Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Mouldy old dough

I've been reading this article on the BBC website about a company which hopes to reduce food waste by producing bread that lasts for 60 days without going mouldy.

Now, I understand that food waste is a terrible thing, and we're certainly no saints when it comes to this. I'm ashamed to say that we throw too many unused vegetables onto the compost heap. But I can't help feeling that 60-day old bread isn't the answer. Bread is a living thing, and it seems to me that bread that's been zapped by microwaves so that it doesn't go mouldy is not in any way a living thing. There are some foods that survive the preserving process well - step forward dried fruit, smoked meat and fish, jam - but bread, our 'daily bread' is surely not one of them. Its very essence is its freshness, and for me, bread that has been lying around for two months is like fresh fish that's been lying around for two months. It's got no soul (note that I have avoided the very obvious fish pun there *serious face*).

Surely the answer lies in educating people about food waste, and in learning how to plan and shop properly to avoid over-shopping in the first place. If your bread is starting to look a bit stale, you could be whizzing it into breadcrumbs to freeze for the top of a macaroni cheese, or making it into a creamy, raisiny nutmeggy bread and butter pudding. On this subject, I can highly recommend Rose Prince's book The New English Kitchen. Alongside the recipes, she discusses the cost of all sorts of foods, if you use them properly; for example, how much a chicken costs per portion if you roast it, use the leftovers, make stock with the carcass etc. This is a skill which used to be passed down through the generations, but which many of us have have lost, and it seems to me that it's high time we found it again. That must be a better way to address the problem of food waste than producing blitzed bread that will sit quietly in your breadbin for two months.

When I started secondary school in <ahem> the 1970s - THE LATE 1970s MIND - the school I went to had just built a spanking new Domestic Science classroom - it was all big smoked glass windows and shiny new cookers, and each week we trooped down to make our rock cakes and eggs mornay (I did say it was the 70s, didn't I?). I wonder what that room is used for these days? I bet it isn't Domestic Science, but maybe it's time to think about bringing it back into schools. Perhaps with a rather snappier tag (any suggestions?). It would be such a great opportunity for all that cross-curricular thinking and practical application of principles that Them As Know About These Things are always blethering on about: good for health education, good for mathematics (all that weighing and measuring, and budgeting), good for science, good for geography (source of ingredients), good for literacy (reading and writing clear instructions). They could even tie it in with a school garden and start doing really amazing things like the wonderful people at The Edible Schoolyard.

What do you think? Is the time right to bring food education back to our classrooms?

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