Eryn Foster pushed a cart with bread and warm water around Mass MoCA and its environs to cultivate a link be tween sustenance and art.
"I want to absorb, then reflect, the local charisma of the town through a sourdough culture," she said.
Foster's distinctive contribution to the "Oh Canada" exhibit is just one part of the long history and growing appreciation of fermented bread.
The tradition extends back to ancient Egypt, where a starter or chef became the first way that ancient civilizations leavened loaves.
Baker's yeast has become the dominant bread-making technique in the last few centuries. But a recent revival of sourdough reflects its makers' dedication to the creation of each loaf.
"It's an opportunity to give back a transformed part of the world that we live in," Foster said.
Making sourdough is a very artisanal process. Richard Bour don of Berkshire Mountain Bakery in Housatonic can trace the journey from its beginning at 5:30 every morning.
The means of a loaf's creation are at least as important as its taste, to him.
"It's all about synthesis, the aligning of factors that seem unrelated but all tie together in the end," he said.
European-trained Bourdon has researched the way the fermentation of a culture called lactobacilli helps to break down protective anti-nutrients in the wheat. He respects sourdough as a food that, while being consumed, works to benefit the eater.
"We are what you eat. I like to think what you eat becomes you," he said.
His ciabatta combines sourdough's tang and hearty chew with varieties such as olive and rosemary, as well as cheese and herb. In 2011, Bon Appetit Magazine recognized Berkshire Mountain Bakery as one of the Top 10 Bread Bakeries in Amer ica. The perennial favorite Bread and Chocolate marries a white boule to chunks of dark Calle baut. The chocolate gives the loaf, which Saveur's senior editor Gabriella Gershenson highlighted on the Food Network Show "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," a third of its weight.
Products from Berkshire Moun tain Bakery appear at nine farmers markets in the area, as well as in many cafes and grocers. The company has expanded their offerings to spelt pizza dough, made with a variety of ancient wheat that is easier for the body to digest, and cookies whose flour has been sprouted to make their nutritients more available.
The acidic flavor of sourdough promotes salivation -- as proven by the first tangy mouthful of the five seed loaf comes from the oven at Bakkerij Krijnen. The signature flavor of the tiny Bennington, Vt., bakery is in a league all its own.
Homemade stroopwafel, croissants, and shortbreads in the central display cases draw the eye, and the rotation of vegan soups cooked on site and the textured, porous slices make a sublime combination.
His desserts come from Hol land's delectable culinary tradition, and he navigates his kitchen for all of the lunch fare, such as quiche, hearty minestrone and five-mushroom soup.
A pastry chef in his native Holland, Hans Krijnen studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to better understand and cater to the health needs of his wife and bakery co-owner, Jen. But he could not settle as a health coach.
"I'm too hands on. I need to create," he said.
His day has him bouncing between timers. Acting as bread baker, chef and confection-maker all at once, he skillfully orchestrates his schedule around the cultivation of each batch descended from its starter mother. He sources his produce and eggs from local growers such as Pownal's Wildstone Farm. Making sourdough fosters his identification with the slow food movement.
"Because if you're food is sitting on a truck for weeks, how much nutrition do you lose?" he said.
In the last minutes while waiting for the multigrain to rise a second time, Krijnen brought out the unassuming starter. He handled the tub as a musician would a precious instrument.
Bourdon echoed his care.
"With this bread, you have so much more at the end than you have at the beginning," Bourdon said as he checked that his dough has proofed. "You can do something worthy."
What: 'A Cultured Culture'
exhibit and sourdough starter -- part of ‘Oh, Canada' survey of Canadian art and artists
Where: Mass MoCA, North Adams
When: Sumer hours 10 a.m.
to 6 p.m. daily; summer tours weekays at 11 a.m. and 1, 2 and 4 p.m., and weekends
on the hour, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission: $15 for adults,
$10 for students,
$5 for children age 6 to 16;
free for children 5 and under
What: Berkshire Mountain Bakery
Where: 367 Park St., Housatonic
When: Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Information: (413) 274-3412, www.berkshiremountainbakery.com
What: Bakkerij Krijnen
Where: 1001 Main St., Bennington, Vt.
When: Tuesday to Sunday,
8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Information: (802) 442-1001 and on Facebook