The Pickliest of Pickles: Why I started baking...
15.02.17

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(Above: The first ever prototype of The Bread Companion, on its maiden voyage, having a slight pickle with a lorry)

As TBC turns 3 years old this month, Iíve been thinking a lot about the beginning of it all. I am often asked how the project started and I always seem to give different answers, not because Iím making it up or I canít remember, but because it wasnít really a straightforward beginning. 3 years ago. What was I up to? Well. I was a grumpy, wobbly design student in my final year at the Royal College of Art with no real direction... with my school work or otherwise. I was in an almighty pickle - a pickle experiencing an existential pickling crisis. Luckily, my tutors could see me floundering and threw me a rope, setting me a project to 'become an expert' in something Ė I had 3 weeks to learn a new skill without any pressure as to what the end goal would be. This is possibly the best piece of advice anyone has ever given me ever Ė to just do something.

I was immediately drawn to bread. Why? I suppose the simple reason was it was something that I didnít know how to do yet and food and design seemed linked in many ways. But on another level, at a time when I was feeling negative and lethargic, bread struck me as positive and industrious Ė within a few hours I could make something tangible and useful and this felt good when so many things take and were taking so much longer to come to fruition. In those three weeks, mastering baking was something that gave me confidence and some much needed direction Ė it made me see that I could do things on my own steam. After the project ended, I started volunteering in a bakery on Saturdays, continued researching bread and baked in my spare time until the whole thing turned into my graduation project in June 2014. After I finished university, I left the first prototype of TBC in my mumís garage for a while and went back to being a designer, but found myself back in a jam six months later. So. for the second time, I decided it was about time to commit myself to The Companion and I went almost full time on the project in January 2015 - bread, it seemed to me was my little, doughy lifeboat.

You may have noticed a pattern, just in the those two short paragraphs - I would get myself into pickles often and never quite manage to get myself out of them. But baking lifted me from foggy thoughts. As much as my project was about solving the problem of bad bread (mass produced, damp wonder white), The Bread Companion project also sought to spread the word that homemade bread isnít just good for your stomach, but that making bread is also very good for your brain and your heart. Being able to provide for ourselves, as I found out, is empowering. But many of us donít have the time or the space to grow our own veggies or farm animals or go fishing. Knocking up a loaf, however, is totally doable. I wanted to make people feel as elated as I felt when I started making my first loaves Ė itís a nice feeling to pass on.

And so TBC is a light-hearted project that aims to encourage people to take control over their own food a little bit more. It was designed to solve the problem of terrible bread and make good bread accessible to everyone (by making it in their own homes.) But, in the process of setting this project up, Iíve also discovered the healing properties of flour and water. Learning how to make bread, for me, was the pickle to end all pickles, and I havenít found myself in one since.