Last Night's Television: Inside John Lewis, BBC2
Timeshift: Bread - a loaf affair, BBC4

Anyone with a passion for cobnuts needs to keep an eye on the Freeview spin-off channels these days. Cobnuts – for those of you who missed last week's entertaining documentary about Rachel Johnson's attempts to revamp The Lady magazine – was the nickname she gave to the idiosyncratic articles that were a feature of the organ she inherited, which included such urgent topics as the history of the cucumber and the virtues of the cobnut (hence the name). Rachel didn't much care for cobnuts and tried to get rid of them, only to discover that her audience had a strong affection for pieces with no rationale but their own curiosity. Cobnuts aren't generated by someone's publicity agenda or trying to ride a wave in the zeitgeist or piggy-backing on a celebrity pronouncement. They're just there because interest coagulated to create them.

Timeshift: Bread – a Loaf Affair was a classic cobnut, packed with cobnutty-type people, who'd devoted their lives to one passion, and could happily pick the bits out of a wholemeal loaf all day, discussing the provenance of the flour and the exact nature of its milling. It had a vague reason for existence in the shape of BBC4's run of food-themed programmes, but you got the feeling that wasn't a necessary pre-condition for its existence. And, for anyone who likes a good cobnut now and then, it was a treat, even allowing for its passion for terrible puns. If you'd thought that the one in the title was going to be the worst of it, you were wrong. There was a pun in their choice of narrator (Tom Baker) and some absolute horrors in the script he had to read, including a line about "diverting the kids from the path of whiteousness", which actually rendered me unconscious for a couple of seconds.

The justification for that last crime against language was the essential tale that Bread – a Loaf Affair told – the eventful marriage of class-consciousness and bread-styles. In the medieval period, white bread was an exclusive luxury, the great mass of the peasantry making do with loaves that were only just distinguishable from the millstones that ground the wheat that went into them. So bakers did their best to fake a white loaf for the mass market, adultering their flour with chalk dust and alum. The arrival of Canadian and American wheat and the invention of the roller mill enabled them to deliver a product, which didn't actually poison their customers, at which point, naturally, the upper crust decided that it was time to shift back to brown loaves. Hovis – invented by a Mr Smith, aimed itself squarely at the aspiring middle classes, but by now the flour required to make such bread was more expensive than the refined white stuff, so the working class once again got stuck with loaves that weren't quite what they purported to be. And then Mr Allinson came along and started marketing "wholemeal", which complicated matters still further.

There were jolly bits of archive from the Seventies, showing the rise of industrial white bread and the wholefood fightback, there was a positively erotic sequence in which someone baked a ciabatta loaf and there were a string of those savoury little facts that all cobnuts contain – social implication rising up from them like the steam from a freshly baked loaf. Take the fact, for instance, that it was illegal to sell the National Loaf – a one-flavour fits all product of war-time rationing – until it was a day old, a kind of rationing by staleness that helped contribute to the immense popularity of white flannel bread in the Sixties and Seventies. Curiously, this cobnut also concluded on a highly topical note. South African society is now replicating almost exactly the powerful (and nutritionally damaging) association between arctic white bread and social sophistication.

In a hundred years' time somebody will make a cobnut about the great shift to online retailing, though presumably it will take the form of a synaptic download or 2110's equivalent of a streaming Twitter feed. Inside John Lewis concluded with the opening of the Cardiff store (Welsh choir, carnations all round, barely restrained hysteria among local yummy-mummies) and the continuing development of John Lewis's online shop, which has now branched into fashion. It also included a little section on that cheeky advertising campaign, which suggested that people took advantage of John Lewis's expert customer care and advice and then bought the goods they'd selected from Dixons instead. The John Lewis people got a bit flustered and cross when that came out, presumably forgetting that their consternation and anxiety was at that very moment contributing to the kind of advert that no amount of money could buy for Dixons, a three-part series on BBC2 that represented John Lewis as the wholemeal loaf of the retailing world, full of the goodness that some bakers leave out.

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power