Book of the week: "The New Bread Basket," by Amy Halloran (Chelsea Green, $17.95).
If your idea of fun is reading H.E. Jacob's 1944 book "Six Thousand Years of Bread" while you bake sourdough bread made with newly milled flour, then you probably already know about Amy Halloran's first book.
If you're not among the initiated but are interested in the local grain movement, Halloran's book is a welcome introduction. Although there is a recipe in the back — for the author's favorite pancakes —this is not a cookbook but rather a well-written and, at 200-plus pages, beautifully concise examination of the state of bread in America.
Halloran, a food and agriculture writer based in Troy, N.Y., looks at how farmers, millers and bakers, as well as brewers and other craftsmen, have been working to move our Culture of Bread away from a commodity-driven network and back to a community-based food system. Leavened by the author's experiences as well as those of the committed folks it documents, Halloran's book expands to fit her project, which involves traveling across the country, adding scientific context, working in the subtexts of politics and economics to her thoroughly engaging story. Agriculture can be fascinating, especially when it gives you the back story of that piece of avocado toast on your plate.
If you'd like to meet the author, Halloran will be making pancakes at Grist & Toll in Pasadena on April 1, as part of an event hosted by this year's International Assn. of Culinary Professionals Conference.