YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Moroccan Flatbread – RECIPE
Chapati – RECIPE
Brioche – RECIPE
In its most simple form, bread is nothing but flour and water kneaded into dough to be baked. Archeological evidence suggests that us humans have been baking bread for at least 30,000 years now.
At first, it was only one of many foods that hunters and gathers learned to make. Much later, with the domestication of wheat and barley during the Neolithic period, bread became a human staple.
The cereal-based agricultural economies that replaced hunter-gatherer economies some 10,000 years ago could sustain much larger populations, and provided the basis for economic specialization and greater social complexity, and as such paved the way for modern civilized states.
And so, bread became political, embedded in new socio-economic and political order. In England, “Lord” (Anglo-Saxon: hlaford) referred to the master who supplies food, and “Lady” (Ango-Saxon: hlaefdige) to ‘loaf kneader’ – she who produces what her husband distributes.
In medieval times, food was often served on a square piece of stale bread called a trencher. After the meal, the rich would give their trenchers to the poor, or to their dogs. It is thus not surprising that when people assess their own economic status, they often compare their meals with that of their “lords” and “ladies” – who gets the food and who gets the plate, if you like. And in the gap between the meal and the trencher grows the seeds of revolutions.
It is hard to think of a popular uprising that is not connected to bread or food, or the price thereof. In 1789, the price of bread in France soared with almost 70%, causing the infamous “bakers’ queues” and ultimately the “bread riots”, that was the first mass expression of discontent against the gluttonous lifestyles of the French nobility.
Much later, during the February Revolution, Lenin and the Bolsheviks promised the people “Peace, land and bread” as a means to redress the ills of Tsarist rule.
As far back as ancient Rome, politicians tried artificial means to appease unhappy subjects. It was Juvenal (circa 100 AD) that coined the phrase “bread and circuses” to describe such strategies. Instead of genuine reform and sound policies, politicians offered cheap food and entertainment. Sounds familiar does it not?
Even in casual conversations, we equate our economic fate with bread. “Dough” or “bread” refers to money. “Having your bread buttered on both sides”, to being well-off or better-off, and “to live of crumbs” to being poor.
I have often thought of what kind of bread would stop a revolution dead in its tracks. It would have to be a very special kind of bread, preferably one with a generous meat stuffing, cause “man cannot live of bread alone”.
And it would have to have generous seasoning, as to please a deprived palate, and it would to be easy and quick to make to ease the impatient spirit of the revolutionary.
I had such meal once, ironically in financial district of Brussels bought from a Moroccan street vendor, and consumed right there on the pavement. And for the time being, I could not care whether my friends were in a hurry or not. I was at peace with the world.