Bread is one of the most important staples in the history of humanity. It is not only a source of energy and a way to preserve cereals, but also a food that defines civilization. To celebrate World Bread Day this October 16, here are eight bread facts that you may not have known.
Early nomads collected various grains and mixed them with water to create a kind of paste known as gruel. There is evidence that this was heated to obtain a hard loaf.
Women created bread
The discovery of bread has been attributed to women. In nomadic societies, they were the ones in charge of collecting and storing grains while the men hunted. At some point, a clever cook discovered that bread could be created with grains and water.
Bread: the origin of beer?
The origins of modern bread can be traced to Mesopotamia (in what we know today as Iraq). There it was discovered that if gruel was left outdoors for a couple of days, it began to bubble (ferment) thus making way for two products. The first was bread, which resulted from cooking to form a spongy food that could be preserved for several days and was a source of energy when consumed. If the gruel was left to ferment longer, a beverage was obtained that made one feel quite good. This was a primitive form of beer.
Why does bread even exist?
Nowadays bread and beer are easy to obtain and consumed daily, and that’s because they are the bastions of society. In order to obtain the cereals necessary to make beer or bread, humans had to abandon their nomadic life and settle in an area where they could grow the grains. It is thanks to bread that urban societies emerged and continue to exist.
Bread and agriculture
As humans settled in specific areas, agriculture and the domestication of animals followed. Agriculture was developed to provide the necessary food, while the animals became the labor to work the land.
Did bread start the French Revolution?
Bread was one of the many triggers of the French Revolution. During a period of social unrest and a shortage of bread, on the morning of October 5, 1789, around 7,000 women marched on the Palace of Versailles demanding changes to the regime, eventually ending the absolute monarchy in France.
The magic of yeast
Humans partook in the process of breadmaking without understanding the hows and whys of it. The magic revealed itself in 1840 with Louis Pasteur’s understanding of fermentation and that bread is actually alive – an incredible mixture of yeasts and bacteria that, when fed by sugars, initiate the wonderful process of this baked good.
The oldest dough
Sourdough is just the extremely old process of making bread. A mixture of flour, water, yeast, and bacteria is needed to begin the chemical process of fermentation. In ancient Egypt, a piece of the dough was separated to continue feeding new productions of bread. Mystical properties were attributed to this mass and it was treated with suspicion. Today, the oldest sourdough still in use is believed to be at the Boudin Bakery in San Francisco, still in use since 1849.