Bread is a staple food found around the world, and this dough made of flour and water has been around for a long time. Here are some completely random facts about this versatile food.
There is a hotel in Sweden that will care for a person’s sourdough starter when they go on vacation. Sourdough starters are a mix of flour, water, and wild yeast that have to be kept viable by adding a little water and flour each day. Starters give new bread more flavor and texture. Swedes can drop off their starters for around 100 to 300 Swedish krona a week ($12 to $36 US) to ensure they’ll be kept going. Source
At the beginning of the Civil War, troops were housed in the US Capitol when Congress wasn’t in session. Huge bakeries were constructed in the basement of the Capitol building on April 21, 1861, and brick ovens were completed on April 28. There were 14 ovens in the building that baked 200 loaves a day and six or seven that baked 800 loaves a day. The bakeries continued even when troops weren’t being housed in the Capitol. The bakeries were removed in July 1862. Source
In 1985, Mexican scientist Rodolfo Neri Vela requested tortillas on his mission on the space shuttle Atlantis. The tortillas became a hit with astronauts because they didn’t spoil easily and there were no crumbs, which were dangerous to the equipment. NASA got its supply of tortillas from a local restaurant in Houston called Tierra Luna Mexican Grill, but the fresh tortillas didn’t stay viable for long enough. NASA then tried to make their own, but they only stayed good for about six months which was not long enough for the International Space Station. In the 1990s, Taco Bell introduced tortillas that could last up to a year with no degradation in the tortilla, and NASA began using the Taco Bell tortillas in their space missions. Source
The first sliced commercial loaves of bread were made by the Chillicothe Baking Company in Chillicothe, Missouri, on July 6, 1928. They used a machine invented by a Missouri jeweler named Otto Rohwedder. Source
Evidence was found of baked bread at a northeastern Jordan site called Shubayqa 1 between 2012 and 2015 from 14,400 years ago. The researchers from the University of Cambridge, University of Copenhagen, and University College London were excavating stone fireplaces when they came upon the ancient crumbs. They believe the Natufians, an Eastern Mediterranean hunter-gatherer people, were baking bread 4,000 years before farming became a way of life. Source
Ciabatta bread wasn’t invented until 1982 by Arnaldo Cavallari, an Italian baker. He called the bread ciabatta polesana after Polesine, the area where he lived. You can read more about this fact here: Why Ciabatta Bread Wasn’t Invented Until 1982.
On January 18, 1943, the US Food Administrator, Claude R. Wickard, ordered a ban on all sliced bread as part of a wartime conservation measure. The reason was unclear, but Wickard stated in a New York Times article that a sliced loaf of bread required a heavier wrapper so it didn’t dry out, and the paper would need to be waxed. And without this wrapping, the stale pieces would be thrown out, thus wasting wheat and hampering the war effort. But there wasn’t a shortage of wax paper, so it was assumed his measure was to conserve wheat. The outcry over not having sliced bread was swift, and the order was rescinded three months later on March 8, 1943. Source
Panko, a variety of flaky bread crumbs used in Japanese cuisine, is made from bread baked by an electrical current. The electric current cooks the bread and creates a loaf without a crust.
In 2006, a Massachusetts judge ruled on an important legal question. Is a burrito a sandwich? Panera Bread, a national chain selling sandwiches and bread, brought on a lawsuit attempting to stop a Mexican restaurant chain called Qdoba Mexican Grill from opening a restaurant in a shopping center in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Panera argued that its lease at the shopping center banned rival sandwich shops and that a flour tortilla is bread, making a burrito a sandwich. Qdoba’s response was to bring in a chef that argued against that premise. The judge cited Webster’s dictionary and decided that a burrito wasn’t a sandwich because it was made with one tortilla, and a sandwich is made with two pieces of bread. Source
The band Bread, a popular soft-rock band in the 1970s, came up with their name after they got stuck in traffic behind a Wonder Bread truck. Source
During the 18th and 19th centuries in parts of Wales and England, a family would place bread on the chest of the deceased before burial. They then hired a person (usually poor) called a sin eater to eat the bread. The family believed the bread soaked up the deceased person’s sins and that any of their misdeeds would be “absorbed” by the sin eater after they ate the bread. Source
A modern combine can harvest 1,000 bushels of wheat every hour or one bushel every 3.6 seconds. A bushel weighs 60 pounds and can produce 42 pounds of white flour which can be made into 60 to 73 loaves of bread depending on if the bread is whole wheat or not. Source
An amateur baker and Egyptologist named Seamus Blackley gained access to a 4,500-year-old Old Kingdom vessel from the Peabody Essex Museum and Museum of Fine Arts in Boston that was used to make beer and bake bread. Other scientists helped extract the ancient yeast from the vessels and activated it using a nutrient-rich mixture. Blackley took some of the yeast home and made a starter. He then mixed the starter with ingredients available to ancient Egyptian bakers until he was able to bake a loaf of bread. He noted that his ancient bread was “much sweeter and more rich” than modern loaves of bread. Source
French toast has been around longer than France has been a country. In the 5th century, it was known as an aliter dulcia or “another sweet dish” in the Roman empire, though eggs were added later during Medieval times. It is known by many other names other than French toast around the world. In France, French toast was known as “pain perdu,” meaning “lost bread” since hard or stale bread was used. A popular legend (but most likely false, according to historians) about the origin of French toast involved an innkeeper in America named Joseph French, who was said to have created the new dish in 1724. He intended to call it “French’s toast,” but he left out the apostrophe. It then became known as “French toast.” Source