Skip to main content

Daily Bread

At school and at Sunday-school I closed my eyes, clasped my hands together and prayed in English and Welsh: Give us this day our daily bread: Dyro i ni heddiw ein bara beunyddiol, words I repeated by rote that meant nothing to me.

It came to us in a van that toured the estate, street by street, whose back doors opened to slatted shelves and the smell of flour, where I gazed at the plump Cottage loaves and imagined carrying one home in my arms like a baby. But I always parted with the half-crown piece for the disappointingly smooth, pale crust of a Sandwich Loaf that my mother would cut with a silver knife.

At mealtimes, unless there was gravy on our plates, it sat in the middle of the table – bread and butter, bara menyn – thin slices, cut in half, which we were expected to eat, out of habit, tradition, a memory of hunger.

For years I bought it, threw so much away, dry and forgotten, riddled with mould. But now I live in the kingdom of bread: baguette, ficelle, couronne, pain au restaurant, de campagne, de seigle, au levain. Its scent drifts from every corner. It comes wrapped in twists of paper. I carry it along the street, arrive home with crumbs between my teeth. The power and the glory; yr nerth a’r gogoniant.

Hungry Writing Prompt: Write a poem in praise of an ordinary thing.


Kanwar’s Perfect Baguette Test

According to my nephew, the perfect baguette has a sound like the first soft cracklings of a log fire, or the crinkle of thin silver paper, the type I remember from old cigarette packets, when you hold it to your ear and squeeze it, gently, between your thumb and fingers. And after all the bacon baguettes he has eaten from his tuck-shop at King’s School in Rochester he is something of an authority on the subject.


I’ve yet to run the test in the UK but here in France I choose a baguette that’s pas trop cuit, not too cooked, one whose crust is lightly golden rather than caramel. But unless I’ve managed to synchronise my purchase with the moment the bread leaves the bakery oven it’s unlikely to meet with Kanwar’s approval.

So preheat the oven to 200° C for around 10 minutes and pop in your baguette for 2 minutes, no more. If you have the fatter pain au restaurant (the French bread you generally buy in British supermarkets) it’ll need 3 to 4 minutes.

And, squeeze.

Home-made croutons

Cut day old bread into roughly ½ to ¾ inch cubes, removing any crusts that are too hard.

Mix olive oil with crushed garlic (or minced or powdered dried garlic if that’s all you have), dried herbs and salt to taste and toss the bread in this mixture. It should be slightly damp on the outside rather than saturated. Cook on a baking tray at the bottom of  the oven, on a low heat, about 125 to 140° C for 10 minutes. Shake and turn and cook for another 10 minutes until they are crisp throughout.

Lovely on leafy salads or home-made soup.


Popular posts from this blog

Pie, pie glorious pie

So often when we talk about food we are talking about family. In fact that was how the hungry writer blog began, nearly six years ago: weekly memories or life stories linked by the theme of food. Food is nurture and love. It can be celebration and anxiety too. It can also be a battleground, as the parents of young children know so intimately! Which is rather a satisfying segue into the family featuring in this week's blogpost: The Radfords. Because if anyone understands the feeding of children, really, really understands, it has to be Sue Radford who, with her husband, Noel, has 19 children. You can read about the family on their website but don't rush off yet as what I really want to talk about is pie. And specifically Radford's pies.
Noel Radford has been a baker for 25 years and opened his own bakery in 1999 in Heysham, Lancashire and makes pies with locally sourced ingredients. That, along with his skill as a master baker, means that the pictures of the 'filled to t…

Eat, laugh, cry, remember: Baked Camembert

Once, on a holiday in Malta, I dressed Tony up in my gypsy skirt and stretchy white vest, used two satsumas for breasts and made up his eyes and lips with the brightest colours I had with me. Then I took a photograph. He didn’t seem to mind, in fact he seemed quite tickled by the fuss and attention to detail, but the quantity of rosé we’d shared at Snoopy’s restaurant on the seafront in Sliema earlier in the evening might have had something to do with that.

This was 1988. There were no digital cameras for instant viewing (and, praise be, instant deletion). The only instant photographs at the time came courtesy of Polaroid, with their packages of square film and box-like cameras, and slid out of the front of the machine on shiny thick card that everyone huddled over and watched develop. But they tended to be party cameras, appearing at Christmas, birthdays, engagements. You captured your holiday photos on a proper camera, one you had to load and feed film into, then unload and drop off…

The Mythic Biscuit: Oreos

My childhood biscuits were mainly plain but had lovely names: Marie, Nice, Rich Tea. Quiet biscuits. The kind of biscuits that would never interrupt a conversation. Polite, not pushy. At the other end of the spectrum, and only irregularly present, probably a result of practical economics, were cheeky Jammy Dodgers, irritable Garibaldis, and self-contented and reliable Bourbons. And even more irregularly, the flashy inhabitants of a Christmas Box of Biscuits: Pink Wafers. I ate them at the same time as not liking them very much, a bit like Miss World Contestants in sparkly dresses, too much eye make-up and a saccharine idea of world peace. 
I'm in the mood to think, and personify, 'biscuits' because the lovely team at Oreo sent me some samples of their new Oreo Thins. I hadn't heard of Oreos until the early 1990s when a friend asked if I would bring him back a packet from a Florida holiday. I forgot and pretended I couldn't find them. 'But they're everywher…