There is something about the aroma of baking bread that is warm, cozy, and inviting. One of my favorite times of day is when I walk into Ellie’s early in the morning, and smell the bread rising or already in the oven. With our hands and four simple ingredients (flour, water, salt, and yeast) we can make one of the oldest and most communal foods; a food enjoyed by our ancestors, used as currency, and even sent to the tombs of Egyptian royalty.
This pure and simple and elegant food is one of the delights we share between Ellie’s and Gracie’s. In fact, it was the bread that we serve at Gracie’s that became the starting point for Ellie’s! Complimentary bread has long been a staple of Gracie’s dinner service, and now that bread is baked at Ellie’s. But what is it about bread that binds us to our community and to our humanity? How does bread trigger such a positive reaction in so many people?
Bread is our connection to our past; it is one of the oldest foods made by modern humans. Estimates vary, but most archaeologists and food historians would agree that humans have been making bread for over 10,000 years, and maybe even 30,000 years. The earliest breads were unleavened, similar to a flatbread such as a tortilla or naan. Occasionally, wild yeast would “contaminate” the bread, resulting in a fermented bread. This fermented bread eventually became the early incarnation of many modern breads.
The Egyptians mastered the process of making leavened breads and controlling the introduction of yeast approximately 7,000 years ago, and archaeological evidence suggests that Egypt had dedicated bread bakeries approximately 5,000 years ago. It is also believed that Egyptian bakers experimented with sourdough breads by saving sections of particularly good doughs to add to the next day’s batch.
The History of Bread will continue in part 2.