Wednesday, September 5, 2012
A nice slice
A nice slice of brown bread and honey always seems to conjure up for me images of pleasant winter evenings in front of the fire. Comfort food, and, if the bread is wholemeal, nutritious too. In my childhood, Hovis, popular bread that was widely advertised on green and gold signs, seemed to fit the bill.*
The Hovis Bread Flour Company was founded in 1898 to make wholemeal flour, and their name, a shortened form of hominis vis (Latin for 'strength of man') was chosen after a national competition. The company expanded rapidly during the early years of the 20th century and again in the 1920s after the vitamin content of wheatgerm was discovered and publicized. The expansion came in the wake of clever marketing, too. Hovis produced special tins, embossed with the company name, with which bakers could bake loaves made with their flour. They provided branded bags, boxes, and even kitchen bread bins. Wherever they went, British people were reminded of Hovis wholemeal flour.
And then there were the shop signs, green, with gold letters standing out in relief. Their ingenious design ensured that they could be seen and read by passers-by coming from any direction, making them more effective than either a flat sign screwed to the wall or a hanging sign sticking out at right-angles like a pub sign. There are not so many of these signs around now, so I was pleased to find this one, attached to a building in Brackley. Hovis bread is still available and the sign is still doing its job, standing out and doing its bit to convince us that bread made with Hovis flour is outstanding.
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*The virtues of Hovis were imprinted on me well before the famous Ridley Scott commercial, first aired in 1973, another effective piece of marketing. In this curious confection, cobbled steep implausibly picturesque Gold Hill in Shaftesbury stands for a kind of eternal England, curiously underpinned by a speeded up brass-band arrangement ('Hurry up lads, commercial only lasts 40 seconds') of Dvořák's 9th symphony, with its Native American-influenced theme.