Bread – A Loaf Affair Review: Upper Crust Stuff

March 23, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

BREAD – A LOAF AFFAIR: Wednesday 24th March, BBC4, 9pm ALERT ME

Bread. A much derided ’80s sitcom and a staple food across the world. Fortunately, this hour-long documentary focuses on the latter and is far more enjoyable than you might expect.

The story of white bread is ‘a chronicle of aspiration, industrialisation and snobbery’, hails the programme’s opening lines. That’s not as potty as it sounds – what better way to follow the nation’s tastes then to focus on its daily diet?

The film covers the ever-changing middle-class preference for white and brown bread and the health ticket Hovis first sold its loaves on.

Changes to the way bakers made bread have had a direct effect on the nation’s health. When urban bakers cut their flour with alum (short for the seriously toxic aluminium sulphate) to make ingredients go further, there was a countrywide rise in cases of rickets.

When consumers had a taste for fluffy white bread, the lack of bran made ‘constipation a national curse’. We learn about the industrial processes that meant big companies could make more loafs per minute and the backlash from organic wholefood followers.

Although he may have only been considered because of the aptness of his name, narrator Tom Baker really makes the film. His voicing of the humble loaf’s history is kept humorous and irreverent, which an hour long documentary about bread really needs.

The former Doctor Who can make even the dullest descriptions of wheatgerm to yeast ratios entertaining and he has added a lot of his own lines as well. The film never takes itself seriously – there’s even a montage of bakers kneading dough put to Marvin Gaye classic Let’s Get It On.

Contributors include bakers and bread lovers and one chap who describes himself as a ‘bakery technologist’. They are clearly impassioned by the sliced stuff and will have you yearning for a bap in no time.

All good fun with lots of archive footage, Bread is well worth tucking into.

Bizarrely, this is the first of three programmes about bread coming up over the next few days. In Search Of The Perfect Loaf which follows a baker’s attempt to make competition winning bread is on BBC 4 on Thursday (ALERT ME) while next week on BBC 2 Raymond Blanc’s Kitchen Secrets series looks at the miracle of yeast (ALERT ME).