A few weeks ago I – perhaps slightly acerbically – took a bit of a pop at the New Foodie Revolutionists. All beards, trust funds and yeastiness, they’ve got a long way to go when it comes to having a grip on reality and commercialism, sustainability and feeding the world. But they mean well, really they do, and they reap harmony from the baking of real bread.
Have you ever baked a loaf of bread? Of course you have. Scratch that. Have you ever baked a proper loaf of bread? A loaf that is made from nothing but flour, water and microbes and LOVE?
Real Bread amongst the foodists of San Francisco and London is pretty much the status quo, but for the rest of us, not so much. It used to be the norm, but no longer. It ought to be though, because properly made bread is an embodiment of everything that is meet and right, so to do. It is an outwardly simple yet intrinsically mind-boggling thing. Like bread, many of the finest and most brilliant things contain very little. Think cheese, wine, beer, salami and Wayne Rooney.
Bread, like booze and cheese is the most ancient and wondrous of comestibles. Bread is warm, it is sharing, it is family, and it transcends everything. There is no single culture on earth that doesn’t make, break, and share bread.
My mate Peter who’s The Man at Price’s in Ludlow gave me some of his ancient sourdough starter a little while ago. Sourdough is where it’s at when it comes to bread and you need Starter to start it. Food is subject to trends just like clothes. Take your Aztec-prints– so last year, like quasi-modish tiger bread and foccacia-with-stuff-in-it. Faintly daft now. Looks like fun, not much to it, and will never make the distance. The good sourdough loaf is the well-judged A-line skirt, a Loake’s boot, a Panama hat. It will go on and on.
Anyway, I’ve been playing around with Peter’s starter (a mad amalgam of natural yeasts, which feed from the atmosphere they live in) for yonks. It’s taken a lot of work, but I’ve finally nailed it and this week I a made a damned-near perfect loaf. The most satisfying (publishable) thing I’ve done in ages.
It’s fun to have a bash at this at home, but if you can’t be fagged and you live where I do then why bother? We have a plethora of brilliant bakers on our doorstep. Peter at Prices, Robert at Swifts, Anna at the Ludlow Food Centre, and many more. The phenomenal artisan bakers of Shropshire may not be in the trendy-set yet, but we’re bloody lucky to have them in our bucolic back yard.