Bread was always the “staff of life” in Europe, from the time of the ancient Romans and their “bread and circuses” to keep the masses happy (the modern equivalent is “fast food and television”). But we Americans, eating our daily potatoes, rice and pasta, may not realize how the “daily bread” of the Our Father prayer may have been all our ancestors had to eat for months at a time. The English language has plenty of traces of this, from the word lord which once meant the man who gave you bread, to the expression “breadwinner” to the old slang “bread” for money.
One of the causes of the French revolution was that a series of crises (one of them was France’s expensive support for the American revolution) had led to a rise in the price of bread, making it so expensive that people began to starve. The wheat harvest of 1788 was disastrous. On October 5, 1789, thousands of poor women marched from Paris to Versailles, crying out “Bread!” and chanting, “We will lack bread no more, we will bring back the baker, the baker’s wife, and the baker’s boy.”