There’s been a romantic revival recently of exactly the kinds of crafts my home economics teacher would have loved for me to have shown some enthusiasm for in the 90’s, only they weren’t cool back then. We watched Big Brother, not the Great British Bake-off.
Pickling, canning, baking, home brewing; we seem to have a new and insatiable enthusiasm for relearning the ways of our ancestors, one cottage industry at a time.
Yesterday, I ducked into the lovely Daunt Books in Belsize Park to escape an unwelcome April shower and I found myself drawn to the cookbook section. I’ve been toying with the idea of making an infographic cookbook, in the style of my graphic recipes, so was doing the sensible thing and checking out the competition. I came across the beautifully illustrated and photographed Food DIY: How to Make Your Own Everything (moral dilemma: it is significantly cheaper on Amazon than in Daunt, which would I buy?).
It reminded me of the trip we went on a couple of years ago to a stunning corner of Devon to attend a smallholding course at Hidden Vally Pigs. We milked a goat, we made cheese, we made butter, we collected eggs, we cured our own bacon, we chased chickens and we stuffed sausages.
We even bought the book about how to bring such practices back to London. Of course, we haven’t actually done any of it, but it’s nice to know we could if we wanted to.
Although there has been some cynicism over the sheer hipsterness of the national renewed interest in home-making, there is also a deeper story here about the alienation of urbanites from the simple joys of making things, and a strong desire to reconnect to these basic skills. There’s also a sustainability, health and environmental angle, explored by Mark Bittman in the Ted talk that convinced me to try to eat less than 250g of meat per week (I have never actually achieved this. Must try harder).
Bread From Scratch is a project by Mirko Ihrig, an industrial designer, to highlight the reality that many people these days do not know where their food comes from. Bread is a great example of this because for many – including myself – it is somewhat clouded in mystery, a delicate and elusive thing that I could never hope to be good at making. And yet it is a staple of our diet and it used to be commonplace for people to bake their own bread long past the time they started turning to supermarkets for other prepared foods.
The project explores food production as a concept and resulted in the creation of a collection of objects used to make bread from scratch. It consists of a mill to grind flour, a jar to cultivate a sourdough, a bowl to mix the ingredients, a board to knead the dough, a paddle to transfer the loaves and an oven to finally bake the bread.
Although they are beautifully designed and crafted, you don’t need these refined objects to bake bread. And that, I think, is the point of the project. It deconstructs the bread-making process and reveals the simplicity of our basic foods. You can even skip the grinding — I’d definitely count a loaf as home-baked even if I used pre-ground flour!
Bread From Scratch is a beautiful reminder that bread-making is a skill well within everybody’s reach.