Each day the smell of freshly baked bread, cinnamon buns and all manner of new baked inventions draws people into the orange bakery, in the little town of Watlington. People scurry with their shopping bags between the butchers, green grocers and the bakery to pick up their sourdough and some other usual suspects. But nestled in between the focaccias, barguests and sausage rolls are some more weird and wonderful bakes too such as the marmite infused comfort loaf.
But the extraordinary flavour combinations and the quality of the bakes is not what makes this bakery as extraordinary as it is. This is a bakery that was started by a 14-year-old girl who was saved from debilitating depression and anxiety by bread.
In her early teens Kitty was stuck by a crippling sense of anxiety, helplessness, and low mood. The deterioration in her mental health led to the once energetic, bouncy girl to fade away into a ghost of her former self. Kitty started to eat less and less, and it came to a point where she was unable to get out of bed or go to school. The darkness seemed overwhelming, and her parents in desperation tried everything to help, from gardening to knitting to therapy but nothing seemed to reach kitty. Until, one day when her dad, Al, baked a loaf of bread.
The bread started out as an unimpressive white gloopy mess made from just flour, water, salt and a little yeast. To kitty it seemed to be just another one of those pointless exercises. But in the morning the unremarkable mixture had grown to double its size and once taken out the oven the golden crust cracked, hissed and popped in a form of “breadsong”. From that moment onwards Kitty fell head over heels for bread.
Baking seemed to provide kitty with the sense of purpose that she needed. She treated it as if it were alive, tending to it regularly and taking real care of the dough. The new baking obsession was catalysed by her neighbours who lent out their ovens to her leading her to scurry back and forth in the mornings and evenings with her casserole dishes full of dough. Soon she was baking more bread than her family could physically eat so they started giving it out to the residents of Watlington, a scheme that soon evolved into a subscription service.
By this point the baking bug had taken full hold of kitty and in a flurry of inspiration and passion she decided to set up a pop-up bakery for a day. After decorating the town with orange pom poms, finding a venue and baking as much as they possibly could, the Tait duo were ready to go. Full of nervous energy they opened their doors to find a long queue of expectant costumers extending down the street. 28 minutes later, every last crumb was gone.
After this triumph the baking continued with help and inspiration from many of the great bakers stationed around the world. Kitty and Al managed to finally master the sourdough after many attempts that ended in a Frisbee shaped loaf, and the flavour combinations began to grow and become ever more adventurous.
With this, the feelings of anxiety and depression seemed to be more manageable. Baking managed to occupy most of kitty’s thoughts throughout the day and night leaving little opportunity for any headspace to be taken over by the darkness that had previously consumed her.
Although a bakery was not initially on the cards, the thought of making things more permanent started to creep into conversations and it didn’t take long for the idea to become a reality. This seemed like a gargantuan jump from the subscription service and pop ups, but kitty seemed optimistic about its prospects and with her persuading skills it wasn’t long until her dad too was sold on it. Since then, the bakery has expanded and relocated many times, starting in the Tait’s kitchen, and then moving to a shed, the scout hut and then onto the Highstreet shop that they find themselves in now. In more recent years they have started to do more work with schools and prisons in addition to writing a cookbook called ‘Breadsong’, something which they aim to do more of in the future. But it is not only the bakery and the quality of the baking that has flourished; Kitty herself has grown an inordinate amount through the whole process. Despite the sense of despair that she was consumed by and the ups and downs that the whole family have faced along the way, she has managed to come out on top. She has fought against all the odds to create something that is an inspiration to all and especially to those who are struggling or have struggled with their mental health. The story provides hope to those that feel lost, and it shows that things can get better even when it feels like there is no way out.