While others were watching their brackets get busted in overtime Friday evening I was reading “Six Thousand Year of Bread: Its Holy and Unholy History.” Why? Because a book about brewing with wheat should include the role wheat has played in various cultures where people drink beer.
It’s not exactly light reading, so maybe I was looking for a reason to laugh when I came across the explanation of how wheat became the grain of choice in Europe in the nineteenth century. That’s a longer story involving French tastes, but here’s the excerpt that might make you smile:
“In the Middle Ages Europeans were very fond of the taste of rye. Some of the East Germans had called themselves Rugii (rye-eaters) undoubtedly to distinguish themselves from the ignoble eaters of oats. In Anglo-Saxon England August was called Rugern, the month of the rye harvest. As late as 1700 rye formed 40 percent of all English breads; around 1800 the percentage had dropped to 5.
“Where rye bread was firmly established in large parts of Germany and Russia it remained. Physicians and farmers insisted that people who for centuries had eaten the dark bread of their fathers, which gave forth a spicy fragrance like the soil itself, could not find the soft white wheat bread filling. They pointed to the physique of the Germans and rye-eating Russians. The wheat-eaters countered with the claim that rye made those who ate it stupid and dull. Wheat-eaters and rye-eaters eaters spoke of one another as do wine drinkers and beer drinkers.”
Beyond the old beer vs. wine thing I thought first about lager drinkers vs. ale drinkers. Then I recalled a conversation during Zoigl Day in Neuhaus. The local I was talking to asked me about what sort of beers I like to drink. When I mentioned I’d been seeking out weiss beers he quickly explained he didn’t drink those. He had to make too many trips to the bathroom if he did.
Thought never occurred to me to ask if he preferred rye bread to wheat bread.