Despite the endless rows of other food that fill up supermarkets, the most important corner of any grocery store is the bread racks. Tens if not hundreds of types of bread products tempt and confuse us. Linguistically, some very common stables have interesting histories of which most people are not aware.
Some breads were for special occasions. A kaiser or Vienna roll was made for the Emperor Franz Joseph’s birthday. A pretzel was for lent since it required no eggs. People often gave bagels as a gift, including Jews over 600 years ago.
Some flours have quaint backgrounds. Graham flour, from which Graham crackers are made (ideal for smores, a wonderful sandwich with chocolate and marshmallows melted over the open fire), was invented by a pub owners who wanted his clients to drink more and came up with a whole wheat flour that helped absorb the alcohol. Pumpernickel, a component of expensive breads today, was once supposed rejected by Napoleon for his personal use and left for his horse and is allegedly translated as “the devil’s fart” for its effects on the digestive system.
Some desert favorites have also come from far away. Crepes, my personal favorite (with Grand Marnier, sugar and lemon), come from the Latin crispa for waved. The Bretons make a whole wheat crepe adding meat, which I strongly recommend. Their name is either les galettes or les saracens, i.e. moors since the wheat grew in the moors. As for the classic American doughnut or donut, one theory of the name is that the bakers added nuts in the middle since that dough tended to be undercooked there.
It is true that you can’t live on bread alone but you sure can gain weight on it. While you are enjoying its satisfying taste, look up a bit of its history, food for the mind you could say.