According to an exceedingly poorly written article on MSN UK today, the UK’s favorite food (as voted by 50,000 members of the public) is, guess what? No, not bangers, not mash, not fish, chips, or mushy peas. Neither is it roast beef or Yorkshire pudding, spotted dick or trifle, nor is it, to my great surprise since I am utterly helpless to resist them, crisps (potato chips). It is, wait for it, bread.
Feeling a little underwhelmed? Me too, but the more I think about it, the more I find it an interesting choice. Not only because of the recent popularity of low-carb diets (ugh, and again, ugh), but also because I love bread. Breakfast wouldn’t be the same without it, and a salad would be hardly worth eating if it didn’t come accompanied by a hunk of buttered, crusty bread. Perhaps I love it because breakfast in my house growing-up was always toast and jam, or perhaps it’s because, instead of snack foods, if I was hungry my mother would tell me to eat a slice of bread, or perhaps it’s because I’m an unwitting part of thousands of years of human dietary history that began when man first figured out that the seeds in the top of the wheat could be pounded into flour, mixed with water, some salt and (in many cases) yeast, and made into a tasty, sustaining foodstuff.
However, it could also be that, as a Brit living in the comparative wasteland of high-quality baked goods that is America, I have become fascinated by bread and, some might say, a bread snob. I’m frequently heard (by my long-suffering wife) to complain that the quality and variety of breads available (even in NYC) is comparatively poor when compared to the glut of freshly baked, unsliced, crisp-crusted, chewy and delicious breads on offer in the UK, where even in many supermarkets, they will actually bake their own bread on the premises and sell it fresh – yes, in paper bags too.
In my experience, the average American supermarket loaf is sweet, white, soft and nutritionally on a par with paper. Even the brown (wheat, rye, etc.) bread available is soft and without anything approaching chew in the crust. I find this frustrating because I’ve watched my fellow Americans in restaurants wolfing down baskets of delicious, crusty bread (like the example above) and butter ahead of meals in French bistros, so I know that good bread would sell, but yet it remains annoyingly difficult to find on a daily basis.
Anyway, I think the outcome of the MSN survey is interesting also because it says that today, in spite of there being a greater variety of types of food available to us now than ever before, people still want their bread. If you can’t live by bread alone, then you clearly can’t live without it. I’m going to find some per capita consumption figures for bread in the UK and post them later, because I’m interested to see whether the Brits actually eat as much bread as you’d think from the results of this survey.
A more pertinent question though is, what is America’s favorite food? And, when the results are in, and if we are what we eat, what does that tell us about the country?
And, while we’re on the subject of bread, good homebake bread recipes would be greatly appreciated. I’ve got one that I’ve been using for a while but it’s just not satisfactory, with the bread often turning out chewy but not crisp on the outside and kind of a weird color.