Easter 2012 – As London nervously awaited the impending Olympics with pragmatic British pessimism, I cycled down to the E5 Bakehouse to attend a sourdough bread making day, bought for me as a present by my partner. At the end of the day our teacher and E5 founder Ben Mackinnon jokingly asked the group: “So, anyone fancy opening a bakery?” Self-conscious laughter or expressions to the effect of “yeah, right!”
Five years later I am surprised to find myself, not exactly opening a fully-fledged bakery, complete with deck ovens, metres of stainless steel, and a fetching white hat with airtex (not artex?!) vents perched on my head, but at least adding myself to the growing number (especially this end of town!) of micro-food producers, wedged into small back alleys, 1/16 railway arches, or, as in my case, at the back of a Victorian terraced house not far from Hackney Central. After all, all I did was bake some loaves, then more loaves, then more loaves, offer them to friends, neighbours, work colleagues; they give me money for my efforts, those coins in my pocket feel somehow worth more than the monthly paid salary; I bake the bread on the morning of my wedding for the reception; I take my sourdough starter on holiday with me, baking in France, in Spain. I attend more courses, meet others similarly absorbed (finding your tribe, as Ken Robinson says), whether in person or through the wonderful (and temporally- cursed) medium of social media.
At the risk of sounding a bit like Swiss Tony (you’ll have to google that one, if you don’t know), the twists and turns of ones life are perhaps a little bit like baking- you do all you can to make the best loaf, involving a balance of control and ‘listening’ to the dough, but in the end the results are in the hands of the gods and it comes out as it comes out, sometimes great, sometimes bloody awful!