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This is terribly simple

Some complain that pricey sourdough is elitist and pretentious. Others lambast cheap sliced white as unhealthy and unsustainable. How did our most basic foodstuff become a source of conflict and division?

It’s about class. This is England, of course it’s about class.

And the division here is interestiong too for what it tells us about class. The poshoes these days are the Guardian reading fannyistas who insist that anything not wildly expensive in the food line should be banned for the proles.

This is England, it\’s always about class after all.But who is being Lady Bountiful tells us who that top dog class – in their own estimation of course – is.

39 thoughts on “This is terribly simple”

  1. An Austrian friend complained to me about British bread. I said “The war is over, there are no U Boats in the Atlantic anymore. We can do with our Canadian wheat whatever we want.”

  2. “What ‘conflict and division’..? Are people killing each other over what bread to buy?”

    That was my first thought, the press making up a problem that doesn’t actually exist. I don’t like sliced white bread at all, tasteless and chewy. I prefer wholemeal generally, but other people can eat whatever bread they like, why should it bother me as long as Asda have plenty of choice? I’m sure that I’ve eaten sourdough bread before and I don’t remember it being prohibitively expensive.

  3. Oh, that’s another thing going on. Apparently there’s capitalist sourdough and real, artisan, sourdough. And only the second should be allowed to use the sourdough name…..

  4. Stonyground

    Sour dough doesn’t have to be expensive, it is often so, just for the sake of being “artisan”.

    I don’t know if it is just my local branch, but Waitrose in store baked bread is terrible. Really doughy and tasteless. I always feel like I’ve been ripped off after a visit to their stores.

  5. Well, I usually buy a grainy bread. It seems tastier somehow.

    But naturally I don’t give a damn about what someone else eats. After all I don’t push my Rubbish Bin Stew, do I?

  6. I do enjoy the modern use of words.
    Artisan – skilled work/worker, often conducted manually.
    Sourdough – a simple bread recipe anyone can make with little skill required

  7. @otto

    “I don’t know if it is just my local branch, but Waitrose in store baked bread is terrible. Really doughy and tasteless. I always feel like I’ve been ripped off after a visit to their stores.”

    You have, and not just with bread products

  8. Bloke in North Dorset

    I don’t know if it is just my local branch, but Waitrose in store baked bread is terrible.

    On the rare occasions we’ve used a Waitrose that was our experience, at the one in Poundbury its been dry and on its way to being stale.

    If it’s not on white bread, it’s not a bacon sandwich.

    +1

  9. There’s a YouTube video of an American chap loading up with cheap supermarket bread and then selling it at a farmers market to hipster dupes at about a 400% markup. So the class system obviously exists over there too.

  10. The capitalist / artisan split on sourdough is largely to do with how long it takes to make. Greedy capitalists speed up the process by adding “commercial” yeast, which is usually a single strain. This is much faster. Artisans use “natural” yeast, which contains many different strains. This can take days to rise.

    Consumers are perfectly capable of making their own choices, of course. If it’s suspiciously cheap (like Lidl’s sourdough) then it’s probably the commercial type.

  11. @Andrew M
    Then the capitalists are making the artisan bread. Since doing it the way they’re doing it requires skill.
    Sourdough bread is the original risen bread, known since time immemorial. It’s what happens if you’re making flatbread like matzo (unleavened) & don’t use the dough immediately. The yeasts naturally in the environment go to work on it. Anyone can make it providing they have flour, water & aren’t doing it in sterile conditions. One might regard it as a fortunate accident.

  12. It’s like tanning. Tanning was originally a peasant thing, then it became fashionable (and expensive) to go to a sunny place, then it became cheap (and no longer fashionable as a result).

    The “good” bread is whatever is expensive and hard to find or otherwise limited.

  13. By the by. I get a treat today. Her who rules is doing acajaré. Bahia streetfood. Made with a flour dough produced from black eyed peas & some manioca. Deep fried in oil & looking similar to doughnuts. Then cut open for a savoury filling. Any luck vatapa. Delicious. The anticedents are West African
    Basically, it’s all the same thing. Some people only think it’s something special because they’re so far removed from the roots of their own culture.

  14. Chorleywood bread does the job and can be had for around £1 per loaf. It’s not great, but it’s also not bad (especially if you spend 40p more on Hovis or Warburtons).

    Compare that to an artisan sourdough loaf from a pretentious place full of BBC wankers (Hebden Bridge for example) where it’s £6 for a loaf. Not too many of the actual local Yorkshire folk have that sort of money to spunk on bread whether it’s awesome or not.

    Plus, most of them make a Scotsman look generous!

  15. We find the Co-op’s “Crusty Cob” pretty good.

    The only time we eat sourdough is when we eat a particular Waitrose pizza.

    Mind you, bakery was far better when I was a lad – a matter of both where and when.

  16. “It’s what happens if you’re making flatbread like matzo (unleavened) & don’t use the dough immediately.”

    A while ago I watched a tv show where they got modern bakers and and put them in a Dickensian bakery. Everything done by hand. They had a huge trough and it took 3 people to puddle/knead it for a long time. By the end they were all bloody knackered, cue: multi mopping of brow shots. Then was on to the next batch. This prompted me to go down a rabbit hole of why the hell bother with all that effort for leavened bread. My hypothesis was surely all that work and all the fuel that oven baking requires would mean that its only worthwhile if the end product was significantly more nutritious than mixing flour with water and heating it on a pan. But to my surprise couldn’t find an answer.

  17. There’s a YouTube video of an American chap loading up with cheap supermarket bread and then selling it at a farmers market to hipster dupes at about a 400% markup.

    I know hipsters are throbbers and fools, but there is a difference between good and bad bread, surely they’d notice? The best, incidentally, is my Mother’s. Made to traditional recipes, but tweaked recently with advice from Paul Hollywood.

    Sainsbury’s organic wholemeal is decent (it’s a bit denser than the non-organic type) but basically anything fresh and crusty with a bit of weight is what I like. We have an independent bakery nearby which is both good and reasonable (it makes no claim to artisanry).

  18. I’d love to know what non-organic bread is. Synthesised from mine tailings, crude oil & recycled truck tyres?

  19. @ Marius

    “I know hipsters are throbbers and fools, but there is a difference between good and bad bread, surely they’d notice?” – I guess you’ve never had an IPA from a micro-brewery then?

    A hipster will witter on for hours about their local artisan brew place and how it’s IPA harks back to the Raj but it doesn’t hide the fact it’s hideous piss

  20. I know hipsters are throbbers and fools, but there is a difference between good and bad bread, surely they’d notice?
    I was at the “local market” in St Antonin Noble Val, SW France few years back. Positively seething with middle-class Brit second homers enthusing over the authentic locally grown produce. Got a look into one of the stallholders’ vans. Tomatoes were coming out of a box originated on our Costa del Plastico in Almeria. Ripe tomatoes in the Tarn et Garonne in May? A particularly wet & cold May at that. FFS! You could sell these idiots anything.

  21. I remember a school trip (decades ago) to a Betterbake factory, and after seeing how they operated I’ve never touched any so-called “bread” wrapped in a plastic bag since. Neither do I waste my money on “Artisan” produce, most of which looks like it would be better used as material in building foundations. I buy my bread from small, independent bakers – I’ve mostly used the same shop for over 30 years. I place an order one day, collect the following morning, and immediately bag and freeze it. This 1) saves repeated visits, and 2) allows me to have fresh bread whenever I want. AFAIC bread products that have gone stale the next day don’t have any preservatives in them, which is why I bulk-buy & freeze when it’s just hours old.

  22. This prompted me to go down a rabbit hole of why the hell bother with all that effort for leavened bread.
    I s’pose you could eat tortillas like we do. But. At the time bread was the staple. People ate a lot of it. The standard would be home baked. If you know what you’re doing knocking up sufficient dough for 4 or 5 loaves takes about 15 minutes. So scaling up to a Dickensian bakery, that would be reasonable increased efficiency. People don’t realise how hard work was before modern mechanisation. You try sawing planks of wood or mixing cement in quantity by hand.

  23. Bloke in North Dorset

    We find the Co-op’s “Crusty Cob” pretty good.

    Give the Lidl low GI loaf a try if you’ve got one nearby, very crusty and soft and just about passes Dave Ward’s test of not lasting much longer than a day. Its great for mopping up gravy and the like and I especially like it for mopping olive oil and balsamic salad dressings to the point of overdoing the salad dressing 🙂

  24. I dunno if I’ve gone gay but I make my own bread. 700g flour 10g yeast, 20g sugar 10g salt 450ml water – whack it in a bread maker on the 45 minute pizza dough setting and then glaze it with milk and soy sauce (we like a dark crust), sprinkle with salt (we like it salty) and bake the fucker for 19min (rolls) or 28min (loaf). Sometimes sub out 120g of white flour for whole meal or add a handful of grains. Way better than any bread I’ve ever had from any supermarket and cheaper as well as long as you’re using the over anyway.

  25. Out here I buy – when we go that way – the Lidl “massa mae” which is the Portugee for sourdough. It’s sorta, maybe, but it’s not very, like the West Coast sourdough we used to get in CA. But, it’s good.

    As to unleavened, the yeast/process aids in breaking up the carbohydrates apparently, so enhancing flavour. Could do a taste test of a flatbread to a leavened to try this I guess…..

  26. What’s all this grams and millilitres nonsense? Two pounds of flour, one ounce sugar, pinch of yeast, pinch of salt, pint of water. Cook for one millifortnight.

  27. Many, many moons ago I worked in a large commercial mill packing flour. I saw what went into the various stages of milling. Nothing was wasted. Among other things we swept the floors regularly and it all went back in. Amazing what a bit of ground-up wheat can cover. Couldn’t any bread product for many many months.

  28. I guess you’ve never had an IPA from a micro-brewery then?

    Plenty, they are mostly perfectly decent, with the proviso that they are (almost) all in a particular US IPA style which is not particularly to my taste.

    When I was an underage boozer, most pubs in my neck of the woods had a very limited selection of shit beer (shit lager or shit bitter, take your choice), all mass-produced in the Midlands. Now, thanks to micro-breweries (or at least businesses that started out as micro-breweries), we have two breweries who both make excellent beers in the traditional English style.

  29. @Marius

    No shit mild? I used to like a pint of mild as a youth but it’s pretty much disappeared now.

    @jgh

    Better for accuracy (I reckon). Never been one to care about whether it’s lbs or kgs, just minded the government trying to dictate which people used.

  30. Bloke in Aberdeen

    @Joe Smith
    £6 for a loaf of bread? Really? And people buy it? You folks darn saaf have gone mad.

    @ Hallowed Be
    The great thing about Dickensian times was that labour was cheap. Any problem you have, just throw more man hours at it.

  31. I find most microbrewery stuff – bitters & IPAs – is far too hoppy. My go-to beer is dark & malty, not too bitter at all. I also like Scottish 80/- ale from the barrel when I can find it, but Belhaven (Greene King) do a passable 90/- ale in bottles. As for milds my tipple back in the day was a brown split – half a mild and a brown ale mixed from a brewery that hadn’t yet been murdered by Watneys. 1s 10d at the time. The other one from them days, and still around but perhaps no longer on the pump, is Robinson’s Old Tom. 8.5%.

  32. Apparently the Sourdough Festival in the Yukon needs to be renamed as it’s colonialist, Yukon residents used to be known as sourdoughers apparently

  33. @ Tractor Gent – with you on the hoppiness although I have got used to it, as so many beers are made in that style.

    Robinsons was a notable exception to the rule of shit beer when I was a lad and they still make Old Tom. Not sure I’ve tried it though, just the regular bitter. I tend to stay way from anything above 4% these days, which also keeps me away from that US IPA style.

    @Interested – I’d quite forgotten about mild…. it does seem to have disappeared from pubs.

  34. “£6 for a loaf of bread? Really? And people buy it? You folks darn saaf have gone mad.”

    It is hardly anyone down south doing this. Hobbs House sell bread at this price and they’re in places like Tetbury and Nailsworth. The sort of pretty-but-stupid women that rich men marry.

    And I don’t think the people selling are rolling in it. It’s just the cost of doing things manually, having small shops and so forth.

    Personally if I was spending that, I’d just make it myself. I quite like baking bread.

  35. Still plenty of (dark) mild sold in the midlands, any Banks’s pub should provide a decent pint. But whatever happened to light ale – “light and bitter” anyone? Brakspear (in Henley, who now survive only as a label) used to have 4 beers: Light and Bitter and (dark) Mild and Old – the rot started when they rebadged the light as ‘bitter’ and bitter as ‘best bitter’, Old is also now hard to come by :).

  36. @Boganboy, March 20, 2024 at 8:55 am

    Well, I usually buy a grainy bread. It seems tastier somehow

    Granary/Wholemeal bread for me too or proper NI Wheaten bread, not the stuff sold in GB called Brown Soda bread

    But naturally I don’t give a damn about what someone else eats

    Exactly. Sadly puritan fascists have too much power

    Sheffield council wages war on consumerism as it bans adverts on airlines,’ junk food and cars to meet green targets

    To “tackles some of the impacts of consumerism, advertising and injustice”

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