FLORENCE, Italy – We use it for our sandwiches. We use it for our toast. We sometimes even use it as a bowl for other foods. It is often a huge part of childhood, adorned with peanut butter and jelly, or perhaps ham and cheese.
Whether you like it or not, bread is a large part of American food culture. As with most things involving an abundance of carbs, Americans have a love and affinity for bread that we are completely unwilling to give up. That’s why I’m sure that many Americans who have traveled to the Tuscan region of Italy are surprised by the very different taste in the bread here.
Traditional Tuscan bread does not have salt. It is strange to eat salt-less bread the first time. It still tastes like bread, but there is just something that tastes undeniably wrong after 21 years of regular old salt-filled bread.
I’ve heard two theories about the basic ingredients of Tuscan bread. First, salt was taxed highly in the Middle Ages, so the bakers started making bread without it. The second theory, learned in a class on Florence, is that Florence used to buy their salt from Pisa, but when the two entered a war, Pisa stopped providing the salt. So again, the bakers had to go without.
Either way, the salt-less composition leaves Tuscan bread very bland with pale crusts. This could be seen as an advantage, however, as the bread is usually served with the main course and is used to sop up excess sauces. Thus, the bread does not overpower the usually spectacular flavors of the main dish itself.