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Bread with Meals

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I was just reviewing the last year in anticipation of the Birthday Resolution and thought about something that happened at Christmas this past year.

I had made Christmas dinner at my mother-in-laws: roasted capon, green beans with garlic, scalloped potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes. As we were getting everything on the table, Liz couldn't believe I wasn't putting bread on the table. I thought I was covered with two starches but she insisted that there had to be bread on the table. Her mother always had bread on the table with every meal.

Growing up about the only times I remember bread on the table at meal time was if it was toast to soak up the egg yolk or under your stewed tomatoes or MAYBE as garlic bread with red sauce and spaghetti. Our rule was protein, at least one if not two veg and one starch.

What was your experience?

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.


Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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We never had bread on the table unless it was part of a sandwich.

My father, who was born in 1912, told a cute story, though. This must've happened when he was 4 years old, and his parents -- who were nothing if not progressive about food -- took him to lunch in NYC's Chinatown, where he insisted on having bread with his strange-to-him Chinese meal. One of the waiters went out to a nearby grocery store, bought a loaf of bread, and brought it back to the restaurant! :shock:


"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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We got away from it when my immigrant parents started on the lower fat, less starches bandwagon, but my grandfather could not accept a meal without bread on the table, even if it was not so great store bought sandwich bread. It was as if it were not a real meal without the bread.

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Always, growing up.

Always, with pasta, which when you think about it is a double carb whammy, but there you go.

Fondest memories of going to the bakery with my Dad on Sunday mornings for hard rolls, which he would take home and toast for us. The first half was always buttered with garlic powder. The second half was buttered with cinnamon sugar.

Now, I eliminate it if I have another carb or white vegetable. Other than that, always, but to match the dish...tortillas, naan, etc.

“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”
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White bread and butter were staples of the dinner table until Mom and Gran joined Weight Watchers. That was the end of butter on veggies and Sunday roasts with gravy and mashed potatoes. My husband's family always has Italian bread with a meal, pasta or not but - no butter.


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Only Friday nights (challah.) Never with other meals except maybe Sunday brunch, but that's because the bread was an integral, if not the main, part of the meal (read: bagels, onion rolls, bialeys, etc.), but bread was never on the table otherwise.

Re Judaism: you can say a full grace without wine, even without salt. Bread is the only necessity, and that would include just eating a sandwich. Often bread will be eaten at a meal, even just a deliberate bite, in order to be able to say the full grace. And the opposite is also true: people will avoid bread if they don't feel like saying the full grace (it's kinda long.)

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thanks jackl10 and cakewalk for your insights. i remember from growing up when we were invited to sabbath dinner with our neighbors, the Nathans, Mrs. Nathan saying a blessing over the bread.

Liz's mom was from germany, her dad from Denmark. mine were from (present day) Croatia and many, many years before from England.

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.


Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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Now that I think about it, we rarely had extra bread at meals unless there was company, in which case we almost always did. :huh: That said, I'm off to make pasta and garlic bread :laugh:


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Every once in awhile we'd have a loaf of Italian with a pasta meal or some dinner rolls, but not often. However, quite often my father would ask, "Is there bread?" He didn't want it, though. It was a running joke - apparently early in their marriage, my mother left bread "to heat" in the oven and forgot it until it started smoking. So now he ALWAYS asks. She hasn't thumped him yet, though. :)

Joanna G. Hurley

"Civilization means food and literature all round." -Aldous Huxley

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Gotta have rolls for my folks at holiday dinners and other special meals, no matter what else is in the mix. We didnt have bread with normal meals. English background. Food = Bread.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Gotta have rolls for my folks at holiday dinners and other special meals, no matter what else is in the mix.

It's the same with my family. Every holiday my mom has to heat up some rolls. No one really eats them except for my mom and my niece who eats them because she's a picky eater and rolls are one of the things she will eat. :hmmm: We'll have the warm loaf of garlic bread with italian meals and also with steaks.

I don't carry on the tradition with my meals. I don't need the starch. :wink:


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Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”


Tim Oliver

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Always bread or rolls with holiday meals and "special" meals (like birthdays, company, etc.). Often at other times, especially if it made sense (with pasta, stews, etc. to scoop up the extra sauce) and even sometimes when it didn't (both my folks spent some time living in France, and my dad went to grad school in Switzerland (Geneva), so baguettes in particular were a frequent fixture on our dinner table).

I rarely serve it now, unless it really makes sense (e.g. a charcuterie or cheese plate or a brothy stew), with the grand exception of holiday meals when I always make homemade rolls (one of the few times during the year I make bread--wish I did it more often though).

Edited by Anna Friedman Herlihy (log)
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Growing up in England, we never had bread with dinner. Dinner was generally the midday meal by the way. My Mother wouldn't allow us to drink much during a meal either! Maybe a swallow of water but that was it. My own kids always drank during a meal except when she was visiting....."It'll spoil their dinner" I can still hear her say.

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My parents only served bread if it was a pasta meal (spaghetti or lasagna). Holidays did always see the appearance of rolls and half the time the color would have to be adjusted since my Mom would forget about them.

Oddly enough, when breakfast was a cooked affair, instead of cold cereal, bread was always a part.

My grandparents always served bread with meals. Cornbread, biscuits or rolls, depending on what was served. As a last resort, the bagged loaf of sliced bread would be pulled out and a saucer of slices placed on the table.

Unless we have company, we never have bread at home with meals. (BBQ shrimp we make an exception for :raz: )

Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you and be silent. Epicetus

Amanda Newton

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Growing up there was always plain white bread and butter on the dinner table. It was almost never touched - particularly the butter. The bread did get used as a base to put leftover gravy on.

Settiing the table was my job for many years and three things had to be on the table regardless of what was being served. The afforementioned bread and butter, and my parents insisted on each having a glass of ice water at their places. The fact that they rarely ever actually took a drink didn't change the requirement. My dad drank his coffee and my mother drank her tea with meals so it wasn't like they were in danger of going thirsty.

Good rolls on the table for holiday meals now - you bet - and with butter.

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook


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My mother only serves bread when it's something where bread is integral (sloppy joes, chili dogs, burgers), when she's serving beans as an entree, or when she's serving spaghetti or lasagna.

My maternal grandmother only served bread with Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. However plain steamed rice was present at every meal... even spaghetti. Mom says that my grandfather always insisted on the rice (they're Japanese)

My paternal grandmother had rolls on the table when we'd come over for dinner. She almost never served rice or pasta... always potato and bread as the starches. Typical Sunday dinner type of fare... entrees like ham, roast meat or fried chicken, mashed potatoes or potatoes au gratin, 2 veggies, rolls, olives, pickles.

My mother-in-law always has bread for the holiday dinners, often made from scratch. Not so often for the more causal family dinners. edited to add- the in-laws are also Japanese-American, but are less "rice centered" at meals than my grandparents are.

I serve bread with some meals... when I'm serving soup or a bean dish as an entree, for instance. Where I run into trouble is that when I buy a nice loaf of bread to go with dinner, 60% of the time the kids have devoured it before dinner is on the table.

Edited by MomOfLittleFoodies (log)


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Not every meal, but certain types of meals:

- spaghetti, chili, and other dishes where bread was used to sop up sauces

- dinners involving roasts. For some reason, roast meats required rolls.

- meals that were sandwiches, either open faced or closed

- cooked breakfasts (toast)

Toast and sandwiches were Wonder Bread - all other breads were Italian or French bread or rolls or crescent rolls.

Except when my grandfather was eating with us, there was a special plate with a stack of white bread for him. No matter what we were eating, it wasn't a meal to him without plain bread and butter accompanying it.

I don't tend to serve bread with meals unless I'm making sandwiches (and then it's the only starch). It's that whole reduced carb thing.


Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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We never had the stack of what my grandmother (and father) called, "that ol' cotton bread" (Wonder bread and its gummy, soft cousins) on our table. Or even in our house, for that matter.

But that said, we did eat a lot of bread.

As others have said, my mother and grandmother served whatever sort of bread they thought went well with the meal: crusty French or Italian bread with steaks and stews and roasts and pastas and tomato-sauced mains; cornbread or biscuits with pork chops, greens, ham, fried chicken or other southern-style dishes; German brown bread or rye with German meals like rouladen, spiced red cabbage, wurst and sauerkraut; cinnamon rolls, muffins, or whole wheat or 7-grain toast for breakfasts; tortillas with Mexican; always homemade yeast rolls at holidays.

In our house, the bread varied, and was always a considered and deliberate part of the menu. I still remember the first time I ever saw somebody just plop down a plate of sliced white 'cotton' bread on the table. I was a kid, visiting a neighbor. I thought it was odd, because the only time I had ever seen that kind of bread was in my friends' lunchboxes at school. So I watched the plate very carefully, expecting some sort of cold cut or pb&j to arrive. Which, of course, it never did.

In retrospect, when I hear others' experiences, I think I must have been really lucky, gastronomically speaking, to have grown up in our household. My grandmother was a legendary southern cook and for a time, when she was a young widow with three small children, even owned a family-style restaurant. My father spent much of his childhood in that kitchen, which turned him into a pretty good cook. As an adult, he traveled the world for his job, which turned him into a knowledgeable and adventuresome gourmet.

I do still often incorporate a particular type of bread into my menus, but I'd say it's only about 25 percent of the time. Mostly because hot breads with butter (not to mention hot biscuits or cornbread with butter and honey, and brown breads with cream cheese) are just too tempting.

However, like others, always rolls at holidays.

But I don't make them like my mama and grandmama did. I just unfurl a few Crescent rolls. I think they're darn tasty.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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For my parents, and I think it was more my father's doing than my mother's, there were no meals without bread on the table. Sometimes bakery rye or pumpernickel or challah, sometimes Pepperidge Farm white, but always, always bread at every meal.

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It varied somewhat in my mom's kitchen--she would frequently heat dinner rolls or make angel biscuits with a meal, but usually if there was another heavy starch like potatoes she'd forgo it. Toast was mandatory when she made breakfast foods for us.

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We never had bread with dinner. (Lunch/sandwiches, yes. Rye bread or pumpernickel.) Sometimes had biscuits & gravy or cornbread for the starch when appropriate. My father set the rules in our house. He was old enough to be my grandfather, so we are talkiing turn of the 19th->20th century Missouri Dutch/German/Scots sensibilities here.

I was surprised, on meeting my wife's family, to find that they always served warm rolls as a part of every holiday meal; I'd never encountered that custom before. That somehow was part of an East Coast Irish Catholic tradition. Or perhaps it was simply part of 1950s-1960s American custom & the marketing genius of Pillsbury.

Edited by ghostrider (log)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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