Baker
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"In Paris today millions of pounds of bread are sold daily, made during the previous night by those strange, half-naked beings one glimpses through cellar windows, whose wild-seeming cries floating out of those depths always makes a painful impression. In the morning, one sees these pale men, still white with flour, carrying a loaf under one arm, going off to rest and gather new strength to renew their hard and useful labor when night comes again. I have always highly esteemed the brave and humble workers who labor all night to produce those soft but crusty loaves that look more like cake than bread."
Alexandre Dumas

Basic Information

A Baker is a Person Who Prepares Nourishment in Ovens. The Baker's chief occupation is the baking of bread, but, depending on the type of bakery he works at, it could include cakes, donuts and other pastries.

According to historians, the ancient Egyptians invented baking bread around 8000 BC. They also invented beer. The Egyptians had lots of fun with yeast.

Like the brewer, the baker has long been regulated by law - most legal codes seem to have included stipulations on the weight and content of a standard loaf and the dishonest baker who cuts the flour with sawdust is a long standing villain. In medieval Europe he was prone to be dragged on a hurdle to the pillory with a loaf hung about his neck … there were also fines and other penalties.

Since bread has long been a staple food, every community is likely to have a bakery someplace unless it is small enough that a baker cannot be supported. The baker may be a government monopoly (an outgrowth of the feudal custom of obliging serfs to use an oven owned by the Lord), and/or may bake bread for people by commission rather than making and selling at venture. In some communities (including parts of Western Europe into the 20th Century) the baker might have the only ovens in the area and be commissioned to bake pies and roasts as well. The baker may take cash payments or, like the miller, may take payment in flour instead.

How often a community bakes will likely be a function of wealth and development - a poor, primitive community may only fire up the ovens once a week and bake enough bread for seven days (which may be pretty unpleasant come the next baking day). Eventually the volume of bread required may be more than the ovens can handle all at once (or people may decide that they can afford slightly fresher bread than this) and there will be another baking introduced. Eventually - and quite quickly in urban areas - the baking becomes daily and needs a professional to look after it. Hence the baker.

Once daily baking starts, bakers traditionally start work early so that the bread is ready to eat when most people get up - thus making them the sort of people you run into if you're creeping around the streets in the small hours. This may make them some of the few people with licence to wander about after curfew - and, indeed, to work during the hours of darkness generally. Curfew regulations would probably need to be remitted entirely for bakeries in any culture that expects fresh bread in the morning. Depending on culture, the same ovens that make bread by night may make cakes and pastries and/or bake pies by day (which would also make the bakers an early species of shift-worker) or these things may happen in different establishments1.

Like the blacksmith the baker may have a symbolic role in some cultures, befitting one who holds the life of the community in his hands. Where a guild system admits women, baking is amongst the most likely to guilds to allow a woman to be a master in her own right.

Sources

Bibliography

Game and Story Use

  • A PC might be a baker as his day job, when he's not adventuring. Like Steven Segal.
    • Failing that, it's a reasonable trade to invest in - things are going very badly indeed if the demand for bread dries up.
      • That said, when famine or other restrictions bite and the price of bread goes up, bakers can find themselves in the firing line - the mob usually don't understand how or why the price of bread has increased, all they see is their staple food become more expensive than they can afford and blame the person who wants more money from them for the same amount of bread.
  • Paul the Samurai from the comic book The Tick used to bake loaves of french bread to hide his katana in. Hey, how else are you going to get a big honkin' samurai sword on board an airplane?
  • This is likely to be someone who meets every housewife in the area - and is thus likely to hear all the gossip. An ideal source of information.
  • As noted, bakers might well be around after curfew and see all sorts of things most people miss.
  • Ironically, an artisan baker adding flavourings or other additives (dried tomatoes? olives?) may fall foul of archaic laws against adulterating bread meant to stop people baking with sawdust and chaff.
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