Wednesday, February 8, 2012
The National Loaf was introduced to Britain in 1942 due to a shortage of shipping space for flour from Canada and the USA. It was sold unwrapped and unsliced to save packaging. There are references to it being sold a day old despite bread being best when fresh as possible. White bread was then no longer produced so if you wanted bread you bought the National Loaf.
You have to ask why is there an advert for a monopoly product? A new loaf called Golden Twist with something that looks like biscuits in the illustration rather than slices of bread. Wasn't it just different bakeries using essentially one recipe. So what was the National Loaf made from? Well let's quote Colonel J.J. Llewellin MP the Minister of Food when asked that question in Parliament..
"Apart from yeast, salt and various improvers which are the recognised adjuncts of bread baking, the National Loaf is made from National Flour which is milled from a grist of 97½ per cent. wheat and 2½ per cent. barley or rye. Imported white flour is mixed in at the rate of 10 per cent., and other authorised additions are calcium, at the rate of 7 oz. per 280 lb. of flour and dried milk at the rate of 2 lb. per 280 lb. of flour. In addition the baker may use potatoes, potato flour and fat as permitted in the Bread (Control and Maximum Prices) Order, 1943" 1. Those amounts changed over the seasons, barley was removed, oats had been used.
It was nutrious, filling, dense, and if that was the only bread available no doubt monotonous. If you prefer wholewheat / wholemeal bread from the full 100 per cent of the grain it might be fine stuff. If you are used to white bread which has an extraction rate of 70-75 per cent (the bran, germ, fat and some of the minerals are removed) then you would grumble.
The National Loaf, at the time described as national wheatmeal bread, was never rationed in the war. "An equal ration for all is out of the question, so different are the degrees of consumption. Bread rationing would lead us straight into the thorny path of differential rations. We claim that our loaf is the best bread in Europe" so said William Mabane MP to the House of Commons. 2
He also alluded to the propaganda prestige of having the only unrationed bread in Europe and cheap at 2¼p a pound (.94p for 453g).
Bread was rationed after the war from July 1946 to July 1948, which is surprising given that more ships were available to import Canadian wheat which is the best for bread making. But that's another story. The National Loaf was still in production until 1956 so was it that unpopular?
Next step is to make a National Loaf, and yes recipes are available, so a future post on the baking and tasting...more to follow...
1. William Mabone MP, (1895–1969), Parliamentary Secretary to Ministry of Food (1942-1945) to House of Commons May 13th 1943 , MP for Huddersfield.
2. Hansard 14 March 1944 vol 398 c54W 54W. Col.John Llewellin (1893–1957) Minister of Food 1943-45, taking over from Baron Woolton 1940-43 (as in the famous Woolton Pie) MP for Uxbridge 1929-45, later 1st Baron Llewellin.
Advert is from Manchester and Salford Co-operative Herald June 1944 pg 122.