Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Will you be queuing up for so-called “Trendy Toast”? I certainly won't be.

Well it has been a busy week for me, I went to University College Birmingham on Saturday to explore what they had to offer on their 'Food product and innovation' course and it sounds right up my street!! I was very impressed with their new food laboratories, kitchens, sensory  and photography suites... food styling here we come. 

Which then explains why I haven't had much time for cooking  this week, so I thought what perfect timing to share with you my article that I submitted to The Guild Of Food Writers Write It - Young Food Writer Of The Year Competition. 

I am very pleased to say that I was awarded a highly commended by the judges- Tim Hayward, food writer and broadcaster; Nicola Graimes, food writer and author; and Karen Barnes, Editor of delicious. magazine. It was an improvement on last year when I didn't get anything so yeaahhh!! I also received some lovely comments from the judges as well which has given me confidence to keep going and improve even more with my food writing.....

Critics say ‘Hipster toast is the new cronut’ but is this just another whim that will drag on and on… I’m looking to you the cupcake?

Back in the day, our school lunchbox faced the harsh reality of factory-manufactured white sliced Warburton’s overwhelmed with that all-so-sickly sweet, strawberry jam (because our parents thought we actually enjoyed it) so you will never believe me when I say this 1960’s staple is next in the firing line to undergo a gourmet reinvention. 

I think it’s safe to say that most of us tend to lack imagination when it comes to breakfast time, and as for me, well, as a child I was no exception; continuously waking up to a bowl of cold and uninspiring cereal, most likely with a side of strawberry or chocolate milk if I was lucky. 

Of course, there was the alternative of toast – but toast seemed dull, monotonous and merely uninteresting - to my 6 year old self.  My palette was accustomed to all things sweet and bland, hence it was never an option for me, independently, to become brave and adventurous; no certainly not so early in the morning, especially when it was a struggle to keep my eyelids open. 

Much to my parent’s dismay, I tended to reject unfamiliar foods on the first few mouthfuls, but sugar was always that one notable exception to my “food neophobia.” Anything from Cookie Crisp to Golden Nuggets; I was unwittingly allowed bowlfuls to kick start my day, each with its sugar equivalent to a ‘gasp’-worthy 4 chocolate biscuits. 

At the time, why would I have ever questioned the choice between something that tasted as if I’d eaten a whole bag of sweetness, as opposed to a plain slice of white toast with a thin veneer of insipid margarine? Because for my parents to accept that sugar-loaded jam is OK, but butter isn’t, is of course, hypocritical. 

But, later on in life, the lightbulb abruptly sparked an ignition in my sugar-fuelled brain as I realised how utterly comforting toast could be. After years, and yet more years, of chewing on that contrived cotton wool-like bread; the bookends to those unforgettable (for all the wrong reasons,) equally processed cheese Kraft singles, you can probably see why the artisanal bread-making phenomenon was a miracle in my eyes. 

With the emergence of a new wave of local, independent operations reviving bakery craft skills and techniques, I was instantly gripped by the aroma of freshly-baked bread, the soft moist interior of a hand-crafted loaf with its nutty, crunchy crust. I suddenly appreciated the efforts of a baker who mixed, fermented, moulded and baked their own loaves each and every day. Light and delicate or deep and rustic, fabricating a whole host of flavours and textures, that’s what real bread should be like. Then along came the flavoured associates: sun-dried tomato, nuts, garlic, Mediterranean herbs and cheeses. Time to wave goodbye Warburton’s. 

Image from

At last. An epiphany. I could now fully understand how toast can be salvation. Suddenly I’d be home, back from a late night out of hard partying and all I’d crave there and then in my pyjamas was a crusty end of a baguette – toasted and smothered with salted butter, of course never margarine. Melting and sumptuously naughty, my ultimate of comfort foods. It can be embellished with any amount of delicious spreads, and is very supportive of eggs, or melted cheese. Forget pies. Forget soups.  Sometimes the simplest things in life are the best.

So, as I recently walked along my high street and spotted one of the many stylish, ‘hipster’ cafés tempting passing trade with a sign promising delights like toasted sourdough with gooseberry and vanilla jam, of course, I was instantly drawn in. Only to be misled amidst the rest of the queuing customers that I had to pay a whopping £3.50 for a single slice. But, although I’d made my mind up that it was clearly way overpriced, especially given that an entire malt loaf can be bought from the farmer’s market for the exact same amount, I, like my other fellow queuing companions, found it all too easy to be manipulated and deceived into re-thinking what is an adequate price for a slice of toast? This ‘special’ walnut and rye toast with manuka honey and kumquat marmalade? (That’s a Chinese orange.) 

I shamefully gave in. I fell right into the hands of those money-making trend setters. Tricked into later discovering that I had to ‘self-toast’, I was appointed to what seemed like a pretentious communal table upon which my toaster was sat - all part of the ostensible satisfactory experience. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I thought the whole point of eating at a café was for the sole purpose of getting somebody else to make it for you. I suppose you could argue that this is just a perfect example of everything that’s wrong with our trend-infatuated food culture. Or you could just go along with it all, be forever pulled under that silk-like blanket of double-think and hand over your hard-earned cash time and time again, for what is simply a basic plate of food. Food that has been superficially labelled with gourmet fame so it can therefore be triple even quadruple the price of what it is actually worth. 

Really, all I want at the end of the day is to simply stay at home and eat my salvation toast with my creamy, salted butter in the cosiness of my own pyjamas. Not to be told that I am in on the latest trend. I know. I don’t care. It’s just toast. It’s all it ever will be. And when it all burns to dust, I’ll carry on eating it, no matter what. 

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