The Banality of Bread

Reading Time: 5 minutes

White, rye, flat, banana, corn, cakes, croissants, donuts, ciabatta, garlic, muffins, multi-grain, and while we’re at it what about, bagels, biscuits, breadsticks, baguettes, and brioche. It’s all bread, well…sorta-kinda. And if you didn’t know, we eat a lot of it (somewhere around 53lbs per year).

Big Huge GIF - Big Huge Bread - Discover & Share GIFs

Let’s play a nonsensical game that is likely to provide you with a wealth of futile facts never to be used in any social, intimate, or real-life situation. The game is called “Which is older?”

Which is older: The agricultural revolution or bread?

Which is older: The end of the last ice age or bread?

Which is older: The domestication of goats/sheep or bread?

Congrats! If you guessed bread on all of the above, you are well on your way to a life filled with nothing but sheer bliss and exuberance. There will certainly now exist a deep-seated admiration for bread within you, preoccupying your conscious mind every time you finish off that loaf of Sara Lee hidden in the back corner of the pantry, moments before the inevitable onset of mold.

Best Moldy Bread GIFs | Gfycat

But it’s 2020 and I have a pandemic to worry about and Tik-Tok videos to watch, why should I care that our paleolithic cousins were baking bread 14,000 years ago?

“[It] was a pivotal time in our evolution…until now we thought that our ancestors were farmers first and bakers second. But Arranz-Otaegui’s breadcrumbs predate the advent of agriculture by at least 4,000 years. That means that our ancestors were bakers first —and learned to farm afterward.” The History of Baking

If you happen to find yourself unconvinced about the integral part bread has played in our history, jump on Google and search for “Bread riots“. You are guaranteed to see dozens of instances throughout history that paradigm-shifting riots were conducted by the masses upset as the price of bread has risen (pun intended) too high. And I quote Gandhi, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

You still didn’t answer my question. And what’s up with the ceaseless barrage of your ancestral ideology all the time…it’s kinda weird.

Bread’s humble beginning is a paramount subject because if humans have been eating bread for over 4x longer than the age estimation for The Great Pyramids (although the actual date the pyramids were finished can be debated at a later date), why have bread and gluten just recently become the antagonist in the plot of every Weight Watcher, P90x aficionado, and dare I say Ketonian success-story?

If you’re under the age of 40: ask a parent if they had any childhood friends who claimed they were gluten-intolerant. If you’re over the age of 40: I’m going to make the safe assumption here that you had no childhood friends who refused to go to Pizza Hut because of their lack of gluten-free alternatives.

On the bright side at least we have gluten-free eggs now!

What began as an intent-filled, patience-testing, well-measured series of deliberate steps lasting 36+ hours, has been transformed for the worse. The process of baking bread in the US has turned into an industrialized, sugar-laced, inflammation-inducing demigod who churns out food-like substances better placed in a Willy Wonka film than on our supermarket shelves.

“How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?”
Julia Child

Your move, FDA.

It is more than past the time we stand united against the dry, uninspiring, nutrient-depleted, sponge-like substances lining the walls of our grocery stores. What is the purpose of something that serves only as a placeholder to Hillshire Farm meats and Miracle Whip for thousands of kids and bachelor men around the country? Oh, I am SO triggered!! Did he just stereotype an entire demographic of young unmarried men assuming that they eat bland, childish sandwiches? There is no room for anyone to have a platform that makes such egregious claims!

While gluten, bread, and carbohydrates have been forced to state their innocence against formidable smear campaigns in recent years, sugar has held on to the coattails of General Mills and Kellogs advertising budgets with a vice-grip.

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To be sure that this reference does not go unnoticed, this is Richard Jewell: the security guard incorrectly accused of being the Olympic bomber in Atlanta, 1996.

When you toss a loaf of bread in your cart at the grocery store today, similar to signing up as head coach of a kid’s t-ball team, you always end up getting much more than you bargained for. I’m talking about ingredient lists that would make Scripps Spelling Bee champions writhe in fear.

Bimbo Soft Wheat
Wonderbread Hamburger Buns
Trader Joe Multi-grain crackers

Prior to the industrial era, bread was made using three ingredients, water, flour, and salt. Unfortunately, since Louis Pasteur (yes, the milk guy) and the advent of commercial yeast came along, nothing has been the same. I can hear the clamoring now, “Why, why, why?! Why can’t bread be subtly audacious, simple yet eloquent, imperfect and artistic?” Well, it can be. Make it yourself or support a local baker who respects the art that is bread. If a label has a laundry list of ingredients on the label, don’t buy it. Why?

“Finally, the FODMAP content of our sourdough wheat bread was reduced by 74%, as compared to yeast-fermented bread (fructans 0.23 g/100 g), making our sourdough wheat bread unlikely to trigger [any gluten intolerant] symptoms unless bread is eaten in extreme portions per sitting.” Pilot Study: Comparison of Sourdough…

Bread isn’t the enemy, mass-produced bread is. Together, I believe that we can restore the status of bread in our society to its well-deserved glory of days past. We can take action to eradicate the cardboard-flavored, petting-zoo-deserving loaves that we have mindlessly consumed for the greater half of two centuries.

If you’d like to make a difference in this fight and want to begin making loaves as you can see below, contact me. I’ll personally ship you a sketchy envelope filled with dehydrated flakes of sourdough starter that hopefully won’t get lost in the USPS mail (touchy subject, yes I know). I aspire to continue building a cult-like group of passionate bakers around me to talk levains autolysis, bulk-fermentation, and boules. Until then, feast your eyes: