Water, wheat, yeast and salt. Bread, a universal food enjoyed by all, contains yet another irreplaceable ingredient: history.
A history that, according to the information available, dates back thousands of years, to when our early ancestors mastered fire and mixed grains and water into a kind of paste and cooked it on a hot stone.
Travelling through ancient times, through Egypt, Greece, the Roman Empire and on towards Europe, bread acquired different forms, flavours and methods of preparation. This special food has followed the footsteps of mankind from ancient times to the present day.
Human beings, who in the beginning fed themselves only by hunting, at some time and place began to look for other means of sustenance. Fruits, roots and seeds began to be part of their daily diets.
The history of bread also tells us that a rudimentary form of bread began to be produced thousands of years before Christ: flour patties were made (grains were ground with the help of stones, then mixed with water and roasted or cooked on a hot stone or in hot ashes).
But it was in Egypt that bread began to gain importance and bread making was considered a form of art. There, bread was a staple food and was used to pay salaries and offer gifts to the gods. The art of bread making was perfected in the hands of the Egyptians, who developed clay ovens and discovered fermentation. The Egyptian people were responsible for the greatest progress in methods of treating wheat to make it suitable for bread making.
Through their contact with the Egyptians, the Greeks learned the art of bread making, learning to grind flour and produce yeasts. They added milk to the bread-making process (the first milk breads appeared) and honey for special days. They also set up bakeries as public commercial establishments. Bread arrived in Europe by way of the Greek people.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, European bakeries disappeared, and in most of Europe bread making moved back into the home. Because it was easier to make, unleavened flat bread began to be consumed again as an accompaniment to other foods. During this time, only castles and convents had bakeries.
The Middle Age saw a significant increase in bread making. The quality of flours improved substantially and many different types of bread appeared. Bread then began to take on social connotations, with white bread being reserved for the upper classes and dark bread for the poorer classes.
During the 17th century, with the introduction of modern bread-making processes, France became the centre for the production of luxury breads, although more than twenty varieties of bread had been regularly consumed in that country since the 12th century.
Then Vienna, Austria, rose to bread-making supremacy. The invention of new flour milling processes contributed greatly to the evolution of the bread-making industry. Manual stone grinders evolved over time to animal-driven, water-driven and wind-driven mills, and finally to the cylindrical steel mills that have been in use since the 19th century.
Parallel to this evolutionary process, bread also has had religious connotations. It is the symbol of life, food for body and soul, and a symbol of sharing: the miracle of the loaves, Christ’s last supper. Even today it symbolises faith; and in the Catholic mass, the host represents the body of Christ.
In Portugal, there is also the story of Saint Elizabeth of Portugal. According to the story, there was a terrible famine, in which even the rich were not spared. At that time, King Dinis ruled the kingdom. His wife was Queen Elizabeth, who was known for her many virtues. To alleviate the famine, the queen pawned her jewels and ordered wheat to be brought from far away to fill the royal granary, thereby allowing her to continue her habit of distributing bread to the poor during times of crisis.
One day, when she was preparing to distribute bread, the king appeared. Fearing censure, she hid the bread in her apron. The king noticed her movement and asked in surprise:
– – – What have you got in your apron?
The queen, lifting a prayer to the Lord, answered in a trembling voice:
– – – They are roses, my lord.
The king replied:
– – – Roses in January? Let me see them and smell their perfume.
Saint Elizabeth opened her arms and, to everyone’s surprise, fresh, fragrant roses – the most beautiful that anyone had ever seen – spilled to the floor.
King Dinis could not contain himself and kissed his wife’s hands as he withdrew while the poor cried:
– – – It’s a miracle! It’s a miracle!vam:
Bread is one of the most important foods as a source of energy for the body. healthy eating symbol, mystified and sanctified by many religions, for breakfast, mid-morning snack and many other occasions , it is always tasty one crispbread.
Although there is the myth that bread is an excessive source of calories, most types of bread are low in fat. Moreover, the starch present therein provides only half the calories of fatty foods.
People with urban lifestyle tend also to reduce the consumption of bread, favoring an exaggerated consumption of fat, meat, alcohol and sugar.
These dietary preferences contribute to an alarming increase of degenerative diseases (arteriosclerosis, cancer, etc.) and metabolic diseases (obesity, diabetes …) that today affect the adult populations of rich countries.
The bread and other cereal products are starch suppliers, an essential energy source and provide appreciable amounts of protein, minerals and vitamins B as well as fiber.
Bread as a fiber source (especially the darker breads), contributes to the feeling of fullness and makes it easier to food digestion, preventing digestive disorders and also holds an important role in lowering blood cholesterol. Scientific studies have found that the intake of fiber reduces the incidence the colon, rectum and breast cancers.
Vary food is a golden rule of healthy eating, vary bread is too. Although the general composition of bread is similar, there are specificities for each cereal, so when we eat all, we benefit from the nutritional value of different cereals.