Why Do The French Say “Have Bread on the Chopping Board!”

expression française liée à la cuisine : Pourquoi dit-on avoir du pain sur la planche

“Avoir du pain sur la planche” means to have a lot to do, a lot in our Plate, literally “to have a lot of bread on the chopping board”

I simply had to start this section with this expression because with all the things running in my mind that I would like to share with you, I’m far from being done! This expression means to have a lot of work to do, with tedious tasks, while this blog is a lot of work of course, it is also pure pleasure!

Surprisingly, it originally had the opposite meaning: To want for nothing. To have sufficient resources, manifested by ample reserves of bread for the coming winter. The evolution of the meaning of this expression has two very different potential explanations:

  • With the development and modernization of bakeries and recipes, the conservation of bread has shortened. From the 20° century, the expression started to mean to have a lot to do, the baker having lots of work to do with many loaves of bread on his breadboard to be baked.
  • The other possible origin is more surprising: The breadboard represented the court (with the image that the law is placed as highly as the breadboard is, fixed to the ceiling) and the bread given to the prisoners, who had been sent to prison or forced labor, provided by the State with the expression “eat the bread of the king.”

It is the combination of these two expressions that might have given the meaning “a lot of work to do”. Forced labor was not exactly a holiday!

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