February 22, 2020
Home  »  Magazine  »  Books  » Native Tongue  »  »  Daily Bread

Daily Bread

Daily Bread
Before the Earl of Sandwich sat at the cribbage tables so intent on gambling that he couldn't leave it for a meal, someone somewhere put a bit of meat or cheese between two slices of bread and ate it. Yet the Earl bequeathed his good name, as we say, to grace this invention.

In Britain the word Polo would conjure up, after decades of brand-enforcing ads, a mint with a hole. It wouldn't bring to mind a strand, twist or pipe of pasta.

There are hundreds of varieties of the beast, from spaghetti to the tortuous tortellinnis and subfusc fusellinis, and none of them are known by the name of the man who, it is almost certain, brought the process of turning flour into these shapes and boiling them, the man who turned the noodle of China into the spaghettus of Italy, Marco Polo.

In the 13th century, on his way back from the court of Kublai Khan, Marco passed through India. Very little of what he took back with him is evident today in Venice or Genoa. Though no proof exists of his role in linking the daily bread of the Indus to that of the Mediterranean, one may presume that his interest in cuisine would have prompted him to memorise the simple recipe for chappati. In Italy this flat bread, now slightly swollen like a naan, and greased with olive oil, as is everything else in Italy, from children to chips, has retained the closely related name of ciabbatta. That can't be a coincidence; and if anyone tells me it's a proof of an ancient Indo-Aryan linguistic connection, then bas, from Hindustani and basta, from Italian, both invocations to desist, both meaning 'enough', must be the same.

Next Story >>
Google + Linkedin Whatsapp

The Latest Issue

Outlook Videos