Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse— and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
Omar Khayyam was not wrong, the best pleasures are the simple ones. My favourite simple pleasures, like his, include a loaf of good bread. However, I like a little cheese with it and perhaps some pickle, and beer will oft take the place of wine when I dine with my loved one.
I too am fond of verse — alas my dearest and nearest is less enthusiastic.
Bread is featuring large in my life right now and it seemed like a good idea to dedicate a blog to my pursuit of perfection in the home-baked loaf. Of course there are many bread-based blogs these days, so what is my particular USP and why should you bother to read me?
I include cheese!
That is, I plan to include some home-made cheese and some chutney. I may as well season it all with a little verse and the odd apt quotation.
So, how did we get here?
Although I learned to bake at my mother’s knee, bread was never a part of her culinary repertoire. I first learned to make bread around 45 years ago, in GCE O-level Domestic Science. As I recall, the Poppy Seed Plait was my speciality, though Cottage Loaves featured strongly – their particular wobbly charm was not lost on my sensibilities.
Back in those days, we used fresh yeast of course. Tinned dried yeast was available, after all it was not exactly the Dark Ages, but it had to be activated. Sponging was the initial process of bread-making whichever kind of yeast was deployed. Fresh yeast was easily had however and there was no reason to settle for anything less.
Bread-making was a recreational pastime. It stayed that way until the Bread Strike of 1978. I was living in Darlington, Co Durham. We had an excellent bakery a hundred yards or so from our door and I bought my supplies there because I disliked the supermarket pap. I can remember the name of the bakery – Britton’s – they had a slogan painted on the building “Britton’s bread builds better Britons.” Unfortunately, the shop’s popularity soared when the supermarket shelves emptied. I found myself at the tail end of a queue.
Now, I consider my time to be precious. I was certainly not going to queue for bread when I had the means to make my own. So, I turned about, trotted home, and rolled up my sleeves.
My efforts were so much appreciated by both partner and daughter (son being at that time proving in my tum) that I simply continued daily baking once the strike ended.
To be continued.