Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Traveller's Bread.

Today I leave for England, and well overdue I am too, for a grown-up holiday – especially after the brief but traumatic disappearance of this entire blog (all 1566 posts of it) from the internet yesterday. I am still not sure exactly what happened, save that the domain name was temporarily re-assigned, but am most relieved that it is fixed. Blogger-willing, the next few days’ posts will come to you more or less on time thanks to its post-ahead facility.

The getting of food - good food, that is - while one is on the road or in the air is often frustrating, is it not? The idea got me thinking about what travellers did about this problem in the past. There are quite a lot of references to ‘traveller’s bread’ in the literature, and I wondered what this could mean.

Often of course, ‘bread’ in this context has its old meaning of any staple food, so we find it referring to something like pemmican, as in this extract from A Concise history of the introduction of Protestantism into Mississippi and the Soutwest, by the Rev. John Griffing Jones (1866)

“Their families and neighbors hastily collected and prepared such supplies as they would need on their long and perilous journey through the various tribes of Indians inhabiting the vast region between the Natchez country and Georgia. Travelers' bread was made by a union of corn meal and bear's oil, and other articles were added in the way of food such as they could carry.”

Often also, for obvious reasons, ‘traveller’s bread’ meant hardtack or sea-biscuit. Also for pretty obvious reasons, in the deserts of the Middle East, ‘bread’ might mean dates, as in a stanza from a poem by Ferdinand Freiligrath in The Christian's monthly magazine and universal review (1846), it

I lay awake—my saddle for a pillow neath my head,
And a wallet of dry dates, the desert-traveller's bread;
My caftan well spread out, o'er my feet and o'er my breast,
And near me, firelock, sword, and spear, to guard our nightly rest.

I did, thankfully, find an actual recipe for the topic of the day. It is from What to eat, and how to cook it: with rules for preserving, canning and drying fruits and vegetables, by John Cowan (1870) – the source of the wedding cake recipe from last week.

Travelers' Bread.
Take wheat meal and currants—or figs, dates, or raisins may be used by chopping them; stir quite stiffly with the coldest water—as briskly as possible so as to incorporate air with it; then knead in all the wheat meal you can. Cut in cakes or rolls one-half inch thick, and bake in a quick oven.

Quotation for the Day.
A trip is what you take when you can't take any more of what you've been taking.
Adeline Ainsworth.


Anonymous said...

Glad you're back! I was seriously bummed about your disappearance!

Thanks for your blog...I look forward to it every day.

msi, Michigan

Anonymous said...

Welcome back!!! So glad it was a temporary problem, now fixed. :)


SharleneT said...

Have a very safe trip and enjoy. Blogger's been acting crazy of late and lots of folks blogs have 'disappeared' and it's scary. Even leaving comments has been a problem.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks everyone - it was briefly very scary. I do have all the stories saved n a Word document, but I didnt relish the idea of having to start a new blog, perhaps with a different name, and cut and paste them all!

Anonymous said...

I happened across this blog by accident. However, I was looking for previous references to "travelers bread" online and found that substantive references to such things as "Zweiback" (twice baked bread)and even "Biscotti"(pl) which means the sme thing but in Italian, have gone by the wayside. Other names for "twice baked" exist in other languages. The "twice baking" acted as a preservative in European homes but especially for travelers who did not have the luxury of the Autobahns or air travel. The use of "twice baked" breads goes back centuries yet somehow those references have been displaced by cutesy references with little history. Even Wikipedia (not a trusted reference) used to have some reference to the longer history but no longer. One would like to think that people would want to have a ready reference on how people survived lengthy travels without roadside McDonald's.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Anonymous. I must apologise for the late reply - Christmas and holidays and life seem to have gotten in the way! Thankyou for your comments, and I agree - much 'history' is 'mythory'