Against the grain (via Guardian UK)
Bread expert Andrew Whitley explains why we need to get back to baking our own.
Thousands have abandoned bread altogether, troubled by bloating, irritable bowels or some apparent intolerance for wheat. Coeliac disease – for which the only cure is complete avoidance of the gluten in wheat, rye, barley and oats – now affects at least one person in 100, but sensitivity to wheat is detectable in as many as one in five.
Bread has changed. One disturbing possibility is that modern farming and industrial baking produce bread that more and more people cannot and should not eat. The “green revolution” spawned new high-yielding varieties of wheat designed to work with the artificial fertilisers and pesticides used in intensive farming. But recent research suggests that these new wheats have fewer minerals and vitamins than traditional varieties and more of the proteins that cause “leaky gut” type conditions.
In the 1990s a new breed of enzyme-based “improvers” displaced the suspect chemical additives. You won’t know they are there because the law says that as “processing aids” they don’t need to be declared on the label. But we would do well to ponder what bread engineered to stay soft for weeks may be doing to our insides.
Bread is life. Literally, in the sense that, properly made, it has what organic pioneer George Stapledon called “the ability to enliven”. We need to reclaim the staff of life from those who sell it to us without admitting what’s in it. Some are already doing this, by making bread slowly, with their own hands. Were the baking industry to ask itself what this signifies, I’d be tempted to say: it’s about time.
How many of you bake your own bread? Raise your floured hands!
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