Documentary about the rise of the popular loaf in Britain. After the holy grail of affordable white bread was achieved, dietary experts began to trumpet the virtues of brown.
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Since humans first discovered fire and wondered what to have for dinner,
we have found ground grains into flour and made some kind of bread.
Historically, brown bread was as easy on the teeth as a brick.
Wholemeal bread was always quite dense and heavy...
..and sometimes quite unpalatable.
We're talking something really pretty palpable.
You get hit over the head with a loaf of bread and you will probably fall to the ground.
So we wanted something softer to eat and lighter on the stomach...
But white bread was so expensive to make,
it was the preserve of the super-rich.
It was the lord of the manor who would be the one who had the beautiful white bread,
and the whiter it was, the more prestigious and powerful he was.
This appetite for white bread would shape the whole evolution of our daily bread,
a story with as many twists and turns as a plaited loaf, a chronicle of aspiration...
Only once is this bread touched by hand.
..and plain, old-fashioned snobbery.
To know the colour of one's bread was to know one's place in life.
CHURCH BELLS CHIME
Britain's love affair with white bread stems from our geography and climate...
a case of grain meets rain. Hah!
Bearing in mind, of course,
we're an island so we're not an ideal place to grow wheat.
We can grow rye, barley, oats, but wheat doesn't really grow
in an island which is damp and covered in mist for much of the year.
We were dealing with an indigenous wheat
which was not necessarily a great bread corn.
Particularly it wasn't a very good bread corn
when the summer had been wet,
it was harvested in stormy weather, it had started sprouting, often,
and the protein was shot, really shot.
From indifferent wheat, millers produced a rough wholemeal flour
which wasn't good for bread-making because it didn't rise well.
So you shove some yeast up some dough, you knead away,
and you say, "Whoopee, here's a loaf,"
and it wasn't. It was a brick.
It was indeed a paving slab.
That was because brown bread was also weighed down with bits of
corn stalk, grit and bran, the rough outer casing of the grain.
So what was just extraordinary, was then when somebody discovered that you could sieve out
some of these really coarse pieces and take away part of the bran, and I think, when you tried that product,
it was really delicious, you know, by comparison
to what you'd been filing your teeth down on before that.
White bread is refined, it's nice, it's light, the crust may be less thick.
You've got very, very bad teeth.
OK, you're 45, you've only got four teeth left, what do you want, right?
So there is a very practical reason why white bread is preferable.
However, for hundreds of years, the time-consuming sieving process
pushed the cost of white bread beyond the reach of most people.
But fast-forward to the Industrial Revolution
where this story really begins, and a solution of sorts had been found.
Urban bakers needed to earn a crust, make some dough, and the way to do this
was by selling bread people actually wanted to eat.
But those catering to the growing working classes could only afford the cheapest brown flour,
so a bit of creativity was brought to the process,
a bit of, um, jiggery-pokery.
A baker had to eke a living
and satisfy a public that was increasingly interested
in convenience and light colour in bread.
By the mid-19th century, they'd cracked the way of, shall we say, adulterating the flour
so that it came up white enough and also light enough,
so that they could make a reasonable sort of dirty white loaf.
The only way that they could make a bit of money was by adulterating it,
and it was taken for granted that it would be adulterated with chalk
and alum and bone meal, and all sorts of things would go in it.
But the main adulterant that was used in this period was alum, aluminium sulphate,
which had the effect of both strengthening the gluten in the flour slightly
so you could get a better volume of bread, but also it had a whitening effect.
Alum was, to a 19th-century baker, really a helping hand,
and actually reconstituted the protein which was shot to hell by our weather
and our other low-protein wheat varieties,
and gave it a chance for a lift from the yeast.
Aluminium sulphate is still used today, although not in bread.
God! Aluminium sulphate.
"Keep locked up and out of reach of children.
"If swallowed, seek medical advice immediately and show this container or label.
"For removing debris from pool water."
And we now know that it may have been responsible for exacerbating
rickets, which was a disease of vitamin deficiency,
which itself was exacerbated by lack of sunlight
in heavily-polluted urban conditions
and people living in windowless tenements, so all these things
are linked together in a cycle of nutritional and social degradation.
It may have been a health risk,
but alum gave us the first popular white loaf.
Luckily, in the 1870s,
two things rendered the bakers' use of alum redundant.
The first came from the prairies of America and Canada,
whose dry, constant climates were so different from ours.
During the late 19th century, the colonies were great producers of cereals and so we were
importing huge volumes of very high quality wheats from these countries,
and in Canada of course, they grew really strong wheat.
By strong, they referred to it as a flour
that was made from wheat which used a high-protein grain,
and that meant that you could make really high-volume breads.
This strong wheat enabled a better rise so bread wasn't so slab-like,
but whiteness was also crucial, and that came with the replacement of our milling methods.
Traditionally, we had ground all our wheat in watermills and windmills.
These were picturesque but slow.
If there was a dry summer or it wasn't windy...
..there'd be a power cut, and the huge millstones could be tricky.
If the stones touch, you get these sparks, and of course, with sparks you get fire,
and flour is explosive and the mills would burn down,
so it was a regular feature for mills to disappear overnight.
Something more efficient was needed, and in the 1870s,
along came a revolutionary Swiss system called roller milling.
The big technical breakthrough in the second half of the 19th century is
the introduction of roller milling which came to us from
and they discovered that, if you put your wheat,
your grain, through a roller
rather than between stones, you could extract all the bits and pieces from the wheat
much, much faster and also actually rather more usefully
from the point of view of the baker.
They were able to crack open the grains more scientifically
and that allowed the separation of the bran and the flour to be much more carefully achieved.
Roller milling came in in a big way because you could do in an hour
what you could do in several days in a water or wind mill,
so you could produce cheaper flour.
Roller milling gave the whole population the chance to eat
light, white, safe bread
and, from the 1880s onwards, the overwhelming majority of Britons would choose white over brown.
I have to say, I love white bread.
The big difference between brown bread and white bread
actually, in my view, is that white bread is nicer.
It was a win-win situation.
The public and the bakers were happy
and the mill-owners took the bran and wheatgerm that had been sieved out
and began a lucrative sideline in animal feed.
But then a miller named Richard Smith
decided the wheatgerm could be more profitably used to create a premium product for the affluent classes.
Cookery For The Middle Classes...
how to make Hovis bread.
Three and a half pounds Hovis flour...
..one ounce fresh yeast,
nearly one quart water.
Temperature 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
No salt needed. Mix it lightly until it is just cool enough to bear the yeast solution,
which add, and beat the mixture to a smooth batter.
This Richard Smith had a gut feeling there was something healthy about wheatgerm, and there was.
With a grain of wheat, it encapsulates everything the plant needs to grow,
and at the bottom of that,
when the plant actually germinates, is this fantastic food source, the wheatgerm.
So all the food and nutrition that that seed needs to germinate
is housed in the berry.
In wholemeal flour, there's about 2.5% wheatgerm,
but in Hovis, there's six or seven times that amount.
In modern marketing terms, Smith's patent pre-mix was an exciting new concept on the British bread scene.
He launched his new wheatgerm bread on a health ticket.
Well, he must have been quite a clever man
to have seen the virtues of using wheatgerm in this way, and I think,
by 1900, there were a million Hovis loaves a week being sold.
The middle classes embraced Hovis.
It appealed to their love of novelty and their concerns about health,
and it was ever so slightly exclusive.
They were always a little bit more expensive,
and of course, when you're a little bit more expensive,
the image that comes over is that it's got to be better, doesn't it?
But it was such a nice flavour because of the wheatgerm,
that it was a very clever idea.
He was promoting a loaf that was a bit more refined,
that was dainty enough and had a softer crust that you could serve with any meal,
saying, "If you value your health and you value your family,
"you must value your bread."
Well, he packaged it, didn't he?
He made it look healthy. He called it Hovis which is
hominis vis, you know, force of man.
And of course he was also quite clever in the way in which he was able to
franchise out the process so that it wasn't
just Hovis mills making Hovis bread.
This was, very cleverly by him,
made into a multi-billion dollar business.
Roller milling made a wider variety of choice possible
but, for the general population, choice came once more at a price.
With a complete absence of bran in bread, constipation became a national curse.
There's the other aspect of bread which is the mechanical one -
the effect of bread on our bowels.
It was recognised early on that brown bread made you have a crap.
No doubt about it, it promoted regularity.
But the real brown bread of the bad old days was universally despised,
so new loaves were launched that looked and sounded healthy...
but were still soft and easy to eat.
There was Bermaline and there was VitBe
which were two similar ones, which was good marketing, I think.
Bermaline got a terrific reputation.
I think people wanted a bread that looked wholemeal but they didn't necessarily want to eat
the whole of the grain, so they would have a bread that was kind of coloured brown
and they could sort of make it look as though they were healthier than they actually were.
It's like people who eat muesli but it's actually muesli that's 90% sugar, you know.
Yet a health-food movement was growing,
and at its forefront was Dr Thomas Allinson
who criticised the excessive processing of our staple food.
The famous Dr Allinson I think is quoted as having said that,
as you remove all this lovely germ and all the nutrients
that come in the wheatgerm and the bran, which is the roughage,
you end up with a product which isn't nutritionally so beneficial.
And he stood up and, on many occasions, preached the benefits of eating wholemeal bread.
Well, Dr Allinson of course,
who was one of the original people who pushed very much the roughage
hypothesis, makes a very strong link between exercise and the consumption
of roughage related to the way in which our bodily functions work.
Allinson believed in exercise, fresh air and the idea that food
was medicine, and that what you ate should always do you good.
That's probably his biggest claim to fame -
a doctor who actually bothers about what we eat.
There's still far too few of them around.
But he actually had the courage of his convictions, put his money where his mouth was, and he said,
"Look, we need to increase the supply of wholegrain flour, so I will
"put my money into some mills which will actually provide it."
In 1892, Allinson set up as a miller.
He bought old-fashioned mills and ground wheat by stone,
the traditional way, keeping all the bran and germ in the flour.
This way of milling had become so uncommon that wholemeal
was now more expensive to make than white.
Which means that
wholemeal becomes, historically, a very minority taste.
In 1900, only 5% of the population eat wholemeal bread.
It's that insignificant.
Interestingly enough, it's mostly the wealthier people who are buying
these products because they are the ones with the disposable income.
They're the ones who can now afford
to make the switch from white bread to wholemeal.
With so much going on in the world of bread,
the bakers were kept hard at it.
But if the public had seen the conditions in which bread was often made,
they would sooner have baked their own, or gone without it.
People really had no idea how to keep pests at bay.
Mice, you know, will thrive on wheat. They love wheat.
And with flour, there's something called the Mediterranean flour moth
which absolutely loves it, and that is its natural home.
Yes, there's weevils in the flour, there's beetles behind the oven,
there's mice in the loft,
there's rats coming in from outside.
Yes, pretty grim!
And I've seen all of these things!
Oh, dear, oh, dear. Yeah.
And what of the poor bakers? They were working all hours, slaves to a food that took all night to make.
"The journeyman baker's existence is that of a dog.
"He scarcely knows what it is to enjoy a night's repose.
"His sleep is a pitch in the heated bake-house,
"his bed is a board upon which the bread is made.
"When he rises from his hard couch, his sweat and tears are literally
"mingling with the ingredients of which the staff of life is manufactured
"and which the public are compelled to eat."
Bakers in France used to be called groaners because of
the ghastly noises they made while they were kneading the dough.
It was so arduous a task.
You were making a sack of flour at a time, which is more than a hundredweight, in a trough.
It was a long process and it was very, very hard work,
and the amount of sweat that was put into dough
when it was being hand-kneaded like this
was really quite measurable,
because of course they lived and worked in the most appalling conditions.
Well, that gives you a bit of an idea. Nine times out of ten,
the poor bloke, one bloke, he was the baker and he did everything.
He delivered it as well.
You could imagine his day was...
sleeping like a cat, wasn't it?
It was, do this bit and then have a kip, do this bit and then have a little break, do this...
Roll on the 20th century, when science and technology began to offer a helping hand.
Mixers were a big improvement because, up till then, bakers
used to have to make the dough by hand in a trough.
It was back-breaking work, so one of the earliest mixers had a sort of human-arm type of
mechanism where the bowl would turn but the blade would go up and down,
just as if it was a baker's arm.
Ovens were being developed, large-scale ovens were being
developed, so you could produce different kinds of breads.
The way that the Viennese liked their sort of hard-crust, shiny breads...
you could have that kind of an oven. And so it did revolutionise
the whole operation, from being a kind of family-run affair -
two or three people mixing and kneading and heating up a bread oven
and producing a few dozen loaves every day...
to hundreds and hundreds of loaves being produced in one bakery
by far fewer people than you would normally need.
You also have the widespread availability of baker's compressed yeast,
and that is engineered or selected for greater vigour
so your bread rises more quickly, and that means that the quality of bread
generally is improving, and this is reflected in the sort of skill levels
and the competitions that were run to try and encourage people to produce
better bread and to measure themselves against each other.
These improvements gave bakers more time to enjoy their craft.
The 1930s saw the rise of competition baking...
a "flour" show, you might say!
We'll just cut this and see what it's like inside, and I'll
talk you through what you would look for in an exhibition-type loaf.
You'd go like that and feel the crumb.
You'd...smell the flavouring.
You'd look at the thickness of the crust.
It can be mastered. It is an art, but you're always trying to get that perfect loaf.
I think it's just this demonstration of skill
and, at the same time, because it's about bread, because it's about baking, it's not just skill.
It's about passion as well.
These Miss Lovely Loaf competitions concentrated on cosmetics
but there was still concern with what was inside.
Of course, public health in the 1930s was a disaster.
There was enormous disease, nutritional disease and dietary disease, dietary-related disease,
just general failure to thrive among whole sections of the population.
In an effort to divert kids from the paths of whiteousness,
some heavy-handed propaganda was aimed at them.
# But brown bread is the thing for you
# It's better far than white
# For you'll grow big
# And you'll grow strong
# If you eat what we all do. #
But no-one took much notice of the elephant in the room,
and it took the Germans to break our white-bread habit.
When war broke out, Britain was blockaded, causing havoc to essential imports of foreign grain.
The Government acted immediately to ensure we didn't go without bread.
In the Second World War, there were shortages of grain because
the U-boats were sinking large tonnages of grain coming in from abroad.
We were heavily dependent on imported food in 1939.
We were only 30% self-sufficient, so there was a crash programme to grow more grain.
Parks and fields were planted up, permanent pasture and all the rest,
to grow wheat to make the national bread supply.
But just as we've mechanised the cavalry, so we've had to mechanise
farming, and most of this war-time ploughing is done by tractor.
Tractors of all sorts, driven by all sorts of people.
Tractors in parks and in pastures.
Tractors scattered all over the countryside.
How they barked and stuttered through September, October and November,
doing in three months what it took three years to do during the last war.
The long years of importing wheat had put a lot of British farmers out of business, and farms lay derelict.
These were now drafted into production.
After 20 years, the earth gets another chance to produce food instead of brambles.
Suddenly, bread had become once more the staff of life
and every grain of wheat, home-grown or imported, was precious.
To minimise bread consumption,
the authorities launched a campaign against waste.
when food is short, you oughtn't to treat your bread as unimportant.
And to maximise nutrition, they invented a utility bread
aimed at using as much of the grain as possible.
It just didn't make sense, if a convoy of ships
had fought their way past U-boats and all the rest of it
to get wheat to Britain and then you refined it
and threw away 30% of the weight. It was just madness.
You know, Britain needed all the food it could get.
With most of the bran and wheatgerm included,
this was almost wholemeal, sold under a patriotic name.
The Ministry of Food introduced the national loaf, and what that was was a compromise.
It was the much-loved white loaf but with enough of the bran and germ left in
to bring it up to 85% of the full 100% wholemeal,
so that became the only loaf of bread that
bakers were allowed to make during the war.
There was no white bread in the country at all.
Another Ministry of Food measure was to ban bakers from selling
bread on the day it was baked, so all war-time bread was a bit stale.
This is an attempt... This loaf here is an attempt to reproduce
something similar to what the national loaf would have looked like,
and of course this bread is,
as all bread had to be in the Second World War, one day old
before we can use it, because the Government wanted to stop people
from over-consuming fresh bread
and they know that, if you have bread that's a day old, it's slightly less melt-in-the-mouth,
slightly less "Yummy-yummy, let's have another slice."
It's interesting that people
who remember the Second World War,
they talk about the national loaf with a degree of resignation
and with disgust, as though it was something imposed on them.
You couldn't get the white bread that perhaps you wanted.
It was a dirty-looking loaf of bread.
Yeah, we didn't have the utility mark on it like you did on clothes, but I mean, that was it.
It was reckoned to be satisfactory and everybody complained.
It's got a wheaty quality, as you would expect,
from the little particles of bran and germ in there. It's all mixed in together.
Mmm, lovely smell.
But of course, the interesting thing about this national loaf was that
it was one of the things that contributed towards the astonishing success of war-time nutrition.
This was a whole nation that had to eat semi-wholemeal bread every day, and lots of it,
and the level of health and well-being at the end of World War II
was higher than it's ever been before or since.
And that says something about how powerful good diet can be.
But having to be healthy was very boring.
When white bread came back on the shelves again in the 1950s,
we fell on it like a long-lost chum, especially the pre-sliced stuff.
It was sliced and it was wrapped and it was convenient.
I'm sure that's the main reason for it, and I can remember my mother,
we'd go to the shop and probably buy two fresh baked loaves
because we were going to eat them today and maybe tomorrow, but we
knew that the wrapped and sliced would keep for two or three days.
And a whole generation of kids had never seen or tasted anything like it.
I remember the treat of going down the road to my friend David,
whose mother was very modern and only fed him with white sliced with Golden Syrup,
both of which were frowned upon in my household most of the time.
We actually ate wholemeal bread.
I didn't get that much white bread as a kid.
In fact, it was quite a luxury to have it occasionally.
We'd visit relatives and I'd wolf the stuff down with excitement.
The 1950s saw a seismic shift in the world of baking.
The technology that helped independent craft bakers before the war
now began to replace them.
Massive new plant bakeries were being built, capable
of producing loaves on a scale unimaginable to the small operator.
Where I kind of had a small machine that was making, mixing 14 pounds of flour,
we've all of a sudden got a machine that's mixing 280 pounds of flour,
and mixing it a lot quicker
because of the different process that goes on in plant bakeries.
Only once is this bread touched by hand, in the twisting
which gives the bread an even texture and avoids crumbling.
The mass production of bread saw many craft bakers go to the wall.
Their shops now became outlets for the new national brands, all owned by wealthy milling firms.
By flooding the market with more efficiently produced stuff,
they could actually take the market out from underneath the smaller bakeries, and so they were
either bought up and closed down or simply wiped out by the competition,
and it was pretty ruthless, pretty systematic.
All the high street bakeries that succumbed ended up as outlets for two or three
large bakeries, factory bakeries with milling firms behind them.
From the heart, speaking to you now, it probably ruined our industry
in a way, but then the population couldn't sustain...
or the local bakers couldn't sustain supplying the local population.
There weren't enough bakers so you had to get into factory production, I guess.
Factories had introduced the mass production of our daily loaf,
and now science was going to alter the bread itself.
The British Baking Industries Research Association had
laboratories at Chorleywood in Hertfordshire.
In the late '50s,
they began research into the science behind the process of bread-making.
The organisation that was based at Chorleywood was set up to help the whole of the baking industry...
bread bakers, cake bakers,
biscuit makers of all sizes and all shapes,
and the intention was to carry out
fundamental research work which would equip the industry
to meet the demands and challenges of the future.
And from that, they come to a fundamental understanding
of the value of putting energy into the mixing process,
a fixed amount of energy in a defined time.
In a nutshell,
they discovered that, if you increased the levels of yeast,
whipped the dough really fast and added various baking aids,
you could reduce the bread-making process
from three hours to one hour.
You'd get rid of hours of fermentation and ripening,
and this is really by industrial action...
you know, tiddly-pom, round and round and round, hit it,
work it, deal with it...
and it's speed, and we destroyed time.
The big miller bakers saw the potential of this innovative process
and installed the required machinery in all their factories.
Production and profits rose accordingly.
And a big argument began about the relative importance of time to the
bread-making process, a big argument that continues to this very day.
I don't think you can make bread in an hour.
I don't think that process
is going to achieve the ripening effect that also has nutritional
benefits, and then you plonk it in a tin
and stick it in an oven where it rises as it's going in the oven.
The yeast's still fermenting like crazy
and that process completely
bypasses everything in the interests of saving time.
# Like a bird in the sky
# She flies like a bird
# And I wish that she was mine... #
Chorleywood bread had a lighter texture than people were used to,
and this was promoted as a positive, and the public loved it.
The mass of humanity has no taste.
This is very important to remember.
They like food that has as little taste as possible.
Inevitably, there are different views about what
is the right bread quality, and whether it's a prejudice
or whether it's really simply this personal relationship
that people have with bread is difficult to say.
Inevitably, if you've grown up with a certain style of bread,
you tend to look at other styles as not being the right quality.
# I'm a happy knocker-upper and I'm popular besides
# Cos I wake 'em with a cuppa
# And tasty Mothers Pride... #
Pop culture was used to sell the new-style bread to the crusties.
Each brand was keen to demonstrate how reliably
soft and fresh their product was.
So they sold us the idea of the squeeze test.
Fantastic Mothers Pride!
Well, we've all been conditioned.
We've all been conditioned by our parents and successive generations
of people on the basis that fresh bread always has a soft crumb,
and so what people do is to give it the squeeze test.
And it's amazing how many people you see squeezing bread,
and I think us as bakers do it as well,
but it is kind of a freshness measurer.
I think people
like soft bread, but I think they feel that soft bread is fresh bread.
But like an ageing starlet, the freshness was artificially induced.
The Chorleywood breads were bolstered with fats and additives
that prevented the loaf from going stale.
Now, that is two fingers to biology in a big way.
You know, nature decomposes things unless we stop it from doing so.
It's all complete fantasy land...
the idea that a loaf of bread could last for a week without changing,
or a month or three months.
The ever-fresh factory loaf had become the grey squirrel
of the bread world, driving out the old favourites.
Morning. Morning, Mrs Hatton.
Hello, Mr James. Hello, Charlie.
-They don't make bread like they used to, do they?
-No, they don't.
-Look at it! No crust!
You don't want a crust. You're crusty enough!
Ha! D'you hear what he said? Oh, he's a lad, isn't he?
Crusty loaf! Who the hell cares about a crusty loaf? I don't know.
Mind you, it's a funny thing. I wonder why you never see a crusty loaf nowadays.
-Must be the atom bomb...
-They steam it.
-They steam it.
-It's the steam ovens that do it.
Stop the bread from having a crust.
They're not allowed to sell a loaf of bread unless it weighs a pound.
Now, the only way they can do that is to bake it in a steam oven,
cos if they put it in a dry one,
it loses moisture and it comes out at less than a pound.
And why is the cream always on top of the milk?
I don't know nothing about milk.
Even as the scientists took more control of our food,
a band of rebels were plotting to steal it back again.
The whole food movement was on the rise
and the health HQ was Cranks in London.
Here, the party faithful ate wholemeal breads and sourdoughs,
a bread so pure
it's risen by natural yeasts which take a day to ferment.
But we were...
hardcore because that's what you had to be in order
to differentiate yourself from the amorphous mass of industrial food.
This was a time when people said, "By the turn of the century,
"we'll all just take a pill for breakfast and a pill for lunch."
The food technologists were taking over at the time.
I think the whole Cranks thing was that people wanted to go back to
what was considered to be
old-fashioned, traditional bread,
the complete opposite
of the Wonder loaf.
We went back a little bit and people were almost demanding
that more dense... squat type of wholemeal loaf.
Beginning in London with a radical elite,
the Cranks' message spread across the UK via strategic outposts.
Well, we know people who came to the restaurant maybe two years ago that
have left London because of the fumes or one thing or another
have opened restaurants in Bristol,
there's one at the University of Sussex,
there's one opening in Folkestone,
there's one in Canterbury,
there's one in Cambridge.
There are people opening shops in other areas.
The young Craig Sams was an entrepreneur
in the style of Dr Allinson.
He opened Ceres, Britain's first organic artisan bakery.
We opened Ceres bakery in Portobello Road in 1972 and started by making
wholemeal, wholemeal rye and wholemeal sourdough,
and that was our core offering of bread.
You needed to spend a bit more money.
When a loaf of bread was 12p, ours was 14p.
It was that sort of differential, but people didn't care.
It was the best bread in Britain and I would venture to say in Europe.
We really were making very good bread.
But in the '70s, a claim like this
meant investigation by the authorities.
We thought, for everyone's sake, we'd do a little
probing into bread, or rather, we got Mr George Ort to do it for us.
He's a master baker
and he says he has a very wide taste in bread, starting with...
-Mother's Pride, 14p.
-"It was quite nice when it came out of the oven,"
said Mr Ort, "but put the wrapper on and the moisture begins to seep out from the crumb to the crust.
"It could also have been baked longer, but then they have got a weight problem."
He meant the bread. Bread loses weight in the oven.
By law, it has to be 28 ounces.
-Small Nimble, 12p.
-This one Mr Ort did not probe.
"It's one of those slimming things," he said. "I don't believe in them.
"All the gluten in this makes it tasteless."
"Women go for slimming bread," I said.
"Women," he said, "are not allowed to be bakers."
-"Did you know?" said Mr Ort,
"The original name for Hovis was Smith's Patent Bread.
Then they had a competition and a Latin professor won it with Hovis.
-The second prize was yum-yum.
-Don't just say brown, say yum-yum.
Whatever the name, Mr Ort approved of it.
Ceres health-food bread, 22p.
And it looked lovely, all covered with grain.
Mr Ort cut it in half and spoke.
"Oh, my gawd..."
"There's a lump of solid dough in the middle. It's not been baked.
"But, you know, when people eat this health-food bread, they think it's done them good."
But the warts-and-all nature of counter-culture bread was its selling point.
Customers put up with the odd imperfection
for reasons ranging from radical politics to health benefits.
We got people coming down from St Charles's hospital up at the top
of Ladbroke Grove with diet sheets
which said, "Eat wholemeal bread and only buy it from Ceres bakery,"
because the nutritionists at the hospital knew that most bakers
put some white flour into the wholemeal bread.
We were the only people they trusted
because we didn't have a bag of white flour on the premises.
This just might possibly give you the runs
because it's much coarser than ordinary bread. It's better for you.
I've always thought that it never happened in the north,
but I always think the Cranks in the south...
I don't mean the Cranks but the veggies and the people who visit health-food shops.
Not too sure you've got many people in Bolton round
where I live worried too much about...
healthy bread, to be honest.
Yet believers were determined to convert the country.
Andrew Whitley set up an organic bakery in Cumbria.
When I decided to start a bakery in a small village in the north
of England, the bakers I consulted said,
"Andrew, it seems to us that you're going to a place where there's
"no customers to make a product for which there's no demand out of a raw
"material, English wheat, which is impossible to make into bread,"
because without the chemicals, the Chorleywood bread process,
people thought English wheat, you couldn't make bread out of it.
There was a certain antagonism towards us, like,
"Oh, well, wholemeal bread is a middle-class affectation,
"good bread is a middle-class affectation, and let the masses eat
"pappy, white, factory-made bread."
The whole food movement gained momentum.
Even home baking became fashionable...with certain classes.
The new old-fashioned bread was demonstrated
by a charming young TV chef.
Now, the marvellous thing about this bread...
the most marvellous thing about it... is you don't have to knead it.
Just plonk the dough in,
flatten it out with your hands, cover it with a cloth
and leave it for about 25 to 30 minutes,
and it should rise up to about an inch, half an inch,
to the top of the tin.
I think it was an issue of class again because to buy the flour was expensive.
You had to go to a health-food shop
or whole-food shop and buy a bag of very expensive...
..stoneground wholemeal flour, plus the yeast.
You had to have the time to make it.
Given that the sliced white was readily available and very cheap,
this was a choice, that it was again saying something...
"I've got the time and the skill and the money to make this kind of bread."
And we just happen to have one that we made earlier this morning,
so now you can see the finished loaf.
There we are...the Grant loaf, the easiest loaf in the world.
Very crusty, very delicious, full of flavour.
Picking up on the wholefood mood,
Hovis mounted one of its most popular ad campaigns,
aimed at the millions who'd never heard of Cranks
and didn't have the time to bake.
Last up on t'round would be old Ma Peggarty's place.
'Twas like taking bread to the top of the world.
This nostalgic fantasy set bread in a rural idyll but, in real life,
Hovis was now the middle of the giant business sandwich
Rank Hovis McDougall.
And life was far from idyllic as their workers joined other plant bakers in a strike for more dough.
One ugly scene when a bread van from another bakery tried
to force its way in, with the driver trying to bulldoze his way
through the crowd, and some were pushed to the ground.
There was a bread strike which was about wages and conditions in the big plant bakeries, and since they
were by that time supplying the vast majority of bread,
70%, 80% or something, when they went out, suddenly everyone was desperately looking for bread.
And bread is one of those products...
like bread, flour, baked beans, etc,
that whenever there's a sniff of a shortage,
people go completely crazy and they want to buy much more than they actually need.
So little bakeries like ours and medium-sized ones who weren't
affected by the bakers' unions' strike action worked non-stop.
A quarter of Britain's bread production is still going ahead despite the dispute.
4,000 of the small firms whose employees are not members of the bakers' union
are still producing and selling as much bread as they can bake.
When the bakers went on strike, we were working 24 hours a day.
We had bakers coming, bakers who were on strike,
coming to work for us because we were baking bread non-stop.
Flour millers of course had plenty of flour because the bakeries weren't taking it from them,
and we had shops all over London screaming,
"Please can we have some bread! Please can we have some bread!"
-Can you tell me how long you've been waiting for?
-Since seven o'clock.
-What do you expect to be able to get?
-A loaf of bread.
The strikes...I were working for Rank Hovis when they were going on
and really spent my time, at that time, helping out bakers
that I knew to cope with the demand from customers.
Seven o'clock in the morning, there'd be queues right down the street,
but it was quite a challenging time, there's no doubt about it.
Despite appeals, today's queues were as long as ever,
some of them forming as early as half past six,
long before the shops even opened.
Everyone was going mad for bread,
but they could all have survived without it.
Now, bread wasn't the staff of life but the stuff you put round
something else and, by the '80s, we were eating less of it.
Every country in the world, developed country,
the rate of consumption of bread is declining.
France, Italy, Germany, you name it...they're all eating less bread.
Why? Well, it's self-evident.
They're eating more pork or more lamb or more fruit occasionally,
but anything other than bread.
The baking industry was desperate to rekindle our interest,
and looking at our fire was ciabatta, a white bread
enriched with olive oil, invented by Italian bakers in the 1980s.
Ciabatta was launched here by Marks and Spencer's and taken up by the middle classes.
I think it was liked by people because it was easy eating.
You could argue it was the sort of Radio Two of
bread in the sense that it didn't pose any challenge to delicate gums or teeth or anything like that.
So that was a good thing. It was fairly light, white-ish...
which is always good in English baking...
and it had a certain Continental je ne sais quoi which meant that
people could kind of recognise it from a foreign holiday or,
once they'd learned how to pronounce it of course, could ask for it in appropriate establishments.
Yes, please. Ciabatta, please.
British bakers didn't always get it right, but everyone cheerfully cashed in on the ciabatta boom.
As a profit machine,
there's nothing quite like it because it holds huge amounts of water,
and all food processing
thrives on the addition of water and air.
If you can put more water in your product or puff it up with more air,
then you have a perceived value
that exceeds the actual cost of the ingredients.
But we like making ciabatta in our bakery.
It's a nice sloppy dough.
It makes a change from firm dough
so handling it requires a certain amount of deftness
to get it spread out on the tray properly.
It's more like a sort of...
almost like a cross between custard and flour. It's very puddingy.
This is the most wonderful feeling.
It's the real reward, certainly for the male anyway,
of the making of the ciabatta,
because running your fingers down
this soft, puffy ciabatta is like feeling
the inner thigh of your best beloved...
slightly resistant but also beautifully sensual.
# I've been really trying, baby
# Trying to hold back this feeling for so long
# And if you feel like I feel, baby
# Then come on, oh, come on, whoo!
# Let's get it on
# Oh, baby
# Let's get it on... #
From the exotic thighs of ciabatta
to the everyday baps of mainstream bread,
bakers seem to have an affection for their craft
beyond the call of duty.
Something happens, a sort of feedback loop,
and it's physically stimulating,
because you've got energy going up and down your arms.
It's a lovely thing to work with.
It's a pleasure.
And so our story reaches the present. Today, we British can
get so many different breads, it's hard to tell which country we're in.
Bread has gone the same way as wine or chocolate or cheese,
away from a few very standardised, bog-standard type flavours
to real sort of variety and interest and complexity,
and I think that's a good thing.
I'll go along with olives, I'll go along with dried tomatoes,
but apart from that,
what a blooming stupid carry-on doing that.
Putting cheese in bread when you can put cheese ON it?
Health seekers still look to traditional breads for an answer,
and what class you are still plays a part in what you eat,
in a back to front kind of way.
What is considered in one culture to be a high-status bread,
in another culture is considered peasant food,
and we have a lot of ethnic breads in Britain now.
People strive to make sourdough ryes
or Russian peasant breads,
and in other countries, they're desperate to get rid of them.
And in an echo of Britain's history,
our popular factory loaf is now sought by the developing world.
The best example is South Africa.
In 1990, they were a regulated state.
The bread that was made for the mass population was very similar in many ways
to the national loaf that was made in this country in the 1940s, 1950s,
and so one of the demonstrations of some of the African people
that they were going up in the world
was to be able to go out and buy white bread.
And that was very expensive then,
and it still is an aspirational thing.
Even today, you can go there and you can see that, at the weekend
when they're entertaining their friends and family,
it is white bread that they put on the table because that
is the demonstration that "I'm moving up in the world".
I do believe that all bread is good bread.
I think it all serves a different purpose,
and some may taste better than others,
but I think it's the eating experience
and what we want it for.
# There's wheat in the field
# And water in the stream
# And salt in the mine
# And an aching in me
# And the baker will come
# And the baker I'll be
# I'm depending on my labour
# The texture and the flavour. #
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
The aptly-named Tom Baker narrates a tale of aspiration, industrialisation and plain old-fashioned snobbery in a documentary which unwraps the story of the rise of the popular loaf and how it has shaped the way we eat.
Historically, to know the colour of one's bread was to know one's place in life. For centuries, ordinary people ate brown bread that was about as easy on the teeth as a brick. Softer, refined white bread was so expensive to make that it became the preserve of the rich. Affordable white bread was the baker's holy grail - but almost as soon as it became possible to achieve, dietary experts began to trumpet the virtues of brown. Not surprisingly, the British public proved reluctant to give up their white loaves, and even a war couldn't change their eating habits.