“It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you. ” – Nigel Slater
My relationship with bread has been somewhat tempestuous, to say the least. I have loved it and loathed it for a number of reasons over many years. Bread and I have finally succeeded in signing a peace treaty that I hope stands firm until I don’t.
Breaking bread with someone is, historically, a sign of bonding. A mutual understanding of trust and friendship. I never really understood this, but having started making my own bread from scratch, I now see why. The care, love and attention that goes into every loaf is not something one enters into on a whim – and it is this that makes it so special. Also, the simplicity of a slice of toast, or a hunk of bread, spread think with salty butter cannot help but bring a smile to my face.
It says something that almost all cultures have their own interpretations, from the very British loaves to sweet, crusty French baguettes to charred and humble Indian chapattis etc. Something about the smell, taste, and texture of it transports me somewhere safe and comfortable, far away from all that is bad and scary. It makes me think I would like to marry a man who bakes.
The first life I brought into this world was bread based. I had my Frankenstein moment in the creation of my sour dough starter. Tending to the ingredients. Feeding, stirring, warming, cooling, and caring for this bizarre, bubbling concoction gave me an immense pleasure and feeling of satisfaction that I must say I found somewhat addictive.
There are a number of ‘celebrity’ chefs who I gain inspiration from. Hugh’s unwavering ethical foundations, Delia’s classic and failsafe reliability and Nigella’s, well, Nigella. However, in attitude to food, there are two that stand out for me and whom I can truly relate to. Nigel Slater and Raymond Blanc speak about their relationship with food and flavour like no-one else, and I totally get where they are coming from.
They both express complete obsession, even with the simplest of things. In fact, especially with the simplest of things. Reading Mr. Blanc’s autobigoraphical cookbook ‘A Taste of My Life’ I was moved to read about the hours he dedicated to trying to recreate the taste of the ‘tomato essence’ that was alway left at the bottom of Maman Blanc’s (his much loved mummy) tomato salad. He treasures every single flavour he puts in his mouth, as though every morsel he has ever eats is a privilege. I can dig that.
Similarly with good ol’ N. Slates. His autobiography ‘Toast’ was partially dramatised by the BBC. Having watched it, I just want to be his friend. His food is simple conceptually, but scratch beneath the suface and every ingredient – flavour, texture, colour, sound – has a complex domino effect on ones emotional state. He is like an illusionist in this sense. Transporting you somewhere with every buttery bite. Move over Heston, this is real foodie magic.
So please, while you are contemplating a low carb/slow carb/no fun diet, or equally reaching for that bleached out, last a lifetime, would-survive-nuclear-attack supermarket crustless ‘loaf’ substitute. Don’t, just don’t. Make the inhabitant of your bread bin a happy one. Use your loaf, and have some respect for a food stuff that gets a lot less credit than it deserves. And so here, a toast to bread, may your reign as king of carbs be long and unyielding.