By Loubna Flah
By Loubna Flah
Morocco World News
Casablanca, September 3, 2012
Since ancient times, bread has gained a considerable value in the life of people, their hardships and their aspirations. The word bread could effortlessly transcend the denotative level of lexical nomenclature to become a metaphor rather than a mere type of staple food.
Bread has become the symbol of survival for the less privileged segments of society. This precious nutrient mirrors the clash between social classes who have different order of concerns when it comes to food security. Thus, the value attributed to bread and the amount of efforts aggregated to acquire it on a regular basis can be a reliable marker of social status.
In those stratified social systems marked by a discrepancy in wealth distribution, the less privileged ones would devote larger part of their potential to the satisfaction of physiological needs including food. The strife to afford food remains a top priority that overshadows the need for self actualization.
The importance of “bread” as a concept and not as a commodity is further bolstered in the midst of social disparities between individuals as far as their income and their purchase power are concerned. Thus, bread sums up all those essential commodities that the poor often fail to afford.
Bread has also an extended relation with poverty, given the fact that food security is often associated with poor countries. In fact, underdeveloped countries are often more vulnerable to food shortage than any other nation.
There are many metaphors that convey the implications of bread as a concept. The expression “to earn one’s bread” does not refer simply to the action of exchanging money for bread. “Earning bread” refers to the process of labor and hard work usually rewarded with a salary. The amount of money earned empowers individuals to ensure survival and to lead a decent life.
Metaphors are one of the most ingenious ways of using language. Through the use of connotative metaphors, speakers convey all the subtle similarities they perceive between two distinct entities or beings.
This said the expression “to win the bread” is the best example of the exertion needed to achieve food security. The “breadwinner” refers to the person whose earning is the primary source of income for a number of relatives under his or her responsibility. It all suggests that the process of earning bread is not often a comfortable endeavor. Bread would be won in a race or a competition that evokes the likelihood of victory as well as defeat.
In addition to its economic value, bread also has a social dimension deeply intertwined with its omnipresence in everyday meals. The expression “break the bread” in English does not refer to the physical and mechanistic action we perform every day. Break the bread is a metaphor that conveys the idea of social bounding. The action of breaking a piece of bread and handing it to a friend or an acquaintance is susceptible to create new social ties and consolidate preexisting ones.
In the Arab world in particular, sharing food has deeper implications. It is a cordial act that enhances intimacy and strengthens the relation at hand. It is also a pledge for respect and good intentions towards one another.
As the manifold dimensions of bread are still unfolding, it is noteworthy to invoke a more uplifting level related to this precious commodity that is bread. Rumi, the Muslim Sufi philosopher and poet has coated this familiar commodity with a brand new aura of mysticism and even spirituality.
In his poem “on making bread,” Rumi draws the parallel between the passion displayed in the process of bread making and the zeal of love and desire:
“You remember bread making!
This is how your desire
tangles with a desired one.”
Only by the means of literature can humans unveil the copious shades of meanings related to familiar things. All credit goes to the Russian Formalists who pinpointed at the technique of defamiliarization that forces readers in the most gracious way to discern patterns of unfamiliarity in the most customary things.
Linking bread to politics would not be an exaggeration. No one can deny the cause and effect relation between the 2009 bread crisis in Egypt and the social unrest that sparked few months later the first flames of the Egyptian revolution. The demand for bread is equated to the demand of democracy and liberty. In getting their rights and fulfilling their duties, citizens experience the full fledged meaning of freedom.
It is amazing how many stories can a warm piece of freshly made bread tell: The story of the factory worker who strives to make ends meet, the story of a long and solid friendship between mates and lovers or even the story of a proud nation that has the power and the will to change the course of history.
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