Before catching their eyes, the smells of fresh-cut flowers and yeasty bread often greet shoppers entering grocery stores. The former speaks to the need for beauty to punctuate the mundane details of our lives. The latter provides reassurance that the trip made will yield the sustenance on which everyone depends.

In their absence, people recognize the critical roles beauty and sustenance play more than in their presence. Even if shoppers eventually spend time pondering selections of various canned goods, grocers rarely greet them with such offerings despite the availability of radically reduced prices.

With that reality in mind, Predrag Matvejević offers Our Daily Bread: A Meditation on the Cultural and Symbolic Significance of Bread throughout History. While the title echoes a phrase from the Lord’s Prayer, perhaps the most critical word in understanding what Matvejević has in mind is “meditation.” Writing about descendants of the Abrahamic faith traditions in...

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