Yorkshire housewives can’t bake bread as well as they used to. Those were the incendiary words of W E Spencer, chief bakery production officer for the Ministry of Food, on this day in 1947.
Mr Spencer was also test baker to the Flour Millers’ Association, an organisation which still exists today, albeit under a slightly different name: the National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers.
But Mr Spencer wasn’t done with Yorkshire housewives. He also took a swipe at Yorkshire bakers in general and said their loaves were inferior to the common standard.
The Ministry had bought thousands of loaves from across the country to test and compare them and he personally inspected 100 loaves gathered from the North Riding, conducting his examinations at the rate of six a minute: this involved ‘slicing, tenderly fingering and sinking his nose into their crumby interiors’, according to the report from the Yorkshire Evening Post of the day.
He then concluded: “The reason for this drop in standards is that housewives have not the time to bake properly and have lost the habit of baking for themselves.”
He concluded the best baked bread issued from Scotland. Having fingered and sunk his nose into the crumby interiors of loaves from the North Riding, he was preparing to do likewise with those from the West Riding the following week.
And, like a master craftsman dispensing knowledge hoary with age to an unassuming apprentice, he had this to say about his technique for testing bread: ‘To judge a load properly, the crust should be squeezed at the same time as both nose and tongue are pressed deep into the opened loaf’.
Do you recall baking during the war? If so, get in touch.