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The many benefits of bread

Mankind survived for half a million years or more without bread, until we discovered agriculture and started growing stuff just a few thousand years ago. So it’s surprising, in a way, to discover how remarkably good making bread is for our mental health.

Is it the lovely feel of the dough, the dreamy rhythm of the kneading, the fabulous smells or something to do with the yeast itself, which is a living creature and magical in its own right? Is it because baking is so creative, or because it’s meditative and relaxing? Because it’s something you can do for others, sharing home-made food with people you care about, or an equally uplifting way to treat yourself? We think it’s probably a combination of all of the above.

Bread soothes depression… and more

According to a recent report in The Independent, the simple but enormously satisfying process of making bread helps lift people out of depression, helping thousands of depressed people climb out of the dark back into the light.

In a report for the Real Bread Campaign John Whaite, the Great British Bake-Off’s 2012 winner and depression sufferer, calls for more people “suffering from mental health issues, or who are simply going through a tough time to get the chance to try their hand at baking real bread to see how it could help them”.

Then there’s the writer Marian Keyes, who also uses baking to help her deal with depression. She has even written a book about it, the excellent Saved by Cake, in which she says, “Baking hasn’t cured me. But it gets me through. To be perfectly blunt about it, my choice sometimes is, I can kill myself or I can make a dozen cupcakes. Right, so I’ll do the cupcakes and I can kill myself tomorrow.” 

The discovery of baking’s power to make us feel better has driven a number of pop-up bakeries, with the wonderfully-named Depressed Cake Shop popping up in places as disparate as London, Glasgow, Derby, Cardiff and North Yorkshire. Baking is also being brought into play to help people in homeless shelters, services personnel struggling to cope in civvy street, adults with mental health issues, the elderly, Alzheimer’s sufferers and people with learning difficulties.

We always knew we baked happy bread. Now we know why our staff love their work so much, and why so few of them leave us!

Does bread cure earache?

During the 1600s King Charles the Second’s ­personal doctor, William Sermon, wrote a book documenting the remedies he used. One of them involved taking, “a loaf made with one part of caraway seeds, cut it through the middle and apply it to the ears.” Does it work? Who knows. Stranger things have happened.

7 unusual uses for a piece of bread

Old bread is also pretty damn useful. Here are our top seven uses for an old slice of bread, elderly roll or ancient loaf:

  1. clean stains off your wallpaper
  2. ‘mop’ up small pieces of broken glass safely
  3. save a burned pan of rice – pop a slice on top of the rice, cover and leave for five minutes and the bread absorbs the nasty burned flavour
  4. soak up spilled grease
  5. clean a mucky old oil painting
  6. remove splinters painlessly – soak a bit in milk, tape it to your skin and it should draw the splinter out
  7. clean suede