By Jack Smylie Wild
"I make coffee and set to work, knocking flour into the mixer, pouring and scraping leaven, crumbling bergs of salt into fineness, taking both the flour temperature and the room temperature in order to work out the correct water temperature. I pour 9755g of water at 20˚ on top of all the other ingredients, close the guard, and press the slow-mix button.
Grain. Salt. Water.
Such simple matter, yet so miraculous in their properties. Water especially is a magical substance. I think of a line from a Tom Robbins novel I once read, about how humans are an invention of water, utilised to transport itself from one place to another.
I think also of my beloved Teifi, which ebbs and flows with the tide in its estuary incarnation a few hundred metres from Bara Menyn. Sometimes I wander down there at night, and stare into the fullness of high tide, sparkling and swelling in the glimmer of the moon and the cosy glow of the street lamps. From the brackish solution, my imagination begins to untangle and distil a cocktail of unique waters, each distinct brew flowing through its own quiet cwm before surrendering its identity to the Teifi: Ffrwd Cynon, gurgling through the night over rounded moorland pebbles and through the grassy glades of a wild valley near Pistyll Eynon, then down to Pentrefelin and Cellan; the young Granell, high in a hidden valley near Moeddyn-fawr, pouring over smooth slides of polished granite beside tree trunks hugged by moist moss smouldering in the morning sun; the slender Gwenffrwd, skirting the wooded dome of Coed Y Foel, tumbling over stony steps before breathing in the light of rush-speckled pasture, and joining the Teifi beside my island; the old Cerdin, entering its secret gorge after miles of slow meandering from its source near Ffostrasol, past rust-red bullocks in a steep-sided vale; the Piliau, gathering in clear pools, and spitting down the ancient weir at Gaer, where dippers come and go from their moss-ball nest; the Hirwaun, winding down through paradise, past meadows where deer sleep and wrens sing in the dusk, before merging with the Teifi like a slip-road."
It sounds over the top, but this is what water has come to mean to me – this is what this land and its arteries, its lifeblood, have come to mean to me. I know the Teifi because I know its tributaries and their myriad sources. I see more than water when I stare into its depths – I see the whole land, the vast undulating hills of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire; all the creatures that inhabit the river. The same should be true of a loaf of bread: in seeing it, in tasting it, we ought to see beyond it, to perceive the processes, the people and the places involved in its complex journey from myriad forms and parts to a simple, single whole. To do this we need to acquaint ourselves with the origins and histories behind the so-called end product. If we respect ourselves, we will respect our food, and if we respect our food, we will respect all that has gone into its making."
"It all started with bread. Hence the name Bara Menyn, which means 'Bread & Butter', and for me sums up what we're about - quality, simplicity and comfort......"
Jack Smylie Wild
Bara Menyn is a Bakehouse/Popty in Cardigan Bay. Owner, baker and writer Jack has grown his business from his love for making bread and desire to bring quality loaves to his local community. In his book 'Tuesdays bread' he explores baking, walking and writing.
(It was the best peanut butter on toast I've ever had)