Baking,  Breads,  Culinary History,  Dinner,  Farming,  Food History,  History,  Thrift

Bread: The Staff of Life

If you are a carb-lover like me, then you don’t need me to tell you how delicious fresh warm bread is. Spread with butter, it’s even better! To cover the vast history of bread and it’s origins would be a task too big for this blog! So, we are just going to skim the surface of it all this month. Bread is poetically called the staff of life. It’s the staff of life because it’s a staple food in the human diet. But did you know, if you were to eat only flour and water, you would eventually die from malnutrition? Your body can’t utilize the nutrients in plain flour unless it is made into bread. Fascinating, right? 

The history of bread seems to begin with the dawn of time. It seems to have always been around in some form or another! We can imagine our earliest ancestors crushing grain that they had found and mixing it with water. Maybe they left it to ferment a little or maybe they spread it out on a rock by the fire and cooked it right then. This was the earliest bread. Flat and unleavened. Flat breads are still common throughout Middle Eastern and African countries.

The first recorded history we have of something similar to what we know is sourdough made in Egypt several thousand years ago. Wild yeast grows in the air. When it is allowed to settle in with flour and water for any amount of time, it makes sourdough. Since the Egyptians were known as beer-brewers, they may have been the first to make a type of beer bread! Greek and Roman tables never lacked bread often in a round, heavy form. The famous saying of giving the people “bread and circuses” marked the tragedy of the beginning of the fall of the Roman Empire.

Bread never lost its value even once as history moved along after that. In fact, mankind was constantly looking for new ways to make bread making easier. Better grain milling and clean water were consistently sought after from the Middle Ages on to make bread the best it could be. In the late 1800s, powered, commercial yeast arrived and started the transformation of bread to what we enjoy today.

There is nothing like bread for comfort. And our ancestors knew the importance of good bread. Maybe we need to get back to the value of a truly good loaf of homemade bread and connect again with one of the foods that nourished the generations before us.

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