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Our Daily Bread-Bon appétit?


Bread. The "staff of life." Truly, real bread with whole grains becomes a living organism as flour, yeast or sourdough and water interact to make this life sustaine.

Bread. The "staff of life." Truly, real bread with whole grains becomes a living organism as flour, yeast or sourdough and water interact to make this life sustainer.

My high school history teacher told us that during the Roman Empire prisoners were fed nothing but bread and water, on which they survived and lived a long time. Those convicts sentenced to die were fed only meat and wine. On this diet they would not survive 45 days. True? I can't say for sure. But it does make sense. Whole grains supply all nutrients required by humans for survival. Then again, those nutrients were found in breads by local bakeries prior to the advent of the modern bread factories.

Bread has been made of whole grains for thousands of years. Those small, family bakeries around the corner from where you live probably still make it that way. Individual loaves, kneaded by hand and baked in a small oven.

Most of the factory-made bread consumed in North America today, however, is a far cry from what the "staff of life" should be. For one thing, the highly refined flour has no traces of bran left. It's the bran that contains all the minerals and trace elements and provides fibre for better digestion. This denatured flour is then enriched with chemical nutrients in an attempt to replace what was lost in the milling process. Often the mills supply premixed flour to the bakeries with anti-clumping agents for baked goods such as pastry, cakes, cookies and special breads. All the baker needs to do is add water and yeast or, in the case of sourdough, an artificial souring powder.

The automatic mixers and kneaders used in factories require some chemical helpers. Cystein is used as a bleaching and dough-conditioning agent and prevents the gluten from sticking to the equipment. Sodium pyrophosphate and sodium hydrogene carbonate act together to control the consistency and final size of the pores in the bread.

But that's not all. In factory bread, calcium propionate is often added as a mould inhibitor and hydrogenated vegetable shortening keeps the bread soft the way most consumers want it. The worst is the roll-in shortening widely used for Danishes and puff pastries. I would compare it to plastic rather than food.

As with apples, tomatoes and other products, consumers have been brainwashed to accept the fact that everything must be consistent in size without blemish. When you bake yourself or buy your buns and bread loaves from your local bakery, you will have noticed that each one is different. No bun looks the same. Yeast, water and fresh ground flour are living elements and the heat in the oven differs slightly from batch to batch. Not so with factory-produced bread.

Look at the hamburger buns. They are all exactly the same. No loving hand ever touches the dough or the finished product. You won't see dough the way it exists in our minds. Instead there is a thick liquid pumped in measured amounts onto a computer controlled conveyer belt. Monocalcium phosphate makes the dough rise uniformly, and the dough is automatically carried through the baking tunnel, all the way to the packaging equipment. Imagine! Millions of buns are made this way daily in one central location. From there they are shipped by truck, even by air, all over the nation. The average Canadian eats four hamburgers a week; that's more than 100 million buns eaten weekly in Canada!

My local baker, Andy, supplies our family with whole grain breads. He tells me that 75 percent of the population consumes only white flour bread and buns. A shame especially when a variety of healthy, whole grain breads without any added chemicals or artificial fats can be found in most health food stores. Let me encourage you to discover them.



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