Few elements of our daily diets have the power to nourish and connect community like bread. From artisan to sliced, its warm scents and wholesome attributes just say ... togetherness. And, with November being celebrated the globe over as National Bread Month, it's no wonder bread has become more of a culturally iconic item on our tables than simply food fundamental. Bread has evolved considerably over time, but in its purest terms, it remains the same in one key aspect – its ability to attract community. After all, to "break bread" is to bring people together.

When it comes down to it, American culture has always contributed significantly to bread's larger than life appeal. For instance, in 1928 the first commercial bread-slicing machine was produced, creating not only an increase in bread consumption, but additional family time spent together over a meal. Originally tag lined "the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped", the bread machine quickly changed its beloved tagline to "the greatest thing since sliced bread," known today as one of our most common figures of speech.

Bread Month promises to be celebrated in homes and community gathering spots everywhere. Entering into a bakery cafe, Panera Bread's passion for bread is evident at first blush – for in its name itself, Panera translates literally into time of bread.  "We hope we've done our part to reinvent the once popular coffee and conversation among friends," shares Jeff Rains, President of Breads of the World, a Panera Bread franchisee. "Great bread makes for great sandwiches and great meals. Who doesn't want to share that?"

Share some bread with someone in your community this month. You'll be glad you did. To get you started, try this favorite recipe from the Panera Baker's files. And, to learn more about the history and culture behind bread or for ways to celebrate National Bread Month, visit PaneraBread.com.


Featured Recipe

Hearty Cheese Soup in Sourdough Bread Bowls

A thick, creamy soup loaded with chopped vegetables is the perfect thing to ladle into freshly baked Sourdough bread bowls from Panera Bread

5 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 medium carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

1/2 cup cooked ham or bacon, chopped

1/2 cup all -purpose flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

4 cups chicken broth

4 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground mustard

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

6 Panera Sourdough bread bowls

In a large, heavy stockpot, melt butter or margarine. Add chopped vegetables and ham or bacon and cook over medium heat until vegetables are slightly tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cornstarch. Cook, stirring constantly, about three minutes. Add broth and continue stirring until slightly thickened. Add milk and spices. Add cheese gradually, stirring until cheese is melted. To avoid curdling, do not allow soup to boil after cheese is added. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve piping hot in hollowed Sourdough bread bowls. Makes 6 servings

SOURCE: Panera Bread