Graham's Bread, Ross-on-Wye

I don't mean to sound dramatic (for a change. OK I do) but life without bread is almost barbaric.

When people say "I could never live without bread!" one politely smiles and says "oh, it fine, really. Besides, the substitutes are really rather good these days..."

It's not fine really. I thought it was for a long time. but when I finally got good bread that I could eat (gluten free and egg free) I realised a few truths.

Life with bread is easier.
Life with bread is cheaper.
Life with bread is tastier.
Life with bread is more interesting.

Tesco used to sell a sliced bread that I could eat called 'Yes! You Can'. When they took it off the shelves I was very disappointed. I'd had a precious few months of taking normal looking sandwiches to work and toast that went in and out of my toaster with ease for breakfast. That was a couple of years ago. I've since tried to make my own bread. The result was a vile, weighty thing, resembling a mummified shoe more than a freshly baked loaf. Also, not many people mention the expense of these experiments. Buying £10 of speciality flours to see large amounts thrown in the bin adds to the melancholia.

I was house sitting for my mother-in-law last week and she lives near to Ross on Wye. Me and my husband went into town to pick up some supplies. We like to sit around her kitchen table and eat cheese, cured meats and homemade chutnies. Ross on Wye is a lovely place to shop for such things, which is a constant source of bemusement for my husband who recalls Ross in the drabness of the 80's. In the middle of the town, there is a lovely covered over area called The Market Place, used for markets since the 17th century. These days a few hardy stall holders still use the area and it is generally a good place to find old books, flowers and handmade items.

On the day we visited, we saw a bread stand advertising lardy cake, sourdough bread etc, then I noticed the 'Gluten Free' sign. I think I said something like 'well, let's just have a look at it, as we're here' to my husband! Pessimistic, much??

The man behind the table who I assumed to be Graham himself proudly talked me through the breads on offer. White and Brown sandwich bread, a more solid buckwheat bread and a very exciting looking flatbread/wrap. He also explained that a restaurant in Stroud uses his GF pizza base recipe (I think he was referring to Fat Toni's). The base is so popular that all the Trip Advisor reviews are about the GF pizza, much to the owners perturbation. (We sure know how to write shit about shit we like, huh?)

I picked up a buckwheat bread as I naturally go for the most unusual thing. Graham asked me to check out the sandwich loaf, saying that I would find it light with a great texture. I was shocked at how light it was. I checked both were egg free too and then bought both.

Back at the cottage, I thickly sliced the white and applied a generous slab of pate. There was no need at all to toast this bread first and the mouth feel was as similar to 'real' bread as I can remember. No powder feeling in the throat, no hard swallowing. I had the buckwheat with a chunky soup later on. This bread has a great flavour, almost malty with a firm texture, holding it's shape even when layered with cold butter. I had the white again for doorstop bacon sandwiches in the morning. I can't tell you how exciting it was to be able to use the term 'doorstop'!

Over the next few days, I worked my way through the bread, amazed at how easy it was to feed myself. Sandwiches were eaten as though they'd just been invented. On one of the days, I had a tongue and avocado open sandwich. It was stunning. Things that I missed out on - bruschetta, proper sized cheese on toast. Dessert? Bread and butter pudding! (OK, I didn't make any, but I will next time!)

I'm excited that I can get hold of this bread quite easily, it's only an hour away in the car. I'm planning more things to make with it and daydreaming of mayo (egg free of course) filled butties. At the same time, I'm kinda glad I don't have ready access to good bread. The bready week just highlighted how easy it is to just grab a bit of bread to make a meal and it really limits your diet and the nutrition that can be gained from a bread free meal.

It's about choices, and you don't realise how much you missed them until they are given back.

Graham's Bread is at the market in Ross-on-Wye every Saturday, 7.30 until 16.00.


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