Eat Life

This week: bread, fungi, skin hunger, Vicky Vox, and a Christmas book?

Happy Friday

And welcome to a week that has finally caught up with you. How have you been?

I’m writing this while watching the sun rise over the Isle of Wight. Somehow knowing that the swollen red of the sky is caused by Rayleigh scattering as the sun’s rays pass through the earth’s atmosphere doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

Fungi, probably the Gymnopilus junonius AKA Spectacular Rustgill, growing on the stump of a conifer lost to the high winds this autumn. Thanks to Fern for the remote I.D.

Thought for Food #2: Bread of Life

Read this on the blog if you prefer!

Egyptians use the same word for bread as they do for life: عيش—‘aish. Bread, quite literally, is life. Street bread in Egypt عش بلدي—‘aish baladi—translates just as well as ‘rustic loaf’ as it does ‘live my country’.

More broadly in Arab culture, عيش وملح—’aish w melh, bread and salt—is used to celebrate an alliance of gratitude between two people. Breaking bread together in any culture is symbolic of friendship. For Salvador Dalí, bread was a subject of fetishism and obsession.

If you like your bread leavened, then you’re at the mercy of burping microbes. This episode of BBC CrowdScience follows the fabulously unlikely story of how humans found yeast that actually tastes good.

Besides walking upright, gripping a hand tool and moaning about the weather, baking bread is the closest modern humanity comes to the lived experience of our Mesolithic ancestors.

If you’re uncertain about your status as a flesh and blood human being, what more direct way of communing with our evolution than to bake and break a loaf of bread?

Perhaps that’s why so many people have turned to their ovens during this pandemic. In a very literal sense, we knead bread.

Now I too have joined the baking legions, with a loaf that might consume your soul, but won’t consume your time. My bread of life recipe doesn’t need any kneading because there’s no gluten and no added yeast. It doesn’t need fancy weighing scales or even a loaf tin. You simply mix up the ingredients, leave it to rest (or don’t) and bake it.

Credit where credit’s due: I pinched the bones of this recipe from the back of Bauckhof’s gluten free, organic, vegan bread mix packets. I have also found this similar recipe by Sarah Britton, which gives a great explanation of how this bread works without the binding gluten of flour, and what kind of substitutions you can play around with.

Bread of Life: Ingredients

  • 155-215g wholemeal rolled oats

  • 185-245g of your favourite whole seeds (not ground). Bauckhof use (in descending order of quantity):

    • Pumpkin

    • Sunflower

    • Linseed (= Flax)

    • Sesame

  • 2 tbsp Chia seeds

  • 3 tbsp Ground psyllium husks (important!)

  • 1 tsp Fine grain sea salt

Play around with the ratio of oats to seeds (or go crazy and add a few nuts) for a total weight of about 430g for all the dry ingredients.

If, like me, you don’t have weighing scales, then simply measure out the dry ingredients using a measuring jug. You want to fill it up to about the 700ml mark.

Please don’t worry too much about precision: you’ll soon be able to tell when you mix the dough with water whether you’ve done too much or too little, whether it’s too wet or too dry.

Bread of Life: Method

  1. Put the mix into a bowl and add 360ml cold water

  2. Mix well and leave to stand for a few minutes

  3. Mix again. It should be sort of sticky, but still hold its form

  4. Form the dough into a loaf and put onto a greased baking tray. You can also use a well-greased loaf tin if you have one

  5. Leave for as long as you can. I leave it overnight, but don’t sweat

  6. Bake for 70 minutes at 200C. I use a fan oven, but every oven is different so keep an eye on it. It’s ready when tapping the bottom sounds kinda hollow

  7. Take out of the tin and leave to cool, about 20 minutes

What you’re left with is a nutritious loaf that, per 100g and depending on your ratio of oats (higher carb and fibre) to seeds (higher fat), delivers:

  • 15-17g fat (supermarket wholemeal comparison: 1.8g)

  • 17-21g carbs (37.8g)

  • 12g protein (10g)

  • 8-9g fibre (6.8g)

NOTE: This is not the Chorleywood Process, so forget any notion of airy vapidity. This recipe makes a dense loaf, an equal partner in a meal rather than the merest carbohydrate envelope for your sandwich fillings. Bauckhof note that ‘oat grain fibre contributes to an increase in faecal bulk’—great for happy guts!

Lockdown complete.


Sometime before Christmas, I’m going to publish both an e-book and a tree-book of this year’s newsletters. Nothing fancy, simply a collection of my best writing in a form that’s both easier to read and to admire on a shelf.

I’m doing this (as I try to do all things on this channel) because I want to for myself. In this case, so that I can re-read and remember all the clever things I’ve said and done in 2020. But I’ll also be making the book available to buy—and I’d be fascinated to hear from you if you’re interested in acquiring such an artefact.

As a thank you to paying subscribers (legends!) the e-book will be absolutely free and I’ll try to work out how to offer you the tree-books at cost price as well.

If that’s an inducement to sign up as a paying subscriber (£20 with this magic button), then knock yourself out! 😀

Get 33% off forever

✒️ Recently…

🚴 Always available: the collected scribblings of my round Britain cycling adventures

That’s a wrap on Vox

Episode 1 of The Vicky Vox Project is out now! This webisode series stars (of course) drag queen Vicky Vox and is written by Foiled creator Beth Granville—and directed and co-produced by two of the other creative talents that brought you the 2016 Foiled live show! Big love for this project.

I’ve been lucky enough to watch previews of the coming episodes and I’m ragingly jealous that you’re about to experience them for the first time. If you haven’t yet met her, Vicky Vox is like being tucked up in bed when a lightning storm hits: an utterly thrilling spectacle.

When the world goes to sh*t, sometimes you gotta celebrate a little harder.
~Vicky Vox

Any more for any more?

  • I may very well write more about my adventures in ‘skin hunger’ later on in the year, but for now enjoy Wired’s article The Neuroscience of Why You Could Really Use a Hug Right Now and this BBC Sounds podcast on touch.

  • I recently finished reading The Overstory by Richard Powers, a doorstop of a novel that photosynthesises the follies of capitalism, contrasting the acquisitive speed of human parasites with the ungraspable epochs of the forest.

    She sees it in one great glimpse of the flashing gold: trees and humans, at war over the land and water and atmosphere. And she can hear, louder than the quaking leaves, which side will lose by winning.

    In this episode of Open Book, Richard Powers discusses how the book was seeded after a transformative first encounter with old growth redwoods.

  • This week, I also finished reading The Utopia of Rules by David Graeber. I now have a wiffle (collective noun) of sticky notes poking out of the text, demanding further thought. Including many buried in the footnotes, like this one:

    In many ways, the United States is a German country that, owing to that same early twentieth century rivalry, refuses to recognise itself as such. Despte the use of the English language there are far more Americans of German descent than English. (Or consider the two quintessentially American foods: the hamburger and the frankfurter).

    I’ve mentioned before that all of David Graeber’s books and many articles are available for free on The Anarchist Library—but not the footnotes. For that, you’ll need a real book.

Besides spending time popping my shoulder in and out of its traditional location, this week I’ve been working away at Series 4 of Foiled with co-writer Beth Granville. If the next few weeks go well, you’ll be able to hear what we’ve been doing on BBC Sounds from late January.

The sun is now up. Let’s go to meet it.

Big love,


Hello, I’m David Charles and I wrote this newsletter. I publish another newsletter about reading called Books Make Books. I’m co-writer of BBC Radio Wales sitcom Foiled, and also write for The Bike Project, the Center for International Forestry Research and Thighs of Steel. Reply to this email, or delve into the archive on

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