Explores bread as both everyday object and as an object that has been invested throughout history with symbolic power and an astonishing variety of social, cultural and figural meanings.
Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things. Bread is an object that is always in process of becoming something else: flower to grain, grain to dough, dough to loaf, loaf to crumb. Bread is also often a figure or vehicle of social cohesion: from the homely image of “breaking bread together” to the mysteries of the Eucharist. But bread also commonly figures in social conflict — sometimes literally, in the “bread riots” that punctuate European history, and sometimes figuratively, in the ways bread operates as ethnic, religious or class signifier. Drawing on a wide range of sources, from the scriptures to modern pop culture, Bread tells the story of how this ancient and everyday object serves as a symbol for both social communion and social exclusion. Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.
Scott Shershow is a writer of beautiful sentences that convey the ambiguity of a thing we often take as a bland lump to be smeared with fats and oils. In prose as crystal as bread isn’t, and as sensual as it is, Shershow reveals how deeply political and philosophical issues concerning hospitality (aka the breaking of bread) are fueled and interrupted by bread itself. All other bread books are now toast. * Timothy Morton, Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English, Rice University, USA , and author of Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence *
Anyone who spends serious time weighing a name for his starter has crossed over to the other side, but Shershow is comfortable there, too, at home with the philosophers and poets of bread. * Robert Pisor, Founder of Stone House Bread, Leland, Michigan *
For Shershow, bread is everywhere because it is a miracle, and miraculous because it is everywhere. To know bread, he argues, one must work with it. Learning to bake teaches the baker just how much is beyond his control. … Shershow’s Bread treats its object much like a critical theorist does language, as a human invention that exceeds human control. * Los Angeles Review of Books *
Eye opening. * Times Literary Supplement *