In March, Neville Tulip, master baker and co-owner of the hugely successful Running Fox Café, gave a talk to the Felton Local History Society on the history of bread making.
It seems that a rudimentary type of bread has been with us since the Stone Age when Neolithic man mixed oats, grass and many different sorts of seeds with water to make a paste which they then cooked on a hot stone, only appetising by the standards of the day.
Come the era of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar bread was much more refined. Bread makers were highly-paid artisans, organised into guilds with high standards to maintain or severe consequences to be faced.
In the England of King John, so harsh was the punishment for supplying underweight loaves that it led to the introduction of the baker’s dozen. To make sure they were on the right side of the law, bakers used to add an extra bun to every 12 they sold.
With official blessing, standards slipped during the two world wars when loaves were often bolstered by the addition of potatoes, carrots and other vegetables.
In 1961, a revolutionary new process for bread making was introduced. This allowed bread to be produced much more quickly, leading to the introduction of mass-produced, bland products such as Mother’s Pride and Wonderloaf.
While 65 per cent of today’s market is still given over to white bread, there is an enormous choice of styles and quality. Neville Tulip is in the business of satisfying demand from the more discerning customer.
Our next presentation will be on Monday, April 15, when Dr Ian Roberts will be discussing Drove Roads and Droving in Northumberland.