The British Search for Real Bread
Britons search for real bread
When many British people think of bread, they think of white, sliced, soft, product in a plastic bag, which one buys in a supermarket. It is nothing like real bread, being tasteless and pappy. The British have preferred this inferior product to real for some considerable time. There are understandable circumstantial reasons why Brits stopped baking bread
Britain’s nineteenth century Industrial Revolution caused a huge population shift from the land to the rapidly expanding industrialized towns. Workers’ housing in these places was often terraced back-to-back housing built for the least money possible. These were small and crammed together houses. There was no room in tiny, ‘two up two down’, houses for bread ovens. Women worked long hours in factories and had no time to make bread. Traditional local bakeries could not cope with demand in fast-growing industrial towns. People ate much more bread then than nowadays, bread formed a huge part of poor people’s diets.
Industrial bread factories stepped into the breach, baking bread in enormous amounts to fill a need. Bread manufacturers looked for ways to make a product, which would stay fresher longer. Eventually, they discovered the product that most British people today call ‘bread’. A sliced white pappy product, wrapped in a plastic bag, found on supermarket shelves. Although it is called bread, it is nothing like real bread. It stays moistly soft for ages. Roll it between your hands and it turns into dough. Those doughty judges of baking excellence, The Women’s Institute, coming across a home-baked loaf in a village show would say this is evidence of a bad loaf. This manufactured ‘bread’ has no taste. Additives and preservatives ensure it stores well and remains fresh. Those without a chemistry degree will not understand the ingredient list on the label. Real bread contains flour, yeast, salt, sugar, water or milk, and perhaps a little butter.
The Return to Real Bread
British people ate this stuff for decades, but that may be changing. Brits are beginning to realize that real bread is tasty and an eating pleasure in its own right. British people are turning away from industrialized factory made food. They want to now more about the contents and origins of food. Many Brits now prefer to shop at Farmer’s markets for meat, cheese and other products. Inexorably, attention turned to bread.
Some people have returned to baking bread at home. Relearning skills discarded long ago and discovering the appetizing smell that a freshly baked loaf gives your home. Making bread by hand or in a bread machine is fast becoming a regular household job. People are realizing that when you bake real bread, you know exactly what it contains and that real bread tastes wonderful.
However, there are also other developments in bread making. Community bakeries are setting up in some areas. Residents can buy freshly made real bread directly from the baker. There are also bread clubs where subscribers pay a fixed sum monthly and the baker makes bread once or more times per week.
However, others are discovering the therapeutic benefits and joys of communal baking. The Freedom From Torture group bakes together as a way to help torture victims reconnect with themselves and talk about their experiences with other sufferers. There are many such therapeutic groups, helping people with learning disabilities, physical or mental health issues, providing a different activity in care homes and other therapeutic ways. Other bread making groups meet to fostering community cohesion, social interaction and access to real bread.
The Real Bread Campaign is the national UK organization championing community supported baking, but its aims are much wider. The campaign fights for better bread inBritain. The campaign’s web site holds much information for those wanting to know where they can buy real bread locally, bread-making
courses, community supported baking and how you can help bring real bread back to British communities.
Bread is a basic food, but it one with magic. It is in bread making, where many cooks realize that cooking is not only an art but also a science. However, the industrialized product on supermarket shelves labeled bread has little in common with real bread. Real bread contains simple recognizable ingredients flour, yeast, salt, sugar, water or milk and may be a little butter, which is why it tastes so wonderful. Real bread is better for human health and the planet and what’s more tastes much better than factory produced pseudo bread. British people’s renewed interest in bread making is a welcome change and brings benefits for both individuals and communities. The Real Bread Campaign is leading the search for real bread and Brits are responding. There is hope for real bread returning to its former place in British cookery and the British diet.