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PDF 52 Loaves: One Mans Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust

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An exceptional copy. William Alexander is determined to bake the perfect loaf of bread. He tasted it long ago, in a restaurant, and has been trying to reproduce it ever since. Without success. Now, on the theory that practice makes perfect, he sets out to bake peasant bread every week until he gets it right.


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He bakes his loaf from scratch. And because Alexander is nothing if not thorough, he really means from scratch: growing, harvesting, winnowing, threshing, and milling his own wheat.

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Even for readers with no aspiration to bake, both of these contexts, the historical and scientific, shape the evolution of bread into a complete picture — one that provides an interesting, even alarming, insight to the poor nutritional quality of the mass-produced varieties today. Unfortunately, the narrative vehicle for this foodie education is less developed.

52 Loaves: One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust by William Alexander

Two short and mostly irrelevant chapters seem to exist solely to crack jokes. In fact, Alexander frequently analogizes his pursuit of bread to a spiritual journey.

Indeed, the book itself is structured after the seven canonical hours, or prayer services, of the monastery he eventually bakes in. Despite these shortcomings, 52 Loaves remains knowledgeable, engaging, and instructional enough to satisfy.

52 LOAVES by William Alexander | Kirkus Reviews

In the end, 52 Loaves points us toward a truer autonomy than all the cellophaned choices in the grocery store aisle can provide, even if it lacks the strong flavor and distinctive texture of that perfect pain du campagne. His second book, 52 Loaves, chronicled his quest to bake the perfect loaf of bread, a journey that took him to such far-flung places as a communal oven in Morocco and an abbey in France, as well as into his own backyard to grow, thresh, and winnow wheat. The Boston Globe called Alexander "wildly entertaining," the New York Times raved that "his timing and his delivery are flawless," and the Minneapolis Star Tribune observed that "the world would be a less interesting place without the William Alexanders who walk among us.

A passion bordering on obsession unifies all his writing.

52 Loaves: One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust

He has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition and at the National Book Festival in Washington DC and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times op-ed pages, where he has opined on such issues as the Christmas tree threatening to ignite his living room and the difficulties of being organic. Now, in Flirting with French, he turns his considerable writing talents to his perhaps less considerable skills: becoming fluent in the beautiful but maddeningly illogical French language. William Alexander.