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Bread has a significance beyond mere nutrition in many cultures in the West and Near and Middle East because of its history and contemporary importance. Bread is also significant in Christianity as one of the elements (alongside wine) of the Eucharist; see sacramental bread. The word companion comes from Latin com- "with" + panis "bread".
The political significance of bread is considerable. In 19th century Britain, the inflated price of bread due to the Corn Laws caused major political and social divisions, and was central to debates over free trade versus protectionism. The Assize of Bread and Ale in the 13th century demonstrated the importance of bread in medieval times by setting heavy punishments for short-changing bakers, and bread appeared in the Magna Carta a half-century earlier.
Like other foods, choosing the "right" kind of bread is used as a social signal, to let others know, for example, that the person buying expensive bread is financially secure, or the person buying whatever type of bread that the current fashions deem most healthful is a health-conscious consumer.
... bread has become an article of food of the first necessity; and properly so, for it constitutes of itself a complete life-sustainer, the gluten, starch, and sugar, which it contains, represents azotised and hydro-carbonated nutrients, and combining the sustaining powers of the animal and vegetable kingdoms in one product. Mrs Beeton (1861)
As a simple, cheap, and adaptable type of food, bread is often used as a synecdoche for food in general in some languages and dialects, such as Greek and Punjabi. There are many variations on the basic recipe of bread worldwide, such as bagels, baguettes, biscuits, bocadillo, brioche, chapatis, lavash, naan, pitas, pizza, pretzels, puris, tortillas, and many others. There are various types of traditional "cheese breads" in many countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Italy, and Russia.
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