The very basis of the diet, a symbol of life and an essence of our gastronomic culture, bread is becoming important again in 21st century society. After years in oblivion and dark legend, during which eating bred was a sin, nutritionists and gourmets have rediscovered it and sing its praises. The Romans had already written about it: wheat, olives and vines are signs of culture.

Who has not sighed with nostalgia on recalling the taste of wheat in the village-baked bread, satisfying, golden brown, covered in flour, with a thick crust and soft flaky crumbs?

A simple loaf el bread, a product which is nothing more than flour, water and salt, fermented, can improve a dish, and even enhance it to the category of myth, because some everyday fried eggs become quite exceptional when you dip a bit of bread into them, the yolk having a different taste according to the bread with which you make the "soldiers". There is a saying that goes, "Bread with bread, fools' food", but they are wrong, because when the bread is real, authentic bread, it is a meal in itself, a rare and much-sought after "luxury item" in this post-modem society.

The most distant ancestor of bread must have been a kind of pulp. During the Neolithic age, we do not know how or when, this mixture became a flat flour cake. The Egyptians added yeast to it -they knew about the fermentation process of beer- and they baked it for the first time; the poor ate bread and onion every day -the popular refrain "bread and onion with you comes from this- and in the court of the Pharaohs the custom was adopted of placing a piece of bread at the place of each diner. The Greeks, veritable gourmets of their time, had as many as sixty types of bread, some mixed with aniseed, honey, sesame...

The Romans were able to enjoy free bread when "Hispania" became the granary of the empire. During the Middle Ages only the monasteries had, the privilege of grinding flour to make white bread, while the people ate rough bread of a very low quality. In the places where wheat was scarce, such as those of northern Europe, bread has been made with rye, barley, corn, oats or other cereals. Despite its bad reputation, bread is less fattening than most people think: it has no cholesterol and is basic for ensuring a balanced diet, since it is found at the base of the nutritional pyramid of the Mediterranean peoples.

According to a study carried out by the WHO, those with diets rich in bread, rice and pasta, that is complex carbohydrates, nor only do not get fat, but are less likely to get diabetes, cardiovascular diseases or cancer. 50 grams of bread provide the body with just 130 calories and, contrary to what is commonly believed, the mass is not more fattening than the crust; neither does toasting it reduce the calories, but merely decreases the water content.

The increase and diversification of types of bread available in bakers, along with the appearance of a new bread culture are causing the tendency to be reversed and a slow recovery in bread eating is beginning. There are more and more restaurants that now make their own bread or those who order the bakeries to make it for them by traditional methods at the consumer's behest and with dozens of combinations of different cereals.

Today it is possible to find varieties from all over the world, from the Arab pitas to Mexican tortillas, as well as the Indian chapattis. For example, the Swedish knäcka are superb with smoked salmon; black bread is excellent with some cheeses and toasties exquisite with Iberian cured meats, although for a good "pa amb tomaca" (bread with tomato, a Catalan speciality) a country loaf is essential, and for dipping into a fried egg there is nothing better than a crusty end of a loaf.

Some years ago the alliance between dietetics and bodybuilding popularised breads rich in fibre; among them the most common is the wholemeal loaf which is made with wholemeal flour, rich in nutrients because it contains the germ and the bran of the wheat.

Real wholemeal bread is not that easy to find and is replaced by bread made with ordinary flour to which malt and bran are added to imitate the colour and texture of the authentic bread. Seed breads (oats, soy, barley, corn...) have become popular and share the limelight in the bakeries alongside the very thin Vienna rolls, bread sticks and large round loaves.

Rye Bread
Round Loaf of Wheat Bread
Round Loaf of Rye Bread
Round Loaf of Corn Bread
Loaf of Wheat Bread
Multi-cereal Wholemeal Loaf