The third Open Meeting of the season started with Chairman Neil Ramshaw welcoming the thirty-seven attendees and the eleven lady guests who it was particularly nice to see. Three apologies had been offered.
Today’s Speaker was Mrs Lynne Ditchburn, whose topic was “The Upper Crust” ,and she gave us an extremely well illustrated (slide show) and entertaining talk on the history of bread through the ages and both at home and abroad. The use and value of bread in daily life was stressed–“a staple”;” to earn a crust” and exemplified by the Jewish Passover (unleavened bread) with it also being important in other religions e.g. Mayan and Christian.
Bread making/production can be traced back to the early hunter gatherers and there is evidence of early Egyptian bread production involving a fermentation process–in fact Egyptian bakers also acted as early gynaecologists!! The first portable beehive oven can also be attributed to Egypt. Bakeries were important under the Romans with the first mechanical dough making machines and in Medieval France the status of being a baker saw the trade being restricted to devout Catholics only. Lynne gave us the story of Thomas Farriner and his 1666 involvement in The Great Fire Of London. She told us of the laws and regulations governing bread production and bakers dating from early times with some very old legislation only recently having been repealed.
Bread is vital to life across the whole world and the importance of regulation was to stop adulteration and short weights which were considered serious crimes.” Pain Mollet”- the Parisian bread of choice was involved in controversy at the time of the French Revolution leading to the Marie Antoinette “Let Them Eat Cake” comments and her subsequent demise.
The Industrial Revolution saw a change in baking processes with more flour needed to meet increasing demand (large flour mills e.g. The Albion Flour Mill’s of the 1780’s) and the import of grain from the American Prairies.
The discourse finished with a listing of different breads and their origins such as Flat Breads; “Monkey Bread”; Irish Soda Breads; Bagels; Baguette’s; Brioche; Croissants; Sally Lunn Bun; Toast and from the U.S.A. Anadama Bread and 1939 “Hollywood” Bread (Dieter’s Delight !!).
The U.K. Bakery Market is worth over £3 billion with 70% of bread production being of the white variety.
An engaged audience asked some pertinent questions at the end and the Vote Of Thanks on behalf of the attendees was given by George Thomas.
NEIL RAMSHAW SECRETARY