ears ago, I was working an overnight baking shift and listening to a podcast when the subject, who had recently survived a near-death experience, said, “I knew I had to do something important with my life. I couldn’t just be, like, a baker.” Of course, this unjustly diminished a vital human tradition, but I’d long had a suspicion that there was something else I should be doing besides making baguettes. This stranger’s words were both a punch in the gut and reinforcement of my misgivings. I had not yet begun to think of bread the way I do now: as a lucid marker of cultural shifts and an enduring symbol of the human experience. Throughout history, bread has been a humble translator of larger changes. Rioting ensued after bread subsidies were cut in Cairo and more recently in Syria; Portuguese rolls sold on trains through Mozambique show the remnants of imperialism; the baking powder that has replaced sourdough in remote areas of northern India whispers the effects of new trade routes and globalization. I admit, this wide-angle on bread feels very 2018, when the intersection of dialogues is practically a conversational requirement. With that in mind, I talked to Jeffrey Hamelman, a veteran baker and author of Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes, the SAVEUR Cookbook Club’s focus for the past month, about his own relationship to bread and how things have changed since it began.