Bread in Colonial Mexico

 
colonial bread
For many cultures life would be unimaginable without bread. It is a staple for hundreds of cuisines around the world, after all cereals were the gateway to abandon a nomadic life and settle.
 
But the history of wheat and bread in Mexico is relatively short, as wheat crops were introduced soon after the Spanish Colonization in 1521.
 
It was a slow and difficult process to introduce the grains, train farmers to grow, harvest and store. Then a whole new industry was born of milling, trading and of course the making of bread itself.
 
Indigenous people was not only reluctant to eat bread but got ill when eating it as their staple grain was corn. And vice versa, it took Spaniards a good generation to get used to eat corn based meals.
 
Agustín Arrieta Poblano kitchen 1865.
The making and selling of bread was heavily regulated. The province of Puebla, close to Mexico City was by far the indisputable granary of New Spain. 
 
But it was one of the laws that as a researcher I was particularly interested on: the files containing bread stamps. A series of designs used to brand each baked loaf to help track quality control.
 
Bread stamp
 
Within the bakery files of 1617-1750, volume 228 of Puebla’s General Archives the beautiful collection of bread stamps is the crowning jewel of the books. They all display magnificent designs, most of them meaningful only to their creators but each tells a story that we might never fully know but we can at least delight in their innocent artistry.
Mexican Bread stamps II As part of a very extensive research of historical breads I have been weaving a narrative to provide not only technical aspects of such recipes but bread itself has become the element that binds together everyday life with agriculture, politics, economy, cultural history, , industrial and agricultural evolution and above all the will to preserve within every golden crust thousands of years of history and identities that we can recreate time after time.
 
 
Mexican Bread stamps
On March 2016 I took part as speaker in the 12th edition of Pecha Kucha Birmingham.This event was part of a series of events around Birmingham City University’s annual Digital Media Conference  #ReThinkMedia in collagoration with BBC Academy’s Digital Cities 2016.
 
pecha kucha 
The focus was to challenge visions and assumptions of formal, informal and unexpected media of communication as factors of social change. My intervention was focused on “The Language of Food: Bread Stamping in Colonial Mexico” and their unforeseen ideological and political impacts.
 Here’s the video of the presentation. 

Rocio Carvajal at PechaKucha Birmingham v12 from Pete Ashton on Vimeo.

Rocio Carvajal, a Pecha Kucha veteran from Mexico, is an author, educator, blogger, baker and researcher of gastronomic heritage. Her talk is titled “The language of food: Bread stamping in colonial Mexico” and looks at how the codes embedded in and on food tell a story of the moral, economic, ethical, religious and even political views of its time.

http://pkbham.uk/pecha-kucha-birmingham-vol-12/

I’m ever so thankful to the PK-Brum team for a wonderful experience to share and learn, special shout to Ben Waddington and Pete Ashton.

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Author
Food researcher, cook and author. Editor of SABOR! This is Mexican Food Magazine and producer of Pass the Chipotle podcast.

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