, or what a horse and a gourmet have in common…….
Ready to wreak havoc, Napoleon Bonaparte came to the German city of Aachen with his troops, back in 1801,
The story goes that, in order to avert eventual looting, raping, torturing, burning and other inevitable consequences of war, the mayor decided to have a messenger bring food for the emperor’s troops and welcome them according to the good old hospitality traditions of the conquered. Napoleon himself was given a chunk of that famous black German bread , which mainly consists of soaked and shredded Rye and wheat berries baked at low heat for 12-16 hours.
Used to the new white bread the back then noveau riches consumed all over Europe he was repulsed by the offering and told his marshall:
“ C’est bon pour Nickel “ Nickel was his horse, and the sentence meant it was only good enough for his horse to munch on. But a bread name was born: Pumpernickel .
In the long run, Pumpernickel has succeeded world wide, unlike Napoleon.
Anywhere from the Philippines to Paraguay one can find genuine crumbly, black, coarse grain slices packed in plastic or preserved in cans . German and Russian expat stores carry them, Thais and Tibetans alike have heard of that power pack.
Naturally, as flavors change from culture to culture, foods assimilate,
and adopt to regional palates. The American pumpernickel’s whole grains disappeared over time and instead of rye berries companies use caraway, a spice widely used for Rye breads to enhance flavor and digestion. Instead of molasses now factories use sugar and food coloring and instead of whole wheat there is more white flour in order to facilitate an easy chew.
This is about to change: a growing part of the population instead seeks food made by skilled individuals , manufactured from scratch with untainted ingredients.
And in the case of Pumpernickel, a tiny but slowly increasing number of bakers are happy to deliver.
Knowledge apprentices have long ago seized to train on, those bakers unearth. They ferment breads for days instead of hours, know when to feed a mother culture and precisely when the bread has its perfect volume before it enters a 500 degree deck oven.
Artisans are passionate and value the result of their efforts not in cold, hard cash alone, but in terms of taste, texture and the excitement in their customers eyes.
Online Communities pass on knowledge, farmers plant heirloom varieties and baking aficionados are now willing to shell out a buck more for loaves with 30 ingredients less than what they find in stores.
Consumers find products made from just flour, water and salt.
Pretty much what Napoleon’s horse had.