Tag Archives: bread

How green is your loaf?

Every day in the UK, 20 million slices of bread are thrown away. That’s a terrifying amount of food waste and means that an average person here throws out more than half of a loaf of bread each month. I first ran into this statistic a few weeks ago and stopped to look at what happens in my own household. We buy a lot of reduced to clear food, so the things we bring home have a shorter life expectancy. We don’t have a fridge. Even so, we are definitely under average in the bread waste.

Some of the problem is, without a doubt, the bread itself. Buy a good quality loaf, and it may dry out as it gets old. You can toast it, or make bread pudding, or use it in cooking in some way and nothing is wasted. Cheaper loaves are much more likely to grow mould as they age – usually green, hence the title of the post. Once bread is mouldy, you can’t use it.

Timing is clearly important. There are three of us in the household, we can get through a loaf in a few days. For a single person, this is clearly less feasible. Obviously there are other bread products that can be bought in smaller quantities, but clearly not everyone chooses that, and these are not cheaper options, often. For a single person with little money, a very cheap loaf that ends up partly in the bin may still be the better financial choice, and that points at a great many things wrong with our society. People who can’t afford to eat well may be forced economically to make bad environmental choices.

Food waste is an area in which individual action can make a difference. Even so it’s important to remember that the option on individual action often comes with an element of financial privilege, and that we need better choices from government and business as well.

Gods of the wild yeast

In my kitchen a strange, magical process is taking place. Alchemy, if you will. The wild yeast has found the blackberries I harvested and laced with sugar to attract it, and now there is fermentation. I’ve not made wine this way before – although it is traditional. The same is true of bread – while you can get packets of yeast, yeast is airborne, and it will come to you.

Fermentation is the basis of settled agriculture, which in turn is the source of our civilisation. There are debates as to whether we started planting cereals for the beer or the bread first, but either way, the wild yeast was essential. We have a plethora of grain and grape deities. Wine and bread crop up a startling amount in the Bible as well. I can’t think of any deities of the wild yeast (pile in if you know). It is the transformation into bread that makes the grain easy to digest. Raw grain from the field is not easy to eat or extract energy from.

The easy calories of bread and the intoxication of alcohol both give us a large feel-good effect. If you want to feel that the world is a safe and benevolent place, a belly full of bread and beer will aid this process considerably. Get drunk and you’ll hit the phase of feeling like you love everyone. Obviously if you glut on the bread and the beer, less good things happen in the longer term, especially if you aren’t using those calories for something. But our ancestors were more likely to starve than balloon, this probably wasn’t so much of an issue for them.

Enchanted by the magic of wild yeast in my kitchen, and the wondrous transformation of blackberries into wine, conscious of the role of the yeast in creating our own culture… I have come to the conclusion that Paul Mitchell is onto something serious with Far Better Pagan (play it, it’s a very funny song and then go to his site, http://paul.makingithappen.co.uk)

(I do love my God and I love my Goddess, but I’m a far better Pagan when I am pissed).

And for a more sober bread-based magic, Talis Kimberly and Wild Yeast:


We have created a habitat that is unnaturally lit, with few mysterious shadows in it. Most of aren’t feverish, starving or drunk in the affluent parts of the western world. We’re in the stiff reality of caffeine, worshippers of the bean. If we spent more time with the wild yeast, perhaps the world would look very different to us.




The sacred loaf

I used to always make bread for rituals. Creating the loaf was a big part of my preparation work, often happening the day before. I got increasingly into creating breads that were fun, tasty and decorative, it became an art form for me, an expression of love for community, a moment of connecting with my breadmaker ancestors, connecting with land, grain, the essential stuff of life. I also used to make all of my own bread for home consumption, but that just doesn’t work on the boat – issues of storage space, kitchen size and other hassles have made it too awkward to do. I miss it though, and it’s one of the things I’m looking forward to having back, after the boat.

I always used to make a loaf for harvest festivals, too. My son’s previous school was Church of England and closely related to the local Church, so they celebrated festivals there. He’s never been Christian, but I think a grounding in tradition is good for a person, so he always participated in these. I learned how to make a traditional harvest loaf – they look like a wheat sheaf and are decorative rather than edible, they are loaded with salt and slow cooked so as to last, but not good nomming. The vicar always loved getting them, and used to take the loaf round to show older parishioners, who remembered the tradition and enjoyed remembering. It’s nice to do something that reaches out into a wider community. Said vicar knew perfectly well I was a Druid, but we had a good mutual understanding and both of us cared more about community and making good stuff happen than anything else. It was a good situation.

This year, I was once again able to make a harvest loaf, thanks to a lovely friend with a lovely kitchen. We were a bit time pressured, but we got there. It was wonderful being able to share the method with someone else, and initiate another child into the idea of traditional bread! Today, the loaf is heading to church, where there will no doubt be a lot of children who haven’t seen a real harvest loaf before.

I’ve said before about how, sometimes, being a Druid means not going round overtly being a Druid. I’m off to church today, and my loaf will be there. Maintaining traditions matters to me. Supporting the local churches matters to – they are an integral part of villages, focal points of life, history, tradition, and surrounded by the bones of the ancestors. It’s not the religion that draws me, it’s the lives and histories of my own people, the call to community service, the making of bread.