Comfort Foods: Why Bread is a Go-to in Winter


When bad weather rolls in and the threat of being snowed in looms, the French Toast Weather Alert kicks into operation. Although it’s a humorous site, it does remind me of one thing about bad weather – the products people buy most often when they could be snowed in are bread, milk, and toilet paper.

The toilet paper is a pretty obvious choice, and milk is a nutritious choice in most cases, too. It gives us a bountiful source of calcium, protein, fats, and is often fortified with vitamins A & D. But bread? Although it’s delicious, it doesn’t offer the same nutritional benefits as the other items that we tend to stock up on in emergencies. And yet, we keep buying it…

Let’s take a look at why.

Toilet Paper and Milk, Ok…But Why Bread?

I don’t know about you, but when the stress hits, I want carbs. Bread is a great one – and you can use it in a bunch of ways, serve with sweet and savory foods, and it keeps well for a week or more (especially the store bought kind). According to an article on the CNN website, carbohydrate cravings in cold weather may be related to stress and anxiety, seasonal depression, or simply evolution – fresh vegetables weren’t exactly plentiful in cold weather until very recently.

From a more pragmatic perspective, if we’re looking for cheap food sources we can use for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, bread is a smart choice. You can make French toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, make stuffing, panade, or panzanella for dinner, and top it off with a bread pudding dessert. Bread is one of the most versatile, inexpensive foods on the market.

According to an article in the Washington Post, “A report from Pittsburgh during ‘The Big Snow’ of 1950 said that milk ‘was the one shortage that has hit all sections,’ and that bread was being ‘doled out’ in some grocery stores, a Pittsburgh Magazine writer found last year.”

So buying bread during an emergency is nothing new. And that, in some ways, makes sense. When the Great Depression struck and thousands of Americans went hungry, we said the ‘bread basket’ of the US had become the ‘dust bowl.’ When someone provides food for their family, they’re ‘putting bread on the table,’ and we even call money ‘dough.’ In the US, bread is a symbol of survival, plenty, and food security.

I don’t know if any anthropologists out there are going to agree with me, but it seems to make sense that, no matter how nutritionally wise the choice might be, as a nation, we reach to bread during disaster because it makes us feel safe. Like Linus’s security blanket in Charlie Brown, bread is something most Americans reach for when the going gets tough. Which could explain why Americans eat an average of 53 pounds of it each year

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