Could you actually make bread from bones?

I always imagined the giant making something like meatloaf out of the bones.

Perhaps there is an archaic definition for bread.

Could it simply mean food?

I’d interpret it as an idiomatic phrase. He’ll grind his bones to make his bread about the same way he’ll have his guts for garters.

The word history is interesting though. Is the story the right age to match up with bread being a generic term for food?


No. The OED has that sense “only in Old English,” i.e. well and truly dead by about 1100. Jack and the Beanstalk, if I recall, appears in print first about 600 years after that in chapbook form. Since it is a poem within a folktale, we can assume it predates the written text, but I doubt if it goes back to Old English.


I love this place.

Or make a pencil holder from his shin bone…

Hmm I guess even as a kid my brain worked differently.

I had always assumed he was going to use the bones to actually grind the flour for bread. I figured a skull and Femur would make a passable Mortar and pestle.

ALthough it might work as an antacid. Maybe the Giant had bad GERD, and had invented TUMS in cracker form.

I always read it as a allegory for the voracity of the giant. Not content to devour the meat and organs of Jack, he will even grind the bones into meal and bake them into bread to totally consume him! :eek:

What bovine spongiform encephalopathy organisms? I thought it was caused by a prion, no organisms needed.

Well, to be honest, being a giant means he have to had big, sturdy bones to keep all that weight while upright walking. So a lot of calcium supplements is a must for his nutrition.

You are correct. Lacking RNA or DNA, the prion is more correctly called an agent than an organism.

Damn it, I wrote this exact same post yesterday,
This has bothered me for a long time and I wonder if there isn’t a, now lost, version of the story where the line was “I’ll use his bones to grind (the flour for) my bread”.

The long bones of the human body seem like they could be pressed into service as pestles, particularly the heads of the humerus and the femur, and the skull a perfect mortar.

CMC +fnord!
and never bothered to hit the submit button, wolfman your not the only who’s brain works differently. :smack:

I’ve goot nothing to back it up, but judging from the etymology and British origins of the story, as well as medieval traditions, I think it most likely that the Giant’s bread of custom would have been similar to a Welsh Cake {a.ka. Bannock}. I can see a bannock made with millet flour, marrow, and long fatted and simmered bones, seems it might be possible. You can make a very soft and fine product of bone if you boil them in oil long enough.

The terror in this story was being eaten by a giant. People were more likely to be eaten by Giant things in those days. The Greeks did it long before JatB.

I think it is linguo-evolutionary information. Paleolithic-Angst in our genes.

Boil dem bones.

[KitH] ***In my best Hecubus voice: “Truly Disturbing.” [/KitH]

it really is…

Also, if they were making bone bannock in britain…it would more likely be from boned and rendered sheep or pigs.

I don’t know about that, it could go back to old English (unless someone has a cite saying no). Plus I could imagine a story that was created after the loss of that sense, but using a conscious archaism. Furthermore, even if it loss the “generic food” meaning, it might have retained a “generic baked item” type meaning.

While you cannot make bread from bones alone back in the old days when people still made their own bread, a tiny dash of bone meal was sometimes added for the calcium and phosphorus.

Shakespeare seems to have been under the impression that you could make pastry from them, and provides a helpful recipe:

Even now we have references like “Give us this day our daily bread,” which I, at least, have always taken to mean “meal” or “food” rather than bread specifically. It’s archaic, sure, but hardly out of use.