It surely must be one of the oldest recipes in the world. Jesus ate it, even the ancient Greeks and Egyptians are known to have baked it; not only baked it, but offered it up to the Gods. Bread; a staple part of the human diet for thousands and thousands of years. It’s quite remarkable really.
There are lots of things I love about bread. I love the smell of it freshly baked, I love eating it slightly warm, when the butter starts to melt before you even finish the slice. I love eating fresh crusty, bread with strawberry jam - it’s the only time I really like strawberry jam. I love it cut into hot, buttered soldiers, dipped into a runny, boiled egg, and the way they come out looking as if they’ve been coated in bright yellow paint. Or, my favourite, simply toasted, with some salted butter and a thin layer of tangy orange marmalade, accompanied by a cup of steaming hot tea.
The artisan bakery down the road from me does a roaring trade in speciality breads. It seems West Londoners have a penchant for something more than your average loaf. Walnut and Raisin, Potato and Rosemary Focaccia, Spelt and Sunflower. The locals round here love them. And they’re happy to pay a premium for them too; put the word ‘artisan’ in front of it, and it seems you can charge what you want. At the other end of the scale, there’s your bog standard, supermarket sliced loaf. 47p for a loaf of medium, sliced white bread in Tesco or JS. I hate the supermarket bread shelves. Too much choice, too much confusion. In the supermarket, I pick up some loaves and immediately put them back, because they weigh a ton. I can’t imagine eating something that weighs so much. What do they put in it?
Once Pip was born and we started to think about weaning, I developed a bit of a bread obsession. I became fixated with the media reports of bread containing chemical preservatives (used amongst other things, to elongate shelf life.). So I decided to try and make my own. I figured it might even be money saving too. A winning plan, I thought. Bread maker duly purchased I set about making my own bread, with ambitions to branch out, add a few raisins here, some seeds there, and create my own little artisan breads at home. In my rose tinted mind, it was the picture of home spun bliss.
It was a disaster. The problem was not in the bread rising, but with the paddle in the machine. It would constantly get stuck inside the loaf. By the time I had jemmied it out of the cooled loaf, it had a massive hole running through it. Then, when I went to cut the loaf, aside from the great hole in the middle, I found that the outside was too crusty and the middle too soft. Crumbs - everywhere. Added to which my freestyle bread slicing skills created slices that were more door wedge than door stop; I once made my mother a sandwich so large she couldn’t get her mouth around it. Eventually I decided it was a false economy. For every loaf of bread I baked, I was throwing more than half of it away, either due gaping volcanic holes inside the loaf, or as a result of my ridiculously poor efforts wielding the bread knife.
And so, like the vast majority of the UK population, we consume week in week out, bog standard supermarket bread (albeit a nice golden, wholemeal one.) It’s easy, and highly convenient, and as a mother, I don’t know where I would be without it. But, here’s the problem. I eat too much of it. And I’m bored of it. I eat it because it’s easy. Whilst I insist that my son has wholesome porridge for breakfast each morning, and I go to the trouble of making it for him, I don’t eat it myself. No. I eat a couple of pieces of toast inbetween unstacking the dishwasher, getting Pip breakfasted and dressed, and doing all the jobs that need doing of a morning. That’s not so bad. But then lunchtime arrives. As mealtime occasions go, lunchtime is my least favourite. It was far easier when I worked, when all I had to do was walk into the staff restaurant and survey the choices before me. But now at home, I struggle to know what to have for lunch. Lunchtime does not inspire me. So what do I usually eat? Yes, more bread. A sandwich or something ‘on toast’. Even if I eat soup, what do I have with it? Bread.
Enough is enough. I don't want to turn into a dough girl; I've decided I need to widen the palette of my lunchtime horizons. So, dear readers, I’m asking for some helpful suggestions. Quick, lunchtime solutions that are not bread based. What do you eat for lunch? Inspire me...