|Photo by The Culinary Geek|
[Old English bread = Old Frisian brad, Old Saxon, Middle & modern Low German brod,
Old High German brot (German Brot), Old Norse brauð, from Germanic, of unknown origin.]
1 obsolete. A piece or morsel of food. Only in OE
2(a) Flour moistened, kneaded, and baked, usually with leaven. OE
2(b) A load, a roll; a piece of bread. Now rare. LME
2(c) Historical. Ship's biscuit. M17
3 Essential food. ME
4 The means of subsistence; one's livelihood. E18
5 Money. slang. M20
Who can resist the alluring aroma of freshly baked bread in the morning? Passing a bakery on a cold winter's day, one can taste the warmth and richness in the air, and it's impossible not to pause for just a moment to savour that most delectable smell. As one of our most basic and ancient foods, it's remarkable that bread is so irresistibly delicious, especially when compared to other staples such as rice or potatoes which seem thoroughly insipid in comparison to its richness and variety. As one of the most important foods throughout history, it's hardly surprising that bread has ingrained itself so deeply into our culture and way of thinking, particularly in the language of work, necessity, religion and friendship. Just as bread accompanies us from our breakfast toast to the sandwich we eat for lunch and the roll we have with our dinner, bread is as much a staple of our words as it is of our plates.
Bread, being a common slang for money, is what we earn for our bread and butter, the basic necessities of life. If we live on what we don't earn, we're said to eat the bread of idleness, perhaps because we know on which side our bread is buttered (to know where our advantage lies), or if we're really fortunate because we have our bread buttered on both sides (to live in a state of easy prosperity). While a vindictive person might take the bread out of a person's mouth (to deprive someone of their livelihood), the social person will break break with someone (share a meal), especially in the spirit of a true companion (companion = Latin com with, together + panis bread).
Considering how valuable a place bread has in our history, culture and language, it's surprising that, in the Western world at least, we treat it so flippantly. Various studies have shown that, as well as being spectacularly wasteful with food generally, we're most likely to waste bread, with some estimates suggesting we throw away just under half of all bakery items. Considering how delicious, nutritious and culturally significant bread is (and that's without even mentioning the problem of world hunger), this really is a shameful trend. So go on - support your local baker: Go out, buy a freshly baked, mouth-wateringly scrumptious loaf, and then eat it with guiltless abandon. You know you want to.
What types of bread do you like?
Do you know of any other bread-based expressions?
Do please rise to the occasion and leaven your crumbiest comments below.