The Path of the Bread

The food act has always played an essential role, by its (physiological) implications in everyday life and spiritual value, by the symbols, social rules and behavioral norms it contained. The nutritional act, in the collective imagination, represents man’s desire to detach himself from the profane world and come into contact with the Divinity and the ancestors. At the basis of these ceremonial practices there are the ancient beliefs regarding the sacred provenance of nourishment, food, gods and gifts of divinity. Having a physiological and a cultural dimension, the food act is impregnated with connotations and meanings whose understanding has led to the knowledge and understanding of traditional thinking.
The bread, lying between the sacred and the profane, food which was from a culinary point of view transformed (by the use of fire) and from a cultural point of view by strictly obeyed rituals, represents a symbol with multiple meanings in the village world.
By the symbols the bread had, it fulfilled a function of communication, of messages transmission within the community, of calendar customs or of the family life cycle. The symbol of life, bread and wheat were religiously consecrated, being met at all feasts and events in human life.
Besides the nutritional value, the bread was a ritual object, it was a gift, a sacrifice meant to communicate with the protective Gods. Used in separation rituals, the bread (round braid) was also intended for communication with the ancestors, it represented the mediation between the world here and the world beyond.
With its beneficial symbolism of joy, fruitfulness and purity, the bread accumulated a positive energy that man attempted to obtain. The wheat’s path up to its transformation into flour, then into bread, involved a great human effort. For his success, in the traditional mentality, belief was demonstrated attracting the goodwill of the forces capable of helping to complete the efforts of one year of work.
The preparation of bread and the traditional agricultural works, included, in addition to ordinary work, gestures and ritual formulations designed to ensure the end result. All the work around the procurement of bread was marked by such rules, norms and prohibitions, from cultivating the land up to its consumption.
The practices related to the cultivation and harvesting of wheat and its transformation into bread, preserved and transmitted from generation to generation, offered a zonal specificity and assured the membership in a cultural fund. The experience accumulated has been expressed in a certain knowledge and understanding that in order to obtain a good harvest, it is necessary to meet conditions on soil quality, fertilization, crop rotation, climate, and also the necessary agricultural knowledge.
The exhibition presents 3 stages of the bread path with its sub-activities – working of the land (plowing – sowing, harvesting-mowing, threshing-winding), milling at the mill, kneading and baking in the oven.
The cycle of agricultural works, evolving in close association with the succession of the seasons, organized the rural life by establishing its own rhythm. The cultivation of the wheat, which emerged in the Neolithic along with the agriculture and the transition to sedentary life, can be associated with the repetitive struggle of the peasant with the nature through efforts to appease the protective forces, transposed into habits meant to ensure the completion of work and harvesting.
The natural supply has imposed within the area, a subsistence farming not a performance one, because of the less fertile alluvial soil characteristics of the Mureş upper basin, with silvestric characteristics, arid and inappropriate for a performing agriculture.
Until the beginning of the XX century, agriculture was more characterized by continuity rather than by evolution, the upgrading of methods and working tools having a slow evolution. There are displayed the tools used by the peasants to work in agriculture, in the cultivation of the land, tools that have improved over time – plows, harrows, hoes, weeders, rakes, sweeps, rakes, forks and devices used to grind and store the seeds.
The labor stages began with the work of the earth, plowing and grapple harvesting, the hand sowing, the harvest with steel rags, and the stitch with the sword, the trench with the shackle and the winding with winding shovels. To obtain the flour the wheat was milled at the mill. The last step in getting the bread was kneading the dough and baking in the oven.
The main responsibility of the woman’s sphere of activity, namely the preparation of the bread as well as the organization of the diet required a rigorous behavior imposed by the necessity of obtaining a state of purity – change of the shirt, washing, covering of the head.
By shaping the dough in different forms and motifs, the bread represented a form of expression of the folk art. Depending on their destination, the dough preparations (bread, braid, koliva) were used as daily food or as festive food (at holidays over the year, at important events in family life).
The kneading of the dough also had a sacred component, making the bread a preparatory threshold for the feast. It began with straining the flour and this was done according to some strict rules: the water was required to be taken from the spring, unused, the usage of natural ferments and salt dosing, positive properties, meant to give life to the bread and to increase its magic powers.
A series of beliefs were related also to the burning preparation of the kiln and the taking out of bread, which were meant to increase the efficiency of the bread process.
A ritual technique consisted in performing some procedures: sprinkling the kiln with holy water, firing the fire with the Armidian bough, uttering magical formulas, were some of the techniques meant to contribute to the success of the final process of bread making.
Besides bread, there were also prepared some special dough which were never-failing from the ceremonial props of wedding or funeral customs – braid, small braided bread, etc.