"Long ago Occidental man acquired a definite preference for raised bread instead of cooked cereals and flat breads. Bread reigned over the ancient world; no food before or after exerted such mastery over man. The Egyptians, who invented it, based their entire administrative system on it; the Jews made bread the starting point of their religious and social laws. The Greeks created profound and solemn legends for their Bread Church of Eleusis. And the Romans converted bread into a political factor. They ruled by it, conquered an entire world by it, and lost the world again through it. At last the day came when Jesus Christ made consummate all the spiritual significance that had become attached to it, saying, 'Eat! I am the bread.'" (Reinhart
, Six Thousand Years of Bread: Its Holy and Unholy History
). (Google Books)
The Romans ruled through bread and circuses; "bread" (and "dough") are money, and the "bread-winner" is the head of the household. The next big invention is always "the greatest thing since sliced bread" Wheat, Rye, Brioche, Challah, Matzo, Limpa--a look inside the long and fascinating history of bread.
According to most scholars, leavened bread first appeared in ancient Egypt. Jane Howard discusses
bread making in Egypt; more here
with translations. Possibly the oldest piece of bread in existence
. Greek cults worshiped bread
(pdf). To say nothing of the importance of bread in Jewish and Christian theology.
"It all boils down to beer and bread"
--Dr Thomas R Sinclair and Carol Jame Sinclair discussing the history of bread (and beer). (video) (warning: a little religious-y).
They aren't the only ones to elevate the importance of beer and bread together: "Governing authorities in medieval Europe considered only two staples of daily life important enough to regulate: bread and beer. This was done through assize or assise laws, which usually came in one of two ways: a separate law of bread assize and law of beer assize, or a combined law of bread and beer assizes." Here
is the text and explanations for various bread and beer assizes throughout European history (pdf). Here
is a much shorter English assize in non-pdf.
In 1961, the Chorleywood Process changed how we mass-produced bread (previously
). And then, of course, there was the development of pre-sliced bread by Otto Rohwedder
. Sliced bread was banned briefly
in the United States
For something that's been around as long as bread, the science behind bread making can be rather complicated. HowStuffWorks explains
(youtube) the basic science (or in an article
with experiments). Emily Buehler, author of Bread Science: the Chemistry and Craft of Making Bread
gets a little more in depth
Craig Ponsford explains
(youtube) some of the ideas behind bread making. Or you can watch an adorable old woman explain how she made bread during the great depression
(youtube) (or previously
. Or maybe Anthony Bourdain on Pane Carasau
And the story does not simply stop with making bread
also has a long and varied history and interesting innovations
continue to be made. If antique toasters take your fancy, you can look at some old toasters and vintage ads
"Toasters and Marriages Used to Last Forever", the largest collection of antique toasters in Texas
(youtube) or even attend the next annual ocTOASTERfest
or read the latest issue of the Saturday Evening Toast
If plain old toast isn't your fancy, maybe you prefer the so-called "French Toast," or, in certain parts of the USA, "Freedom Toast.
" Despite the name, variations on what we call French Toast arugably date back to Roman times and the cookbook of Apicius:Break slice fine white bread, crust removed, into rather large pieces which soak in milk and beaten eggs fry in oil, cover with honey and serve
. The Middle Ages had their own
French Toast recipes.