows in a terrible way how soulless and inhuman food production has become.
However, more importantly than reading a book or watching a film is to actually do something about this tasteless and soulless food. Next time you go to the supermarket ask the store owner why there is such a limited choice of fresh and local produce in the shop. Ot try to find a real bakery or a small shops selling real fresh produce. Or you could join such great initiatives as Slow Food? Believe me, once you tasted the difference, there is no going back.
Wau, now I got this off my chest. It really troubled me :) I would like to finish this post with a link to a TED talk which I accidentally discovered the other day. Fittingly it is a
talk of Peter Reinhart about bread. It's great. And let me conclude this blog with Reinhart's words:""May your crust be crisp and your bread always rise"