One small attack on: “why anyone bothers to make their own bread” … etc

A “comment” on this rather fine review of a book by @BoakAndBailey… my comment, as is my wont, got out of hand and off-topic – reading far too much into just a handful of decontextualised words. Not wanting to spam Boak & Bailey’s poor blog with 500 700 words of my drivel I have put it in my own purgatory instead. The topic of this post is a book called “Cooked” by a chap called Michael Pollan – I haven’t read the book, but might, it sounds interesting but also mildly irritating.

One small attack random walk on: “why anyone bothers to make their own bread” given that “versions of products that can be bought at the shops for next to nothing”.

Does this show that this book is quite relevant to the author’s location, culture, and time? Which is fine – it is his book! :) I just presume he is living in one of the great American Alt-Culture Enclaves where buying the alternatives from the shops isn’t like saying a Ford Ka is an alternative to a John Deere tractor.

In many places we make our own bread because it is the only reasonable way to get good bread. Much the same can be said of beer, cheese, and even pickles. The details can differ greatly from place to place – here and now in the UK good beer & good cheese are not hard to find. Good bread is still the preserve of hipster/yuppie areas where people have the interest to, and cash to, support an “artisan baker” (not very common). And pickles… does the UK even know what pickling is!? (That stuff pubs sell that taste of nothing but cheap malt-flavoured vinegar ain’t it.) I’ve not started doing any pickling yet – but it is on our “todo” list, Kat’s especially interested in Japanese style pickles that you really can’t just buy in a shop.

Back in Australia much the same can be said – but cheese can be added as something that people started making themselves just because there wasn’t anything good on the market. (This hasn’t improved much – and alas for the most part unpasteurised cheese is still illegal!) The Aus/NZ homebrew scene, too, is strong because you can’t just wander into the pub and get a good variety of beer at a reasonable price – especially outside of city centres. My sister’s other half, a beer drinker but not a beer nerd (I think), homebrews and even has a keg setup in his house. Sure, it’s got “cool factor” – but it also makes for a handy supply of good fresh beer which will be tastier than most of mass market stuff in the bottle-shop. OK, I can’t speak for his beer – but making a decent little pale ale that tastes better than EB can’t be hard, extract and some hops would be fine. (This is changing rapidly back home of course, craft-beer a-go-go.)

Continuing on that beer line at another tangent… the chaps at Yeastie Boys attribute NZs amazing craft beer scene to their vibrant homebrew scene. Australia probably has a bit of this too – but lags. I wonder if the lack of such a scene here has held back UK brewing just as much as people sometimes claim CAMRA has. (Yes, people homebrew here – but it doesn’t seem to have the intensity & penetration that it does in the US or antipodean region. Maybe beer price is part of this – beer is expensive back home.)

Anyway… my point is people I know mainly make-their-own because they believe they can have it better that way. Often they can. I fully agree that there can an element of “adult play” sometimes. But… if I have a good source of sourdough, I stop making it. Making bread takes a good chunk of time and I can use that time to try making homebrew instead. ;) One day I hope my homebrew might be as good as my bread!

We seem to be living in a time when the base level of food and drink is on the up in the UK – it’s catching up to home now (ooo… trolling? When I moved here UK beer was better than Australian – I’ll give you that. Oh, and the cheese. And charcuterie. Anyway… moving on.) I think a part of the improvement here (and back home) is driven by these people who’re looking at what they can get in their local supermarket/pub/etc and thinking to themselves “surely there can be better”. They’re doing it themselves, spreading the word, and some are moving on to doing it professionally too. We’re all better off for it.

What do you think?