Poor David Cameron – he just isn’t Margaret Thatcher who famously knew the price of everything both because she was a shop keeper’s daughter and because she remained very connected to the everyday concerns of people trying to manage on a budget. David Cameron, on the other hand, has shown that he has not bought a loaf of bread in years (and that is not just because he uses a bread maker) and if he has done, he has not considered the cost. But let’s face it – he’s hardly alone.
In actual fact, the cost of a “value” loaf is far too low. At less than 50 pence, most shops lose money on it and, even if they did not, they persist in shifting a poor quality, bad tasting (smelling, feeling and looking) product that may be contributing to making people feel ill when they eat bread. To add insult to injury, this bread is normally purchased by people on a budget who are necessarily more limited in the range of food they can afford to buy and who, as a result, should be eating food that is really good for them – not just food that’s really cheap. Any value range should be of the best possible quality – not the worst.
Bread used to be really expensive. Read social history and you will see that a working man would spend the vast majority of his wage on bread to feed his family. And the writer did not write “bread” as a representation of food. The writer meant bread. Fast forward several hundred years and you find David Cameron in bread-gate. A journalist asked him about a loaf of bread – not a pint or a side of slow cooked pork belly – bread. The basic food. The building block. The thing that should be the best possible quality and the thing that, when it is the best possible quality, will not make us ill or fat.
Here at the global HQ of Virtuous Bread, we have nothing against bread makers. We think they are great as long as you understand what you are putting in them. (Hint, just get flour, yeast, and salt and add water – don’t use bread machine mixes which are full of unnecessary additives and cost much more than buying flour, yeast and salt). As a bread maker will set you back at least 100 pounds and takes up a lot of space on the counter, it is not an affordable or practical piece of kit for everyone. A bread course costs less than bread maker and the benefit is that you can then bake bread for the rest of your natural life when and where you want (on holiday! at friends’ houses!) and experience the pleasure of putting your hands in dough. And if a bread course is beyond your means you can learn to bake bread by watching videos which don’t cost you anything at all.
I don’t think that David Cameron’s comments will inspire people to buy bread makers but it’s a great opportunity to reflect on the state of bread and bread making in the UK – regardless of how much the Prime Minister knows about it or its costs – and he is hardly alone on that front!
To start the journey, here are recipes for the bread that Jane Mason baked for the Prime Minister and his family when she was invited to Number 10 two years ago for an award ceremony.