Bread and circuses

One of my goals this week is to make bread. When I lived in Europe, I enjoyed all kinds of bread. I often walked to the bakery in the morning to buy a baguette or some soft seeded bread for breakfast. In the states, or at least where I currently live this is an impossibility and the bread I do eat often leaves me feeling bloated. I don’t buy white wonder, or any of its cousins, but try to buy bakery bread from the grocery store. When I was growing up, bread was often on a side plate at meals and considered a staple. No one I knew had celiac or gluten sensitivity. Now nearly everyone I know has some kind of sensitivity to wheat/gluten. I found I too was experiencing issues after an elimination diet and reintroduction of bread and pasta to my diet- both foods I enjoy eating but seem to leave me with a inflammatory response of achy joints and bloated gut.

Wheat and its production in the US has changed dramatically.

In order to eat grain, it must be milled or ground. This used to be done with stone rollers – think pestle and mortar type of action. Then around the 1870’s along came the steel roller mill. Instead of just mashing everything all together, the new milling process allowed for more separation of the components of the grain, creating a popular white flour. Clearly this was much more efficient at producing flour quickly and it became the new standard all over. In the 940’s bread became “enriched”, adding back in synthetic vitamins B and sometimes the bran, versus the germ for wheat styled breads.

Besides production methods, the wheat grown in the US has also dramatically changed being hybridized many times over to increase disease resistance and production ease and amount.

Ever hear of Norman Borlaug? Or the Green Revolution?

After World War II, there was a huge push to increase agricultural production. Much of the world had experienced severe economic depressions. There were and had been ideological differences that were magnified by agricultural hardships. Think of the Great Depression in the US (1929-39; the dust bowl years 1930-36; WW II 1939-45) This wasn’t a singular American event. Germany’s depression began too in 1929. The Great Depression affected all capitalistic economies to different degrees, but the peace reparations demanded of Germany by Europe caused even more hardship.

The Green Revolution was a movement that began in the 1950’s and through the 60’s …people worried about overpopulation and the possibility of World War III due to the intense political differences of governments (Cold War era; Korean War 1950; Great Chinese Famine 1959-61; Vietnam War 1955; Bay of Pigs 1961…etc). The Green Revolution sought to increase agricultural production as a response to these worries. They succeeded via modified seed, use of new pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, expansive irrigation projects. The Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundations were heavily involved. The simplistic hoped for result was food security and thus peace.

I don’t wish to get too involved in the histories and the politics, but as a unforeseen outcome the lack of diversity in agriculture is a negative. So back to my goal of making some bread this week. I plan to use a flour made from Einkorn wheat. My hope is to enjoy some bread without any reaction to it. Einkorn is considered an “ancient” wheat, thought to one of the first domesticated plants. It is considered to be low yielding (especially considered against “modern” wheat) but it is also able to grow in less than perfect areas. It is not gluten free- so it isn’t suitable for those with celiac disease, but does have more protein and other vitamins. It’s gluten makeup though is very different from modern hybrid wheat. I’m assuming it will taste different as well- perhaps heavier. I’ll let you know how it goes. Feel free to share your experiences and recipes….

1 Comment

  1. We are only starting to discover how terrible lack of diversity is for our world. Thank you for this insight into a facet of bread and agricultural history. Hope your Einkorn wheat bread turned out to be tasty?

    Like

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