Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Staff of Life

I Googled ‘The Staff of Life’. I used Google, although it isn’t my default search engine (which is Ecosia), because I wanted to get an idea about how many entries there were. I got 1.4 billion. I didn’t check them all! Most of the entries seemed to relate to pubs and hotels; a few were about churches, and a few were about food, mostly bread.

About five years ago I read an article in Resurgence Magazine about ‘Slow Sunday’, which put forward the idea of using a leisurely Sunday to bake bread, good bread being produced slowly. There was a recipe in the magazine contributed by Andrew Whitley which I used, and that whetted my appetite. I bought Andrew Whitley’s book, Bread Matters, and read it from cover to cover, and I must admit that it put me off factory bread for life, as well as getting me started on a journey which even now becomes more interesting month by month.

I suppose that now, five years on from that first Slow Sunday, and there have been many since, if someone asked me what my hobbies were, I would have to include bread making. The only time I have bought bread during those five years was when I was refurbishing my kitchen and had to disconnect the cooker. Unfortunately I can’t eat the bread quickly enough to allow me to bake as often as I would like to, particularly as I am trying to lose weight! Bread has become more to me than just something to support the marmalade. Making bread is therapeutic. Taking it hot out of the oven is intensely satisfying. Eating a chunk of carefully baked bread is an infinitely more pleasurable experience than popping a piece of factory sliced white out of the toaster. And if you are making sourdough bread – well, you can double all of the above.

And that’s why I was Googling ‘the staff of life’; because that’s how I think of my bread!

I believe that with the prospect of a changing climate as a result of, amongst other things, a destructive system of agriculture and food preparation; and with the rising cost of fossil fuel (which in my opinion continues to be inevitable) we should all be reviewing what we eat and how we prepare our own food. Holding that belief, I continue to adjust what food I buy, and what food I grow in my own garden. The result, which should not surprise me, is that I am healthier than I have been for years, and my food bills are very much lower. Certainly I am now in the position of being able to spend more time on all this than someone in full employment, and so people with full time jobs who want to follow the same path would need to compromise to some degree. But that should not alter the basic premise.

So if you do nothing else, think about the staff of life.

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