Instore Bakeries Selling Loaves Made with 100% British Flour
1. At the Soil Association’s agm a few weeks ago efforts came thick and fast to dispel beliefs that accredited products and processes were unaffordable in these hard times and that organic principles and practices were unduly associated with a class of consumers trending towards a precious attitude to farming and food. Even the dual meanings of the word soil attracted some uncertainty. However, one thing was clear: an opening salvo of contempt for those demotic supermarkets and their works and sales ensured a good start for any speech or presentation.
2. Every little helps. Credit where credit is due. The supermarkets do deserve some mites of praise for innovations, even if they are no more than revival of old traditions wrapped up in modern guises. So we feel bound to applaud Tesco for a flurry of full-page ads in the weekend “heavies” extolling its “Fresh Bread. Baked from scratch in our store bakery. Using 100% British Flour. So every single loaf is genuinely British….Born and bread.”
3. When we launched our Green Plans in 1976 for farming, food, health, and the land, we threw press launches in which the Campaign for Real Bread (CAMREB) was represented by wholemeal loaves baked from home-grown wheat crops of varieties now superseded and no longer needed for thatching and feedstuffs, nor for transfer for straw for bedding for the cattle kept for dairy herds concentrated in western areas of the country. Vegetarians were renowned for their association with the wholemeal loaf and the farmers who grew the cereals special for breads, biscuits, and cakes and breakfast cereals. However, British-grown grists did not meet the stringent requirements for factory-produced loaves nor could the crops meet the demand for feed-wheats; accordingly, British farmers opted for varieties that might miss the higher prices (in yields per acre) but still catch the higher net income from higher yields but lower returns per acre if they had to be sold as feedstuffs. The First Green Revolution was underway. People making their own bread, especially wholemeal, would be looking for “strong” flour from “hard” wheat to get a good rise, and even crumb without blow holes and “flying tops”. These features were deemed essential by master bakers of the time, aiming especially for the uniformity of the white loaf, which was derided by CAMREB’s army of amateurs as no more exciting than a sister’s kiss or half-a-pint of Watney’s pasteurized Red Barrel.
4. Here’s what Tesco has to say about its in-stored baked bread: “When you buy your daily bread from the Tesco in-store bakery it’s not only delicious but 100% British. We’re proud to use wheat grown exclusively by UK farmers. Our bakers then use their skill to turn the flour into 35 different types of freshly-baked bread. So whether it’s a Finest Handcrafted Rustic Multigrain or one of our Tiger Bloomers, you always know your Tesco loaf is British – born and bread.”
5. New for the small print, “Subject to availability. Selected UK Stores. British Flour used in all products that are baked from scratch in store as stickered on the pack. French baguettes, batons and products not baked from scratch excluded.”
6. In a number of ways CAMREB overtook CAMRA in informative labelling. Wrapping of much bread produced in factories using the Chorley Wood Process for which special yeasts and vigorous mechanical stirring for an accelerated rise, for which much of the British crop was suitable, left plenty of space for descriptions of ingredients and information on nutrients; however, bread that has been made in small enterprises needs only the flimsiest of wrappings and hardly any details; environmentalists may therefore excuse the use of the wrappings, which have other purposes, such as greasiness owing to fats or oils, possibly used in excess, leaking from the loaves. CAMREB has a long history of attempts at lowering contents of salt and fats in bread-making and in other bakery-and morning-goods.
7. However, Tesco’s ads earn another credit: the advertised breads are shown peasant-style for dipping as chunks in a herbed oil, prominent in the picture. Just before last Christmas VEGA examined 240 recipes and menus published in the weekday papers and weekend magazines for guidance of their readers. The Stern message – cut down consumption of meat and dairy – was informing national and global earnests in farming, environmental, and animal welfare. None showed any influence of the message; butter was used liberally, vegetable margarine or spreading yellow fat for oil never. This carelessness shames many chefs and cooks with famous names, but scant respect that food, from home or abroad, must engage Britons as in the wartime years and just after.
8. Our Portfolio of Eating Plans reflects some of these glories when Britain may have emerged from WW2, broken but unbowed, even by the politicking of a treacherous press. Quite by chance a VEGA trustee was sat at a conference in London next to another delegate who was commenting on the wartime Ministry of Food. She spontaneously lamented the present trend of “reinventing the wheel” and remembering the names of Grant, Carson, Borlaug, Burkitt, Beveridge, Patten, Sinclair, McCance and Widdowson and the outcomes of the fibre-righters’ endeavors. We had in mind to make a party of surviving old-timers to visit the Imperial War Museum for its exhibition of wartime British food and to bring their wartime mementos, and then to repair for a meal and drink and reminiscences to a meal Stern-style – austere, but enriched with the best of modern Salutary Food from Salubrious Farming.
Please let us know if you, young or old, would like to join such a party and to meet some of the researchers with whom VEGA and it forebears have been associated since the 1940s and the days of food rationing and hunger and famine worldwide.