The French food of centuries gone by

One of my favourite reads of the past year was Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870-1914. I've been thinking of post a bit more on the subject of rural/urban political divides and the history and current politics surrounding this, but for now I just wanted to offer a few quotes from the book on the subject of food in the 19th century French countryside:

You might need an ax to cut your bread

Bread was baked in large batches to save on fuel: every two or three weeks where fuel was accessible; otherwise every six or twelve months .... Adolphe Blanqui ... himself saw in September a loaf he had helped begin in January. That sort of bread had to be cut with an axe, a hatchet, or an old sword, and you could not count yourself a man until you had the strength to cut your own bread when it was stale and hard. (p. 136)

Beware good tasting food

Yet peasants ate only barley bread, explaining that though white bread would be no more expensive, they would eat it with too much pleasure and hence consume too much. It was a temptation that the poor and even the more fortunate did not want to subject themselves to. "In a good house, hard bread and dry wood," said the southern proverb. (p. 137)

What did they think of the past when new opportunities had come?

Many grieved over the death of yesterday, but few who grieved were peasants. ... Store-bought goods, city styles, baker's bread, were considered superior and probably were. The music, songs, and dances of the city were preferred. (p. 491)

It wasn't exactly a time when people were spending their evenings leisurely sipping glasses of wine over a rich and varied banquet pleasing to the senses. I may have been banging the drum a bit too much over this sort of notion lately, but let me quote Weber:

The "traditions" of the twentieth century are newer than most people think. (p. 474)

People don't always think like you.