As we are locked inside, we see across the internet (and on the empty baking shelves of supermarkets) that there is a boom in sourdough starters and freshly baked loaves. On the surface, the reason for this could be that baking and eating is simply an obvious way to fend off boredom, but, in fact, home baking is a signifier of two existentially redemptive ideas:

Firstly, the home is the place of security; with home baked bread, you know who has made the loaf, and every ingredient that has gone into its production. In this way you are minimising the invisible threats surrounding us in the outside world. With supermarket bread the production process is one more invisible risk factor, not to mention the unknown number of people who have touched the bread before it reaches your home (does one need to disinfect the plastic packaging before opening it, for example?). Furthermore, the process of baking bread provides a very tangible sense of control and agency over unseen factors – using the most basic ingredients of flour, salt, water, and yeast (or bacteria magically conjured out of the air and into a mason jar) an individual person becomes something of an alchemist, creating something useful, comforting, and delicious out of practically nothing.

At a time when we are locked inside, home baking is also a reminder of creativity and productivity; work is usually the place where we invest in our need to create and be productive. Now not being in a workplace, or not working at all and instead being locked at home, connotes a reduction of our use-value to society and our family. In contemporary society we are judged on our productivity and we need to produce and create to demonstrate to ourselves and the world that we have use-value. Making bread is a bulwark against the idea that we have lost our use-value and productive value to society at large. Bread baking is a very tangible form of this productivity, requiring an investment in time and dedication to a particular set of processes, and on a day to day basis provides visible, and edible, proof of our ability to remain productive to ourselves and our families.


Isobel Grad, Semiotician

The Rise of Home Baking: The perfect recipe for these uncertain times