Bread and Board


Having been on a dairy free, gluten free, inflammatory oils (e.g. Palm, Rapeseed etc.) free, tea and coffee free diet since late April this year*, the other day I found myself thinking about bread and its interesting constituent, gluten. Which, in turn, reminded me of how it was that Babette came to bread making in the first place. In late 2000 I was diagnosed with an intolerance to wheat, or rather some aspect of it, probably gluten which left me not digesting my food properly and consequently being exhausted very easily. So, she went looking for gluten free bread. She found some. It was cardboard like and fell apart as soon as I tried to put butter on it, but it did help me regain some of my energy.

By and by, she then announced that she was going to make some bread, which she did, leaving it to stand overnight very often to prove, before baking. She then suggested that I try it. Which I think I was a bit reluctant to do, as I was enjoying my newfound energy. Little did I know that by accident or design she had stumbled on a bread that I could eat with no ill effects, wonderful girl that she was. And yes, I could eat pretty well as much as I liked.

She then read a book called "Bread Matters" by Andrew Whitley, and realised why my system could tolerate her bread, when the bought stuff was so indigestible. It all started back in the late 1950’s. There was a government initiative that aimed to protect British wheat production, with the intention of making our low protein flour usable for making bread. If I recall the reason, it’s that wheat grown in countries with far more sun than the UK, has a higher protein content, which makes it far more suitable  for bread manufacturing . The process that they (the British Baking Industries Research Association, based in Chorleywood) came up with, was called simply the Chorleywood Process. It enabled not only the use of British wheat, but also allowed a much shorter production time of 2-4 hours, as opposed to 24 hours (for Sourdough) so was cheaper to make, used far less labour (so cheaper still) and you could make far more. What’s not to like from the manufacturers point of view? Well, I’ll tell you.

An article I found, on the website "Time to Cook" summarises much of the problem. In it, the author says "the process relies on a cocktail of oxidising agents, emulsifiers and other artificial additives (and, increasingly, hidden processing aids), higher levels of yeast than generally found in real bread, plus hard fats (such as palm fat, the sustainability of its origin possibly questionable), and often a lacing of preservatives to delay the growth of mould." Yuk!

In many quarters, the opinion is that this cocktail and the extra gluten artificially introduced into bread, make it very hard for us to digest completely and, of course, the end result even tastes, well, of very little. And on top of that, it has very little food value at all in it. All Chorleywood Process bread gives you, is something to hold the filling of your sandwich together or to put your butter and marmalade on. (Not to mention all the chemicals that have been added).

What I've written here is a very simplified and incomplete story, but what I can tell you is my experience of moving away from bread made with the Chorleywood Process (used in 80% of bread sold in this country) made a life changing improvement to my health and returned my energy to its previous levels. I don’t think that I’m alone in experiencing this benefit and I’m telling you this in case you didn’t know and are perhaps feeling a little lack lustre. And to be clear, the diet that I’m currently on, is really a separate issue and just a proactive effort on my part to remain healthy into my dotage!

* A diet that I tend to "ease a bit" during weekends. Tea and toast for breakfast, for instance, comes back on the menu!

Now to my favourite chopping boards. Epicurean.

I’ve always loved the look of great big, thick, butcherblock chopping boards, and indeed we do some very nice ones from Zwilling and other as well, but for me, their weight, bulk and size are a pain in the neck. Big and heavy and just too cumbersome and when you’ve finished using it, you have to lug it over to the sink and scrub it down. This isn’t living in my book, its masochism.

Thirty odd years ago Richard Gilbert (the then importer of Epicurean) introduced us to a new concept, a “wooden” chopping board, actually made of wood fibre (or recycled paper) and resin that was thin, light, dishwasher safe and gentle on your knives. The brand was called Epicurean and we’ve been selling them successfully ever since. They’ve just had a bit of a revamp, including now being made in China, rather than the States, so the prices have dropped a bit, but the quality appears to have remained high. The salient points of these boards I’ve listed below, but just one observation. There is the original range (no rubber feet) and an additional one with rubber feet. I’ve never found the need for feet, because all Epicureans we have at home (six in all!) have remained completely flat and don’t move when I’m chopping on them. But, some customers have complained that their board spins/moves in use. I’m honestly not sure why that is, could it be the kitchen worktop surface isn’t flat, has their board bowed for some reason?... don’t know  the answer. But if you feel the need for rubber feet then you have three sizes from which to choose.

Ok, back to the benefits to you:

  • Non-Porous. So don’t take on smells or odours.
  • Five different sizes. From 20 x 15cm (8 x 6”) to 44 x 32cm (15 x 12”)
  • Dishwasher Safe. The only wooden boards that you can safely put in the dishwasher day in day out.
  • Warping. They won’t!
  • Soaking them. This won’t do them any harm.
  • Light weight. Makes them easy to move, to take in or out of cupboards and drawers.
  • Rubber feet on some models (for uneven surfaces?)
  • Knife health: Like wooden boards, Epicureans won’t blunt your knives quickly because of the “give’ in the material.
  • Other uses: Trivets for putting hot pans on. You can do this quite safely without fear of marking (unless the pans red hot) and even then, you can just sand the mark away! They are essentially wood.
  • Other uses: Cheese board. Cheese looks particularly good on the black versions, I think.
  • Other uses: Bread Board. A lovely sour dough loaf from your local Artisan bakery just looks beguiling on one of these boards.

Ok, so that’s it. My favourite chopping boards for the last 30 odd years. Beginning to feel like a proper salesman when I reread what I’ve said …must be getting the hang of this job.

So here is this week’s bribe.

Buy one of my babies, and get 10 % off. Use Code LIGHT10 if shopping online. Or buy 2 (or more) and get 20% off. Use Code LIGHT20 You can even mix and match.

Tell us who you are if shopping in Cobham or Reigate.

Here’s a thought from Simon Sinek to finish on.

“People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe”

Which if you’ve been reading these emails for any length of time, you’ll know is something I find fascinating, thought provoking in fact!

I trust you have a pleasant and peaceful weekend.

Kind regards 


Andrew Bluett-Duncan 



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