Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Breaking Bread

"Man can not live on bread and water alone!"

Or can he? And she?

I could live for a long time on straight carbs. Lately, however, I've been forced to face the fact that many carbs have ingredient lists that read like a high school chemistry textbook.

Here's one, for example, taken from a national brand of multi-grain bread:
Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Wheat Gluten, Whole Buckwheat Groats, Contains 2% or Less Of the Following Whole Amaranth, Whole Spelt Flakes, Whole Kamut, Whole Quinoa Flakes, Whole Grain Buckwheat Flour, Oat Fiber, Polydextrose, Salt, Soy Fiber, Soybean Oil, Molasses, Wheat Bran, Yeast, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Vinegar, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Ethoxylated Mono and Diglycerides, Azodicarbonamide, Acesulfame Potassium.

Personally, I love azodicarbonamide.

In fact, that final ingredient, acesulfame potassium, has been listed as an "Ingredient of Concern" by the GoodGuide. Now, I know that one or two ingredients of concern probably won't kill me. Nevertheless, my body did not evolve (nor was it created, if that's your cup o' tea) to be a temple for diglycerides, calcium propionate, and more soy products than anyone in Asia ever dreamed of eating (yes, folks, Americans eat so much soy -- in weird, hidden forms -- that we eat more than people in most Asian countries where soy is a staple food).

Bread (or some variation - such as tortillas or naan) is a staple food of so many many cultures because it satisfies many of our nutritional needs (fiber! sugars! huzzah!) and it also fulfills a cultural role as well (I mean, if you're a Christian bread represents GOD).

Yet the bread we are being sold today bears little resemblance to bread as our ancestors would know it. (If you want to read more about how "fake" food became a replacement for the real thing, I recommend Michael Pollan's delightful In Defense of Food. And yes, I know, I recommend it regularly. So read it already!)

Even the fresh bread from the bakery has an ingredient list as long as a sonnet. So what's a consumer to do?

How about making your own bread?

Too difficult?

Too confusing?

Too time-consuming?

Au contraire!

Click here to reach the recipe for "Mummy's Brown Soda Bread." It is made with only 5 common ingredients, and because it's soda bread it doesn't involve waiting for dough to rise, or much kneading. In fact, it's so easy, you can make it and be eating it within an hour.

Here is a loaf before it goes in the oven. You cut a cross in the top, which is called "blessing the bread" and, I think, adds a nice resonance to the act of baking your own bread.

Try it out, and join cultures all over the world in breaking bread you made yourself.

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