PC 260 Bread

In my last postcard I highlighted toast, aided initially by a Tony Buzan mind map. Then I thought I was ahead of myself, as I should have started with ‘bread’!

Before we go any further can we define ‘bread’? It’s a staple food most commonly made from wheat flour and water and one of the oldest human-made foods. It can be made to rise with naturally occurring microbes as in Sourdough, with chemicals for example baking soda, with yeast or high-pressure aeration – all creating gas bubbles which fluff it up. Additives can be added (well, they would be, wouldn’t they, by definition additives are added?!!!) which improve shelf life, texture, colour, flavour, nutrition and ease of production.

If bread has been an absolute every day necessity of life for thousands of years, I wonder whether the Christian writers of the Lord’s Prayer: “……. give us this day our daily bread ……” were referring to the food or to their belief that Jesus was represented as bread in some metaphysical sense. Following this thread, in the Christian ritual of Communion the ‘body of Christ’ is represented by a piece of bread or wafer – so did Christ appropriate bread to be his own, as in essential for life?

Thinking of bread immediately brings Manna to my mind. According to the Christian bible it was ‘an edible substance that God provided for the Israelites during their 40 year wanderings in the desert. That figure ‘40’ keeps cropping up in the Christian story, for example Christ wandered in the wilderness for 40 days and nights, but forty years, like from 1980-2020 surviving on manna ….. beggars belief …….. wandering the desert ……. sand and more sand ….??

Away from religious beliefs, to earn one’s living became synonymous with earning one’s bread, or even crust! Therefore bread, or even its uncooked name dough, became slang for money and the person bringing in the wages the breadwinner.

Here in the UK, with its history of Victorian religious piety, the examples of great stirring hymns, today so loved by Football and Rugby spectators, are numerous. ‘Jerusalem’ comes to mind, but scribbling about bread it must be ‘Bread of heaven’ as it’s become known. Written in 1762 by Welsh hymn writer William Williams, ‘Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer’ became a favourite for funerals; translated into English in 1772, it was set to the tune Cwm Rhondda in 1905 (Note 1) I am not sure many singing in the terraces understand the phrase ‘bread of heaven’, probably thinking of a sandwich (?), but hey! ho! good to open your vocal cords and SING.

My mother would have been astounded at the variety of breads available today, from an essential wholemeal sliced bread (Waitrose £0.60 for 800g) through to Sourdough for £3.50 and San Francisco (SF) Sourdough for £3.90. Celina and I have come to prefer sourdough and particularly the SF version – both available in our local Gail’s bakery (£4.00). SF sourdough has a somewhat sour taste, brought about by a longer proving time than ordinary sourdough and the specific lactobacillus in its yeast. Sourdough generally is a great alternative to conventional bread as its lower phytate levels make it more nutritious and easier to digest. It also is less likely to spike your blood sugar levels. However if you buy the SF you have to pay for the holes that are more numerous than in the ordinary version!!

SF Sourdough on the left

I was lucky enough, many years ago, to have a birthday treat making various types of bread and buns at The Lighthouse Bakery Workshop south of Bodiam in East Sussex.

Going into the oven

Baking

It was a fun day; the results were distributed to our neighbours in Battersea! These days you can you own bread very easily by investing in a bread maker. In the morning the smell of freshly baked bread will fill the kitchen. Buying freshly-baked bread, still warm, is a treat; the difficulty is getting it home in one piece, resisting the temptation to stick your fingers into the centre and pulling out a ball of gorgeousness!

Two bread recipes here in Britain come to mind, Bread & Butter Pudding and Summer Pudding. The former uses stale bread, as in Pain Perdu, raisins, and an egg custard which are baked in the oven. The crispy edges to the slices are particularly unctuous!

The latter uses plain white bread which is layered around the side of a bowl; the centre is then filled with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc and some sugar and placed in a fridge overnight. It holds its shape when turned out:

Murphy’s Law (circa 1949) states that if anything can go wrong, it will. It’s best demonstrated by a slice of buttered bread, which will always fall onto the dirty (?) floor butter-side down.

Being of a certain age I can remember an American band called ‘Bread’. The first of many hits was in 1970; some of you may recall ‘Make it with You’, ‘Everything I Own’ and ‘If’, as in “If a picture paints a thousand words, why can’t I paint you …..”. They called themselves ‘Bread’ after getting stuck in traffic behind a Wonder Bread truck!!

And no postcard about bread would be complete without a mention of the French baguette. Defined in law, they have to be sold on the premises where they are made and can only contain four ingredients: wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. They can’t be frozen or contain any additives or preservatives. Personally the best thing to do with a baguette is slice it, coat the slices with garlic butter, wrap it in tin foil and put it in a hot oven for 20 minutes!

The Italian Ciabatta loaf is perfect for bruschetta – in its simplest form, lightly toast, rub with a little garlic, cover with sliced tomatoes and basil and drizzle with Olive Oil. Yum! If this Christmas you get offered some Bread Sauce to go with your slice of Turkey, you may not know that it’s made by infusing milk with an onion, some cloves, a Bay leaf, some black peppercorns and butter. The strained milk is then thickened with bread crumbs, commercial or homemade.

Must stop these scribbles to write a ‘bread & butter’ letter to Meryl, a dear friend, who took us to The Ivy last night.

Richard 10th December 2021

www.postcardscribbles.co.uk

PS There is of course a fruit about the size of a melon whose whitish pulp looks like new bread; unsurprisingly it’s called Breadfruit!

Note 1 “Guide me oh thou great redeemer, Pilgrim through this barren land; I am weak, but thou art mighty; hold me with thy powerful hand; bread of heaven, bread of heaven Feed me till I want no more, feed me till I want no more.

6 thoughts on “PC 260 Bread

  1. A fascinating read!!
    The photograph of loaves on a shelf, where is that, which bakery?
    The Welsh hymn is commonly sung at the Millenium Stadium, Cardiff, during the Six Nations tournament…….usually when sung it brings a Welsh victory!!

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    1. The Lighthouse Bakery opened in Northcote Road Battersea circa 2002 …… run by two lesbian lawyers who decided they wanted to make and sell bread. It was wonderful. After a few years they opened their workshop south of Bodiam – but one of them got cancer (not sure she is still with us?) and I think it’s closed . You could google it.

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  2. I have always skipped over SF sourdough, not knowing what it meant. Now I shall try it! Also I have always been slightly irritated by holes in bread. Now I shall generously accept them.

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