It has been some time since I have eaten something memorable and taking into account other sensory impressions; location, ambiance and company, the stand alone feeling of
‘WOW, that was fantastic’, has become rare.
David Eyres beef Ana at the Eagle, Farringdon, the Verveine ice cream at Michel Guerards, Les Prés d’Eugénie, the Pastel de Nata from the Lisboa Pâtisserie on Golborn road W11 and the turnip paste at Joy King Lau, Soho, are a few that spring to mind.
And so it is with great pleasure that I add another to the list.
Harts bakery, next to Bristol Temple Meads station have consistently produced a seriously fine sourdough on every visit of my patronage. I wish to congratulate them.
Bread has been around for some time.
It is has been reported that pounded starch residue found on rocks from over 25000 years ago in Northern Europe could have come from plants. This extract, spread over a rock and baked in a fire, would have produced a kind of flat bread.
The Gauls and the Iberians used the foam skimmed from beer, mixed with flour and the ancient world used a paste made of grape juice and flour that was left to ferment.
The most common source of leavening was to retain a piece of dough from the previous day to use as a sour dough starter, a practice which continues to this day and some say that a restaurant in Rome has a starter from over 150 years ago, probably urban myth!
What isn't mythical however is that we have been dependent on bread for some time.
It is logical to assume that the chronically poor of Paris in the Eighteenth century would eat anything to survive, in fact, bread became a measure of their survival and they demanded that it be of good quality and sufficient quantity. The presence of bad bread in the markets was an affront to their being and the authorities did everything within their power to alleviate this lever of social breakdown. People tend to be more focused when funds are tight, so spending the pot on sustenance at this level would infer the demand for a better product.
In the 1960s with the advent of food mass production, the desire for a quality loaf diminished in place for greater profit. The key in the bread making business was to shorten the leavening time and as a result, bread can be produced very quickly and at low costs to the manufacturer and the consumer. This process is world over, and large factories have replaced the once common place local bakery. But not only is there a question of the nutritional value afforded the consumer but, have we become too complacent socially, to demand a better product?