The word “hliab” (bread in Bulgarian) probably comes from the Gothic word “hlaifs”, which is probably also the origin of the words “leipä” in Finnish and “leib” in Estonian, which are distantly related to “Leib” (”body” in German). It seems that bread was originally associated with the body of Christ, in the same way as the wine symbolises his blood.
Since ancient times people have prepared hot, fresh bread for their table every day. Bread is one of the most ancient products in human history. The evidence for the first bread dates back to the Neolithic Era. Initially, it was probably made of baked cereal porridge made of water and ground grains.
Over time, people have learned that they needed to store large quantities of grains in order to survive. This is how the strategic reserves of wheat were created – the granaries, which are also part of one of the theories for the establishment of the first urbanised settlements. In the first cities, everything was organised around the granaries. In ancient Egypt, for example, bread was made in people’s homes and the largest bakeries were located only in the court of the Pharaoh and the higher dignitaries. This is where the puffed bread was discovered. Initially, Egyptians believed that fermentation is a spontaneous process but later realised that they could control it with fermenting grape juice or hops. Different types of dough and thus, different types of bread were discovered with the starter culture. The first public bakeries, however, emerged only during the heyday of the Roman Empire.
As a result of its subsequent popularity, bread became predominantly used in everyday language. There are many symbolic expressions related to bread. For example, the word “dough” may symbolise origin (”I want to marry a woman kneaded of a good dough”). The yeast (starter), on the other hand, symbolises experience and skilfulness: “The blacksmith was leavened with quite a craftsmanship”. Unfortunately, dark bread was associated with low financial status and poverty: “I am tired of being dark bread” (meaning “I am tired of being poor and miserable). Interestingly, during the Medieval period, bread was used for making the so-called “bread plates”. This tradition faded away in the 15th century, when people started making plates from wood. Another important revolution happened in 1928: a machine was invented, which was not only able to cut the bread, but also to pack it, so that it does not dry out and so that it can stay fresh. In 1961, fermentation became mechanic, which significantly helped in reducing the leavening time. This was followed by many changes in the production of bread: new technologies were introduced and increasingly innovative and modern production equipment was invented. Bread started to gain its healthy image, for which you can find out more from our next articles.