Pain Égalité, meaning Equality Bread, was first made in 1793 during the French Revolution when wheat stocks were critically low and tensions around class divisions were high.
It will be the first in a series of ‘historical breads’ resurrected by the French bakery ingredient firm Eurogerm, in a move aiming to go to the roots of the country’s bread past.
The Equality Bread was originally introduced to satiate anger over the increasing shift towards bread as an exclusive luxury for the rich after the country experienced several bad harvests. In response to mounting disquiet over this inequality, the revolutionary leaders decided that everyone, rich or poor, should have the same bread.
“The composition of this bread was created in 1793 during the French revolution when all the cereals were lacking. You could find only wheat, rye, barley and chestnuts. So the revolutionaries decided that the bread will be the same for all the people in France with three quarters wheat and then one quarter of rye or barley or chestnut [depending on the region],” Pascale Creusvaux, communication manager for the company told BakeryandSnacks.com.
A history of bread
The bread is no longer made in France as it was phased out around the time of Napoleaon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815.
The project is the creation of the firm’s new history-enthusiast R&D manager, Creusvaux said. Although she refrained from giving details of its next historical bread, she said plans could involve going back even further on France’s bread timeline, digging deeper into notions of French identity and food nostalgia.
Nicolas Gourden, the innovation manager behind the idea, told us: “It’s time for people to go back to important facts in our history to better understand who we are and where we are going.”
“So this product today is in the spirit of what was consumed at this time with the raw materials now and with some adaptations. The bread looked like this one with its grey crumb and flavour,” he said.
On nostalgia around food, Creusvaux said: “We need to find a ‘point of reference’.”
“We were inspired by the story of France during the French Revolution. To return to historical values.”
The bread predated the French bread decree of 1993 by 200 years. This more recent decree stipulated particular requisites for bread marketed as homemade or traditional, such as the way it is made and the ratio of flours and other ingredients used.
“We haven’t got the right to do whatever we want!” Creusvaux quipped.