Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1273, (3 - 9 December 2015)
Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Issue 1273, (3 - 9 December 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Our daily bread

Where have all the leaders gone?  Almost 150 world leaders, plus Prince Charles, are hunkered down in fancy hotels in Paris, guarded by 10,000 security officers to ensure their safety, discussing ways  to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 2*C by 2020 or 2025 or 2050 and thus save the planet from dangerous climate change — or so they say.

The 21st UN world summit itself will cause emissions equivalent to 21,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, not including the special flights that will take the mighty leaders to their destination, the capital that is still mourning and reeling from the bombings and shootings of Friday, November 13, which destroyed 129 human lives.

Is this the issue of the most urgent priority facing the world today?  It is a noble cause and good luck to them!  The last time they met in Copenhagen in 2009, they all left in a huff and all came down to naught. Their many critics claim their goal is a highly unlikely and if accomplished: ”would bring about planetary cataclysm”.  Many believe, “this is a great party for the world’s climate nerds”.

What are the world’s most urgent needs? What it has always needed, before justice, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is food and shelter.

These were early man’s basic needs and they remain the basic needs of modern man.  ‘Shelter’ means safety, security, which early man needed from the wild animals that would kill and feed on him. So does modern man.  Food was necessary to sustain him, so he can live for another day — so does modern man.

Refugees from Syria and elsewhere are fleeing from the wolves which would destroy them, in search of safety and shelter. Some are scarcely clad in icy weather, others are barefooted and most are barely nourished.  They are turned back from country to country; still they keep running, hungry and afraid, while the wisest and most intelligent men are pow-wowing over the gas emissions of 2050.

It is not wrong to think of tomorrow and future generations, but what about today?  Half the world has little care for tomorrow: Defend them from the evils of today.  Give them this day, their daily bread.

Bread has sustained mankind for over 30,000 years — and still does!

In the misty, hazy past of the Neolithic Age, suddenly there appeared in widely separated geographical areas, the most highly successful ‘group of inventors and revolutionaries the world has ever known’.  They turned their grains, legumes and crops into bread.  They lay the ground work for all modern agricultural and animal industry, from which all subsequent civilisations have evolved.

“Half the world is hungry” said Nobel Laureate (1970), Norman E Borlaug, who revealed that “adequate food supply is taken for granted by most leaders despite the fact that more than half the population of the world is hungry.  Man seems to insist on ignoring the lessons available from history”, and that was before the terrorist era. Things are worse now — and Daesh is here.

During those obscure, dimly defined times a confused world is hungry for bread and peace.

“Bread is life”, carries much meaning for the world inhabitants, as it is a staple to the diet of most civilisations.  The French Revolution of 1789 was caused by bread shortages. No, the people wanted no cake, no brioche. They wanted bread.

“Bread on the table is always preferred to pie in the sky.”

Bread has assumed a cultural and religious significance.  It is part of the Catholic Church’s liturgy, used in the sacrament of the Eucharist, together with wine. Jesus fed multitudes with 2 loaves of bread.

 13th century Sufi poet Al-Rumi was inspired to write an entire series of poems to bread and how it mirrors life. In fact the Arabic name for bread is ‘aish’ or ‘aysh’, which means life.

Breaking bread is a sign of sharing and friendship. The Latin — ‘compani ’ translates into ‘com’= ‘together’ and ‘pani’= bread.

Wheat, of which most bread is made, is the quintessential, nutritional plant.  It has been cultivated and stored since pre-recorded times, therefore the role of bread is ingrained in our culture.   

It is believed bread originated in the Middle East, and is the main staple for its people, as well as an integral part of every meal in Europe, US, UK and most of the world.  Even China and other Asian rice- consuming nations also enjoy their own form of fried bread.    

Germans are the biggest consumers of bread, per capita. They have 3090 varieties listed in the German bread industry as well as a ‘Brotmuseum’, (bread museum) located in Ulm, devoted to the culture and history of bread.

What looks better than a basket filled with a variety of breads, ready to be devoured?  There is never a wrong time to eat bread.  It is enjoyed hot, cold fried, buttered, dipped in wine, soup, oils, milk, coffee, even water, and goes with pretty much everything.  Forget the weight- gain that low-carb diets claim.  Nations have been sustained by it, and they are even skinny.

Should the Paris congregation perhaps shift its mission to producing more wheat and providing bread and shelter for the hungry and destitute, which is half the world.  Will they survive until tomorrow?

Will they enjoy the low greenhouse gas emissions of 2020?No, neither will their children or grandchildren… for they will have none!  


“Without bread all is misery”

William Corbett (1763-1835)

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