Historical biographies

Doris Grant (nee Cruikshank) 25 January 1905-27 February 2003

(Credit: Pru Barrett, volunteer for the Mills Archive)

Doris Margaret Louise Grant was a British nutritionist and food writer, whose main claim to fame was inventing by accident the wartime Grant loaf, which encouraged workers to eat well on their rations. It is peculiar amongst breads made with a yeast in that kneading is not necessary.

She was born in Banff, Aberdeenshire on 25 January 1905 to William and Adeline Cruickshank. Educated at Banff Academy and later on at the Glasgow School of Art, she won a scholarship to study in Rome as the top student of the year. Her talents apparently lay in designing and making costume jewellery. She was also from a musical family and played the cello.

Unbelievably to modern ideas, her scholarship was rescinded on her engagement to Gordon Grant, who she went on to marry in 1927. Gordon and Doris moved shortly afterwards to London, where he set up the new London offices for his family firm, William Grant, the distillers.

Doris now turned her talents to baking and nutrition. Suffering from chronic indigestion and rheumatoid arthritis, she discovered that “The Hay Diet” (also known as the Food Combining Diet) helped with her symptoms. Hay’s instruction “Don’t mix foods that fight” had a profound effect on Doris’s life, relieving the pain and making her feel happier, fitter and healthier. This diet claims to work by separating food into three groups – alkaline, acidic and neutral. Acid foods are not to be combined with the alkaline ones. Acid foods are protein rich such as meat, fish dairy, whereas alkaline foods are carbohydrate rich, such as rice, grains and potatoes.

Becoming a passionate believer in the diet, Doris wrote several articles praising it in the Sunday Graphic. This led to a visit from William Howard Hay, the author of the diet, who asked her to create a recipe acceptable to British tastes. This resulted in “The Hay System Menu Book”, which was published in 1937. Interestingly enough, Doris became known for nutritional beliefs that are very much in vogue today – encouraging the use of fresh and natural ingredients along with minimising the amount of processing in food. She ran a long campaign against many of the big food companies in her repeated criticism of the overuse of refined carbohydrates, especially in the manufacture of white bread and sugar.

The Grant Loaf came into being during World War Two. One day while baking bread, Doris realised she had forgotten to knead the wholemeal dough she was making – and found it to have a superior taste to its kneaded counterparts. This loaf was subsequently promoted first by Doris, then by other nutritionists as a way of encouraging wartime wives to eat well on their rations.

Doris went on to write many papers on nutrition up to at least 1995, despite retiring to Poole in 1962, where she and her husband often sailed in the English Channel in their yacht. Doris died in Stevenage of heart disease at the age of 98, so she certainly lived a long, healthy life.

In 2021 The Minerva Scientifica Birthday Celebrations again brought Doris to the fore. This is an evolving music-theatre project reflecting the lives and work of British women scientists told through the music of British women composers; one musical item is titled “No Need to Knead”, composed by Frances M Lynch and the words are compiled from Doris’s quotes, a flour advert in the Dundee Courier 1953, and a recipe of the Grant Loaf by Catherine Booth.

Over time, many subsequent well-known bakers have commended Doris on her works – Lorraine Pascale adapted the Grant Loaf – “The resulting loaf is heavy, but quicker to make than other types of bread”. Delia Smith’s “Complete Cookery Course” (1978) includes the recipe too under the title of “Quick and Easy Wholemeal Bread.” Delia advises “This recipe was inspired by Doris Grant in her excellent book “Your Daily Food”. Although its quick and easy, it has a wonderful, wholesome, home-made flavour. For those of us who simply don’t have the time for kneading, knocking down and proving, this loaf is an absolute gem and the one that I personally, make most often”. What more of a recommendation can you have?!


THE GRANT LOAF
450g strong wholemeal four (or Spelt)
1 tsp brown sugar/1 tblsp honey
2 tsp salt
Yeast
400-450ml hand-hot water

METHOD
Warm flour in oven for about 10 minutes on lowest heat

Place flour in bowl, add salt, sugar and yeast. Mix together, make small well in centre and gradually add the water, using hands or a wooden spoon to combine all the ingredients into a dough. (At this point dough may seem quite wet). Move dough onto floured pastry board and stretch it out into an oblong. Take one side, fold it into centre and do same for other side, turn it over and repeat. Place dough into a well greased tin, cover with sprinkling of flour and leave to rise for 30-40 minutes in worm place, or for about an hour at toom temperature.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and bake bread 30-40 minutes. Bread should sound hollow when tapped if it is fully cooked. Return bread to oven (out of the tin) for further 5-10 minutes to crisp up the base and sides. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Sources
Wikipedia
Minerva Scientifica
GSA Archives
“Complete Cookery Course” – Delia Smith

Doris Grant (nee Cruikshank) 25 January 1905-27 February 2003

Doris Grant from the dust jacket of her book "Dear Housewives" 1954