Translated from La Repubblica Newspaper in Italy.
May 16th 2018 article by ENZO BIANCHI
“The history of humanity begins with bread”, said Pythagoras, because bread is a product of nature and culture. Bread is a precise, effective reality, but also a symbol, a system of concrete signs that makes it possible to establish practical wisdom. Bread is food that nourishes us and transmits us life, it is solid food that is imprints itself on our senses. Think of the scent of freshly baked bread that once in the early morning could be felt in the streets of the villages, passing by the baker: the perfume precedes the bread itself, reaches our sense of smell and from the morning conveys a feeling of life. But the view is also involved: the infinite forms of bread, due to local imagination and tradition, make the bread become a presence, impose itself and demand respect.
Past generations, who knew the hunger for bread and often did not dare to hope to eat if not bread, there was even a kind of veneration towards this extraordinary food that breaks with the crumbling of crumbs, a sign of its brevity and at the same time, I invite you to discern it also with your hearing. But the greatest epiphany of bread to our senses is when it is tasted, chewed, eaten and so becomes ourselves, because we assimilate what we eat. The bread accompanies the other foods – it is no coincidence that the company – from the beginning to the end of the meal, is usually appreciated by everyone, a very rich food from the dietary point of view.
If this is the substance of bread, its symbolism is no less rich. Bread is primarily “bread of need”, a sign that without food we can not live. This is why we say that “without bread we die”, we talk about work such as “earn the bread”, we evoke the “bread of tears” or we hope for a “bread of life”.
Bread is the daily food par excellence, it is “our bread” because we normally share it, at least in the family, in the community. It is no coincidence that Christians every day invoke “give us today our daily bread”, calling it “ours” because absolutely to be shared, food capable of creating and narrating a communion. The bread either is “ours”, shared or ceases to be bread and God himself can not be confessed as “our Father”. In fact, without this sharing, an ancient truth will be perpetuated that the current migrations confirm tragically: when bread does not go to the poor, it is the poor who go towards bread.
Never break the bread. – The Precepts of Pythagoras.
This can only be understood fully when we know that both the Greeks and Romans used to divide their bread into four parts by impressed lines into the dough before it went into the oven.
Many interpreters have found this saying of Pythagoras obscure, since obviously bread is made to be broken when eaten. Some have compared the bread to human life, presumably on the basis that bread is called the staff of life, and believe the saying cautions against tearing your life to pieces by pursuing conflicting purposes; others that it commands concord toward those with whom we have dealings.
Dacier has come close to the most likely meaning when he asserts that the saying signifies we should not be stinting in our displays of charity. – that is, we should give the whole loaf rather than breaking it up into parts. However, I do not think Pythagoras referred to charity so much as hospitality towards friends and guests.
It is the view that the meaning is “that when we share our house and table with others, we should give them the entire loaf, even if we go hungry as a result, because by dividing the loaf, neither we nor our guests will have enough, but by giving all to our guests we can at least insure that their needs are satisfied.
The Bread Recipe we have used at the Hermitage