Every Wednesday morning I seem to find myself blowing up my inflatable soapbox in order to moan about something. I work from home and after two days of intermittent surfing between work, I've usually found something to get my dander up. Who'd have thought breakfast could be so controversial?
This week it's been hard to pick, my dander has been so very upped by all sorts of things: the internet snooping Bill; the idiocy of having tax laws that allow corporations to avoid tax whilst at the same time telling them that they should be paying more tax; the fact that two female CofE vicars will soon be able to marry each other, only not in their own church. However, since the only way of shoehorning any of these into a blog about breakfast is, as I've just demonstrated, by way of a pre-amble, this week's accolade goes to this article on the rise of luxury bread from the BBC website. What kind of nutter pays £9 for a loaf of bread? There is a reason why bread has for centuries been a staple, and that is because it is, by its very nature, cheap and easy to prepare. The fact that most people can't be bothered to spend the time doing it themselves doesn't mean it's all that difficult.
I understand that a sourdough may be several days in the making, but if you're a professional baker, that's a rolling process, rather than one person taking three days to make a single loaf, so in overall baker-doing-stuff-to-dough time, the time taken is probably not that great.
Now, I like a loaf of fancypants rye as much as the next person, and I'm lucky enough to never have had to buy a 7p value loaf, but it makes me quite angry that a return to 'proper' (ie not Chorleywood-method white sliced) bread is being turned into some sort of luxury desireable, rather than just the way that bread for everyone should be made. I guess that we must look to ourselves as consumers, and our willingness to pay these prices for the sake of a nice-looking loaf wrapped in brown paper. If I asked these consumers to pay £9 for a bowl of rice in a
restaurant, they'd probably laugh in my face, and yet present them with a sourdough loaf and kerching! Yes madam thankyouverymuch, I'll take two. Late capitalism seems to be turning us all into complete idiots. And it's even more shameful when you consider how much of the bread we buy is wasted (I refer you to last week's Wednesday rant...), and how many people are going without.
I imagine that in countries like France and Italy, where local, decent, freshly-made bread is still available in even the tiniest village, and cheaply, they must look at Britain with some bemusement as we go about our bread-buying business. Of course supermarkets today offer a far superior range of breads at a reasonable price compared with 20 years ago, but I still hate that all the decent bread is in the 'Taste the Fabulousness' ranges, while the plebs are expected to make do with a loaf of something that resembles something, but what that something is is not really, you know, bread. I don't know the economics of the business, but if the French can do it, then why can't we?
I'd love to see more independent community-based bakeries. The Real Bread Campaign are encouraging this - have a look at this website which explains the details and has loads of information about inspirational people who are trying to bring proper bread back to the grassroots.