Making the case for real bread

As Brits, we just love bread. Toast for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, pizza in evening… Of course, our love is nothing compared to the French love for the fresh baguette, nor the Indian love for fire-baked roti, however there is a stark difference between the types of bread we consume compared to these other food cultures. To be frank, we have a fixation on processed, sliced, and utterly nutrient-void bread. 
 
In the UK, we live in a food culture that, on one hand, craves cheap ‘fast foods’, and on the other, demands that all food products are made lower in fat, salt, calories and carbohydrates. This ‘carbophobia’, as Michael Pollan defines the US’ similar fixation, has meant that laboratories and factories have taken precedence over local bakeries and home kitchens when it comes to producing our daily bread.
 
We desperately need to get back to embracing complex carbohydrates and real bread.  
 

What is real bread?

 
The Real Bread Campaign, borne out of the organisation Sustain, describe real bread as: 
 
“That made without the use of processing aids or any other artificial additives”.
 
It can be organic, artisan, locally sourced… there is no universal consensus on what real bread includes. In fact, real bread is more about what is not included in it than what is. For example, to bake bread you only need two essential ingredients: flour and water. You can also add a little salt and butter, to make chapatti or flatbreads, or some sugar and sourdough starter to make sourdough bread. Yeast can also be added to cause your bread to rise, creating the typical wholemeal or plain loaf, or you can mix bicarb and organic buttermilk into the recipe and make soda bread. That’s a maximum of four/five ingredients for a bread loaf. 

The humble soda bread…

Now let’s compare it to our typical, store-bought loaf of bread. It may be labelled as wholesome, healthy and fibrous, but a loaf of bread from a supermarket can contain over 30, mainly unpronounceable, ingredients: stabilisers, emulsifiers, bleaching agents, preservatives, food additives, dough conditioners, enriched flours, and corn syrups… At six times the number of essential bread ingredients, these enable the bread to be cheaply produced in bulk, rise more quickly, stay fresher for longer, and supposedly taste better. But remember, whatever is produced in mass is also entering our bodies in mass.

Bread hidden from view, along with its ingredients.
Source: goodtoknow.com
By buying and consuming this bread, we are sending a clear message to the food industry that it is okay to manipulate our foods, that we wish to remain ignorant about what is in our bread, and that it is utterly fine to fuel our bodies with processed and arguably much worse substances than the complex carbohydrates our consumer culture is avidly trying to avoid in the first place.
 
This message needs to change. By baking or buying real bread, you are helping to campaign towards a much more enriching narrative, for our bodies, foods and society.
 

Why should you support real bread?

 
I’ve hopefully swayed you already, but if I haven’t, here are some more reasons…
 
Time – Baking bread does not have to be a lengthy process. For example, you can make chapatti, or Indian flatbread, in less than 10 minutes and a basic plain loaf or soda bread in less than an hour.
 
Money – If you’re the one eating it, baking bread so much cheaper than buying bread from a supermarket. You could even start up a Community Supported Baking enterprise: have a bake off, invite anyone and everyone. 
 
Community – Visiting your local bakeries and learning about their history, the local ingredients, and baking process is incredibly humbling. It is also just as good at gaining solidarity and community spirit as growing a moustache. Find your local hubs via Sustain’s Real Bread Finder or search for the Real Bread Loaf Mark in your local stores. 
 
Personalisation – Experiment. Try out different types of flour (rye, rice, chestnut, almond, plain, wholemeal, extra strong, hemp, millet…), nuts, seeds, dried fruits, onions, spices, herbs…
 
Therapy – Baking bread is therapeutic. For example, kneading bread is a fantastic stress relief and workout.
 
Love life – If you have a lovely lady you want to impress, you can ‘foccacia’ eye by telling her about your baking success (I’m sorry, that was awful. So awful). 

Advocacy – Support the Honest Crust Campaignpetitioning for transparency in our bread baking.

Selfies and social media – Take bread selfies (or ‘brelfies’, as I shall coin them). Be that person who boasts your beloved loaves on Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and share it worldwide. Remember to link @RealBread

 
The finished product…
Our ‘brelfie’


 
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