PROTECTION AND PRESERVATION
Man has always had his hands full trying to protect bread. When rodents, mould and the like tried to “get a piece of the pie”, ingenuity was required.
Bread does not only have friends. Pests, mice, rats and also mould attacked the bread of our forefathers, stealing and destroying that which ensured survival. The effort to protect bread from loss and destruction, therefore, has neither cultural nor geographical borders.
At first, bread was still a dry product, so mould was not a problem. It had to be protected primarily against predators, like rodents. In Biblical Palestine, bread was baked as a ring, or with a hole in the middle, so that it could be threaded onto a stick and hung up. The mouse had no chance, and the bread rod had a special meaning. It was the proverbial stick that was broken over someone when famine and punishment were to follow.
Also rodent-proof, bread baskets were a good place to store bread when it was thin and dry. Thick bread with a soft crumb dried out too quickly, so baskets were replaced by breadboxes made of wood, metal, ceramic or enamel. These containers protected the bread and kept it fresh. Bread pots made of clay or earthenware also offered the advantage of an optimal moisture content and prevented mould growth.
Basically, the darker the bread, the longer it stays fresh. Wheat bread only lasts a short time, so, in the Mediterranean for example, it is baked several times a day. Still, every culture has its own recipes for using up stale bread, from “poor knights” (French toast) to dumplings. It is, after all, a widespread taboo to throw bread away.