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The power of bread to bring us together

The power of bread as a tool to bring us together is well rooted in the word companionship - in ancient Latin cum pane which literally translates as “with bread”.  The trade routes, climate and terrain of Europe determine that cereal grains are the basis of every western loaf. These grains are indigestible in their un-milled state, hard to digest if unfermented or unrolled and unpalatable when raw. Many hands were therefore needed to produce bread: from the farmers’ to the millers’, to the brewers’ or the vintners’ - and the hands of the bakers working to supply the local community. A togetherness was inevitable in the making of bread from soil to slice.

But, does modern bread still hold the power to bring people together? A daily wait in a chatty boulangerie queue in a French market town feels like bread is still a central part of French traditions and rituals. Yet is it an idealised model challenged in France today as daily routines change? Since the middle of the twentieth-century, this feeling of boulangerie togetherness had all but disappeared in many countries. But there is compelling evidence that crafted bread is again a conduit for togetherness, as seen in the popularity of community bakeries, performing in social theatres of communal eating.