On sunday 19/10 my friend Loes and I will be teaching a food workshop for children again. We were asked by the Belgian food festival 'Krachtvoer' to come and teach a workshop like the one we did for Food Revolution Day back in may. The theme is 'scarcity and abundance' and we will be showing the kids how you can create some mean flatbreads using up all kinds of leftover fruit, veg, meat and cheese from your fridge. I will be showing them how they can make cheese and Loes will take care of the flatbread dough part.
The power of an image.
I posted a picture on Instagram and Facebook of two loaves of bread I baked on wednesday. I was proud of them, they were beautiful, they were utterly perfect to me.
I had scored the bread this time with little hesitation and fear it would ruin my loaf, and while it was baking in the oven, I watched trough the oven window in true British Bake Off style how my score cracked open and baked into my most proud bake in my life.
Slightly embarrassed by my pride and joy I mentioned that to you the bread might seem plain, but to me they were special. The answer came in the form of that image becoming the most ever likes picture on my facebook and my instagram feed. You loved it too.
So much that you emailed me for the recipe, to go home and bake these loaves yourself, to see it rise, and bake and fill the house with the smell only bread is capable to induce...
Bread has been a staple since the beginning of time, it evolved from a flat, dense gritty loaf to the small bun sized wheat loaves of the Saxon monks. Wheat and bread was so valuable that often food rents consisted partly of loaves or grain. Wheat and barley would be planted together so if one harvest failed, the barley which was a hardier grain would survive and save the people from the starvation that was luring behind every tree and every sheaf of corn. But harvest failed plenty of times and so bread was made from dried peas and beans. This must have been an very heavy and unpleasant bread but it would provide plenty of nutrition during shortages. Windmills and communal bread ovens can be found in the Domesday book but as they were owned by the manor or monastery, they were not free to use. A portion of the grain or bread dough had to be payed for the use of the mill and oven, therefore the peasants continued to mill the grain themselves using a hand quern that must have taken many long hours of hard labour to end up with a small portion of flour.
People must have suffered from acute toothache with the amount of grit in the bread. Even the upper classes preferred to soak their bread in their all important sauce and have their meat so succulent that it fell of the bone. Chewing would have been difficult if you would have lost most your teeth in your early adulthood.
Bread remains a staple food in the centuries following the Norman conquest and the Middle Ages, but recipes for breadmaking remain unknown from that period except for a mention of the process of bread making in a poem.
Although today bread still remains the most popular base of our diet, it has also become a source of worry with gluten and wheat intolerances becoming nearly as frequent as famine was in ancient times. Although bread has been a staple food for centuries, in the early years it was labour intensive to mill the grain by hand so bread would not have been the thing to fill up the bellies of the poor. They would have had a modest piece of bread, with their pottage, or a piece of cheese but not as plenty as we often have it today.
Wheat has also been modified to an extent that it is easier to harvest, but the quality is less. The need to have everything fast and plenty changed the way we create bread, with added chemicals to make is rise in a fraction of the time if would actually need to break down the enzymes in the grain which make it harder to digest. There is talk of a modern day 'bread belly' with people suffering from the effects from fast factory made bread which has little resemblance to the real bread of our ancestors. In my opinion the modern everlasting, spongy bread, sometimes dyed with malts or molasses to make it appear as a wholewheat loaf while it is not, is a new kind of poverty, the poverty of quality of the most basic of foods. Our daily bread.