Collector: “So tell me about this food-related hair on your chest belief?”
Informant: “So my grandfather would always tell me stories about certain foods and why I should eat them. One, in particular, was the crusts on my bread. I never particularly cared for them, but he insisted that I eat all of them so that I could grow up big and strong. My grandpa would always tell ‘Eat your crusts, it will put hair on your chest!’. When I got a little older, I asked him about this and he told me that he had learned this from his grandfather when he was little, or my great-great-grandfather. He believed that eating bread crusts was a way to grow strong and manly, so he insisted that I eat all of them every time I was at my grandparents’ house.”
The informant learned this tradition from his grandfather and is something he grew up believing until he was in his twenties. His grandparents were born in France and immigrated to Montreal Canada when they were kids. They later moved to the United States in Vermont near the Canadian border. The informant explained that this was a widely held belief among all of his extended family on his mother’s side of his family and the main memory of tradition among his grandparents.
This one is unique. In the present day, it does not make much sense for someone to think that eating crusts of bread would make someone grow hair on their chest. However, I feel like this may have roots in an older time of society. As a passive bearer of this lore, it makes me think about a time when masculinity was at the forefront of our society, and therefore being more masculine was something that everyone sought. So, from a behavioral perspective, it makes sense that lore from long ago would be used to influence a child to do certain things so that they could achieve the ‘positive’ outcome of being more masculine. As it relates to the bread crusts in this folklore, I feel like maybe it has roots in a time when food was scarcer and it was a way for families to not waste food by ensuring that their children ate all of their meals.