Bread – Some Thoughts from Cobbett

Every woman, high or low, ought to know how to make bread. If she do not, she is unworthy of trust and confidence; and, indeed, a mere burden upon the community.  –William Cobbett

Today this should probably read “Every homemaker” instead of “Every woman” but, as Cobbett composed this treatise in 1821, he assumed that the home and cooking were the domain of the women and the men were to labor outside the home.


I have a mixed relationship with bread.  I love to make it and eat it, and have for many years, yet I don’t eat a lot of it as it seems to easily fatten me up and doesn’t always sit well in my gut; the same reasons I rarely drink beer these days.  However, I am very aware that bread, in one form or another, has been a staple in the Western World for millennia and should not be overlooked so I occasionally dive in and start making bread regularly again.  I can’t stand the modern garbage marketed as “bread” as it barely resembles the greatness of a real, leavened or fermented loaf.

By the early 19th century, big business was already encouraging families to buy bread instead of bake at home and there can be some sense in this, especially in the city (fuel cost for cooking, the efficiency of oven sharing, etc.).  Cobbett thought this purchase instead of make mentality was one of the many atrocities that kept laboring families unnecessarily poor.  Foolish practices that kept the poor from ever improving their lot was a major theme of his life and we can learn from this.

I have included his treatise on bread here.  He also spreads himself pretty well as to how he despises the potato as Ireland’s lazy root (before the famine).

Despite the bad press and nay-saying of diet fanatics in recent decades, real bread still finds its way onto my table.  What do you think?

5 thoughts on “Bread – Some Thoughts from Cobbett

  1. We bake bread weekly. We use mostly spelt instead of the high gluten hybrid modern wheat. We also use buckwheat, and a relative of buckwheat – Yellow or Curly Dock seed.

  2. I was recently diagnosed pre diabetic, so I had to cut out bread and pasta, rice, cereal, beer not to mention all sugar, even fruit. I am not a 19th century Liverpool dockworker so apparently I don’t need 2500 calories a day. I’ve lost 40 lbs in three months and all of my pre diabetic symptoms have disappeared. I feel like I am 30 again (51 now). I even got back into my indestructible 15 year old Prana shorts, which frankly I never thought I would. Truth is, as a species we are living way longer than we ever did in the past, and there are just only so many processed carbohydrates our poor pancreas can process before it says ” no mas “. I make and eat keto bread now, but only sparingly. Almond or coconut flour, an egg, some baking powder and salt, mix it in a mug or pyrex container, zap it in the microwave for 90 seconds or bake in an oven for 20 minutes and voila, you have bread. Its mostly fat and protein, which your pancreas and liver don’t mind nearly as much.

  3. Hey George,

    Like you, I also enjoy making and eating bread. I have to admit that while I have done it many different ways, I obtained a Bread Machine, and as a result, I actually have learned more about bread and making it.

    In the field, I enjoy making Bannock, Twist Bread, Fry Bread, and White Bread baked in a Mess Kit Bowl suspended by tent stakes in a #10 Tin Can.

    A few years ago, my wife purchased me an Indian Bread Making Course through Colorado Free University. While not free, the cost was reasonable.

    Not only did the course participants get to make bread,..Paratha, Naan, Roti, etc., but we got to eat our mistakes!

    Indian Breads are relatively easy to make outdoors, and very tasty.

    Be well and I will chat again soon. Off later this week for a hunt for Pronghorn.

    Bill Gwaltney

    1. That’s great Bill. the Indian breads are very good but I’ve never made them. The Ethiopian spongy bread is really interesting and one I’d like to try sometime. There is something almost alchemical about the process that makes it special.
      Get a pronghorn!

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