Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman have produced a new and delightful literary feast for under fives with their inventive story of the life of a loaf of bread in their new book Hooray for Bread. The little loaf becomes immediately likeable for tots as it is 'born', dreams and journeys through its day. Festooned with a range of choice toddler fodder, this happy little loaf sustains a whole family, a dog, ducks, birds and a little mouse. None of it is wasted, and some is even saved for the reader. The text is rhyming and turns a simple tale into a joy to read. The illustrations are endearing, and the rousing chorus throughout of 'Hooray for Bread' cannot fail to capture a child's attention. Culturebaby loved that there were familiar images of a baby in a cot next to Mummy and Daddy's bed or on Mummy's shoulder in the kitchen making lunch, and as with all such things at present, she renamed each member of the family after us... conveniently ignoring the fact that the Baker's eldest is in fact a boy. The book is lovely and ensures mealtimes come alive for children. It makes them think about where their bread comes from, how it is used and how to be grateful for it - and not waste it (though someone really ought to tell Allan we aren't supposed to feed ducks bread any more, or chips for that matter - a peculiar problem in Birmingham apparently?!).
So, inspired by the book, a rare moment of culinary zeal, and armed with a recipe card sent by Walker Books which made the whole process look suprisingly manageable, we embarked on a fun hour or two of kneading, rolling and baking. And what a lovely, social and surprisingly satisfying experience it was. I'm far from filling out my application for the next series of The Great British Bake Off, and admit that in all the excitement we forgot the salt, but Culturebaby got really into it all, concentrated hard on the process, ate the bread (which was actually tasty), and had to have a little loaf extricated from her paws as she was shuffled into her cot clutching it after the 4th reading of the book. So all round a success (plus I got to play with my new laminator, a joy not to be scoffed at).
I really like stories that lead on to other lifegiving and creative activities such as this, and if it inspires families to bake and enjoy time together learning lovely skills like this then it is a real winner in my book. Plus I really do think it could have planted a seed of domesticity in me (or has at least instilled in me the intention to bake again).
I'd suggest that in the next print run the fab recipe is included at the back of the book, or even as a detachable laminated card. For now perhaps Walker Books can add it to their website and share the hurrah? Frankly if I can use it, anyone can.