At the start of this month Bristol hosted the first ever Food Connections Festival.
The festival was a city wide celebration of food and conversation that lasted over 10 days and included over 150 separate events.
To me the festival was an opportunity to talk about where are food comes from, to consider the complex networks and events that makes getting food onto our tables possible. To talk to people about what we eat, and where it comes from.
As a baker I use only 4 basic ingredients - Flour, Water, Salt and Yeast.
With just four ingredients is should be possible to say exactly where they come from, but I realised I couldn’t. The festival gave me a reason to produce something which I could say exactly where all the ingredients came from. This became known as the #ConnectedLoaf.
I chose to make a loaf of bread entirely made of ingredients sourced from the South West, where I’d met the producers of each ingredient, and I’d travelled all the food miles myself. I decided to cycle the journey because this would be hard work and nothing could be taken for granted.
Starting at Lands End I cycled back to Bristol over 6 days, and covering 300miles.
My first ingredient was Sea Salt from the Cornish Sea Salt Company.
Then I collected Honey from a small producer in Devon.
My bread was risen with a Sourdough Culture from Tracebridge Sourdough.
The flour was Organic Spelt flour grown in Glastonbury by Sharpham Park.
Finally even the water was collected from Cheddar Natural Spring Water.
You can hear the story, and follow my journey by listening back to the BBC Food Programme.
I used these ingredients for the duration of the festival, baking my #ConnectedLoaf and telling the stories behind the producers that made it possible.
The ultimate point was that in our day to day lives it is easy to take things like Salt or Water for granted, but there are people who are really passionate about those basic things. Without those people we wouldn’t have quality salt, organic flour, pure untreated water etc.
Bristol Food Connections gave me an excuse to take this idea to an extreme. I know it’s not possible to work or think like this all the time, but sometimes it’s important to sit back and consider - who makes this one ingredient that I can’t imagine living without?
One of the things that concerns me about modern life is how detached we’ve become from our food, and each other. Many of us have no way of having a connection with the butcher who prepared our Sunday chicken. The way we work at our bakery invites people to have that connection with us. The person who sells you your bread, is the person who’s made that bread. This project was me taking that a bit further to our producers, and I feel much richer as an individual for that.
As I’ve said, this was taken as an extreme on purpose, but I would hope that the people who take this bread and those who’ve read this blog, will take that on board a little and seek ways of connecting themselves.
Take the time to think about that one ingredient, or that one thing which you use all the time but don’t have a clue how it’s made. Try to bridge that gap, even if it’s just by finding out exactly where it comes from. The experience may well be enlightening, or perhaps disturbing, and possibly life changing.