Hieronymus Bock on Types of Bread

Here is some more of what Bock has to say about different varieties of bread in his Teutsche Speißkammer:

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Of what crops and grains the best bread is baked

The ancients (die alten) had best and most prominent bread prepared from fine, pure, bolted rye flour called Flos in Latin. This must be properly leavened and salted.

The rye grain from Aphrica known as Siligo supposedly has the greatest repute, for bread baked with this rye flour as it is described above is very good nourishment and not only strengthens the entire body (mostly so when it is freshly baked), but it also fortifies the spiritus, that is the internal sensual spirit of the brain to such an extent that life may be naturally sustained for some time only with the smell of a well-baked bread. You read this of Democritus who was one hundred and nine years old and yet sustained himself for three days only from the smell of bread with no other food. That is why a good smell matters not a little because the body can be strengthened by it. You may see this with good wine as well whose good smell relieves the body of weakness and if used to excess, causes drunkenness. Thus we find that wine and bread strengthen people with their smell in need and weakness. Such art does not suit apothecaries who give Manus Christi Perlatum and other confections against weakness. We leave that as it is and further state that coarse, unbolted rye bread, especially if it is too dry, is very hard to digest and suitable for hard workers and day labourers (tagloener) and not at all for dull and idle people. Those should (if they have it and can afford it) eat white bread in its place.

Alongside the strengthening fine rye bread (schönen rocken brot), white bread is prepared from the finest wheat and spelt flour known in Latin as Pollis and praised highly.

Today, you find people in many places in German lands who know and understand how to prepare the fine white wheat and spelt (korn unnd speltz) flour, and from it they bake a strengthening and well-tasting bread in places like the Danube, the Rhine river, Pforzheim, Strasbourg, in the Alsace, and in many other parts of the German nation.

Barley that is perfectly and strongly grown is also made into a fine white flour, just as from shelled spelt (Dinkel) and emmer (Ammelkorn). The bread grown from these crops nourishes rather well.

But in many places of the German nation such as the Alsace, Westrich (roughly the Saar, Palatinate, and Mosel regions), Lorraine, and other places, common domestic bread is baked from these crops. However, that flour is not bolted through the very fine cloth, but only the middling ones. This makes good and healthy bread for daily housekeeping, and it is baked finer and better in some places than in others.

But in harsh lands such as the Idar, the Heinrich, the Odenwald, and their like, you find very rough and coarse breads. That is the fault of the rough land where not all crops will grow.

You may also make fine, tender white bread of the abovementioned crops, but (in this case) you must take the prepared dough anew and first scald it in hot water, then break it up and knead it with effort. Of this tortured (gemarterten) dough, master bakers bake white, forced (gedrungen), thick bread. They shape one round, the other long, make knobs and bulbs on the third, bend the fourth round in a circle as each baker pleases and knows to arrange in his shop.

I consider these abovementioned breads hard to digest because they are so strongly forced (gedrungen).

In addition to all the aforementioned breads, they also bake white bran bread. This is of greater use in medicine than in food because it softens the hardened belly.

In lordly courts, they give this bread to hunting dogs.

In wealthy monasteries, the prelates also maintain a hunt and pack at no inconsiderable cost and feed them with table bread (Tafel oder teller brot).

But when dearth strikes and the abovementioned crops cannot be had for money, suffering and lamentation arise among the poor and they curse the rich who have enough of these crops, but will not part with them for money. Yet the poor would be happy to have millet, oats, buckwheat, peas and beans so they do not die of hunger.

I have seen in times of dearth that poor people had hazel catkins, beans, lentils, Faeselen (black-eyed peas? vetches?), and fir sawdust milled with other crops so they might stave off hunger. But they were very discontent with the rich who would not give the poor any grain for money.

We again return to the wheat which is the most gracious and richest of grains. We read that at the time of Nero, a single grain of wheat bore over three hundred stalks and ears. This grew in Byzantz in Africa and was sent to the emperor in Rome. But out land does not do this, indeed, in many parts of German lands wheat will not grow and people are glad to have oats, buckwheat and millet to bake with.

The spiritual lords (geistliche herren) bake unleavened bread from the fine wheat flour and call it Offladen (Oblaten = wafers), Hostien (host) or Heippen (Hippen – a kind of wafer). They may have read in the Old Testament that the Jews, when they had to leave egypt in a hurry, were ordered to eat unleavened bread for seven days. That above bread is strong and give strength to wanderers and labourers, but the Israelites did not bake it as fine as our lords. They had the dough fry or roast on hot stones or in the embers, in great hurry. We thus also read of Elijah, the man of God, that he had to eat roasted bread before a great journey and further that he walked for fourty days and fourty nights to the mountain of God at an angel’s command by the strength of said bread. But our lords do not relish such flamed breads (flam kuochen). It must all be prepared (gebraten) most subtly in special moulds and pans, for they could not hold their divine service with plain, unleavened flamed breads (flam kuochen) baked in the ashes.

But when need arises, in times of war, and especially when you need to flee your home, you will not carry much in the way of baking ovens and kitchen gear. Then you would be glad to get a meal to roast on hot stones and in the ashes, as experienced soldiers can teach you.

Of the names of breads

Just as any country commonly has its own kind of domestic bread (hauß brot) baked for daily requirement, each kind of bread has its own name. But it is not worth it to worry on behalf of that name, for it is enough that we Germans have the name ‘bread’ (den namen brot) which is in Latin Panis and in Greek artos, ouguse, pugnos Arabice, Whoever wishes to further know of bread and its names shall read Iulium Pollucem de Panibus.

Yet to distinguish the kinds of bread, we will list the most common names such as Similaceus panis or Semidalitis, white bread.

Siligineus and Genenerosus panis, fine white rye bread, sutaneios.

Panis Autopyros, common household bread baked from wheat, speltz, korn, dinckel (all varieties of spelt) and rye.

Panis Hordeaceus kachgludias, barley bread and the bread of the Apostles (Apostelbrot)

Panis Furfuraceus, sordidus, coarse rough bran bread, dog bread (Hundt brot) or monastery bread (Kloster brot)

Panis Elotus, courtly bread, scalded or washed, was common among the ancients. See Oribasius de confectione ciborum.

We Germans eat Semeln, Motzen and Bretzeln for scalded bread.

Azymus Panis, unleavened bread such as Offladen (wafers), Hyppen, Hostien, priests’ bread (Priester brot).

Panis Propositionis, show bread or holy bread that is is carried around to see and contemplate and then set down again.

Panis Focaceus, Subcinericeus, sreptos. Ash and flame breads (eschen und flam kuochen) baked in a hurry. This is suitable for prophets and hungry soldiers.

Nauticus Panis or Biscoctus, ships’ bread (Schiff brot) that is baked twice.

What other names there be such as Hoff mutschen, Pfister and Pfrun brot, Schretzeln, Kuchen, fladen and pasteten we commend for the master cooks at court and to women in carnival (faßnacht) and kirch weihen (church fairs traditionally held on the day of a saint a church was consecrated to) to prepare.

Here we see both what makews Hieronymus Bock such a valuable source and what makes him so infuriating. Much of this is fascinating, but it also remains very superficial, lacking the depth of detail that later encyclopaedic writers such as Coler or Rumpolt supply. Bock’s world is the upper Rhine valley, and his understanding of more distant parts of Germany is often at best sketchy (such as when he claims bread is made principally of oats, barley and buckwheat where no wheat will grow). He is also opinionated and narrow-minded, fond of his own erudition, and deeply prejudiced. Turning a discussion of wafers and flatbreads into an anticlerical diatribe is quite a feat of mental gymnastics.

In this text, I have let names stand as written except where there is a clear English rendering. The Latin spelling is sometimes dodgy, the Greek often atrocious (I suspect the latter is an issue with the printer rather than the author). I have not corrected either. There is some interesting fodder for speculation here – the nature of ‘scalded’ or ‘boiled’ dough, the mention of Bretzeln and Semeln in this context, the use of grain substitutes, and the poor reputation of dry unbolted rye bread, presumably as opposed to the moist kind, to name but a few. I wonder whether this is indeed an attempt to distinguish between what is basically wholemeal bread baked the way regular bread was (bad) and a variety baked slowly, to retain its moisture (good). Of course this would require the technique to already have existed, and we have no form evidence of this until the 1590s.

At any rate, I hope it will provide both some entertainment and insight.

The prominent physician and herbalist Hieronymus Bock (who also went by the Latinised version of his name, Tragus) published a defense of German foodways against what he saw as foreign encroachment in 1550. His Teutsche Speißkammer can be repetitive, dull, and downright annoying in its narrow-minded apologia of all things German, but it is a fascinating source preserving the views of a well-travelled, educated contemporary on the foodways of the nation. Despite being neither pleasant to read nor practical – it contains no recipes and very little in the way of advice – the book was popular enough to go through several editions, including a pirated one in the early seventeenth century.

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