Tuesday, 21 April 2009

A hunk of bread

I had an interesting flash of a notion today. Colin, still hungry after lunch, asked for one of my homemade buns. I watched him take a huge bite and go to chewing it. Chewing, chewing, chewing. As I watched the muscles in his mouth work, I thought: all that dough is just going to gum up his system inside. Then I imagined his digestive system working overtime to process that sticky chunk of bread. I thought of ducks, to whom you should never give bread because it gums up their insides.

Then my thoughts turned to what our world naturally produces. Fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, those things that grow from the ground. As a human race we have fiddled with food for so long. Certainly most of the packaged foods in the grocery store have little naturally occurring food inside them. But even the idea of "homemade food" - like baking my own bread - is really fooling with Mother Nature. Was wheat ever intended to be ground, mixed with water and salt and yeast, leavened, baked and then eaten? Is that really the best nourishment for our bodies? Are our bodies even designed to really want that, or does it adapt and tolerate it? Was it simply a cheap creation years ago that would fill our stomachs and satisfy hunger, without the labour of planting and cultivating and waiting for something to grow?

I love breads. Bread, cereal, bagels, buns - all forms. But suddenly I find myself thinking even more closely about what I am putting in my body, and what it naturally craves.


Emily Tayman said...

I've often wondered the same thing and had the same visuals while chowing down on bread. I have two uncles that had to have operations due to diverticulitis, and yet, I'm still eating the bread. Pathetic.

Kevin H. said...

Was wheat ever intended to be ground, mixed with water and salt and yeast, leavened, baked and then eaten?When you put it that way, it's a wonder we even came up with the stuff!

A worthy reflection (you've obviously read Michael Pollan, yes?), and yet it's precisely these qualities (the thickness, the chewiness, the lengthy digestive process) -- in addition to the easy storage, the portability and the just plain versatility of the stuff -- that made/makes bread such a useful, even essential source of nutrition for people who don't have ready or continuous access to fresh produce: like settlers, people living in pre-industrialized nations, and poor folks. (I.e., let's not be over-critical of the stuff and ignore the many benefits it has to offer.)

But yeah: in this particular neck of the (global) woods, most of us should be working the fresh veggie train for all it's worth and cutting back on our flour-based consumption. In fact, my dentist recommended against more than four or five servings of flour-based foods (e.g., crackers, cookies, breads, cereals, etc.) each day because not only does it stick to your teeth like gangbusters, after a while our saliva breaks down the complex carbohydrates and turns them into -- you guessed it -- sugar. (Or rather the basic carbohydrate equivalent thereof.)

Mother's: beware the dangers of Pepperidge Farm's Goldfish and the ravages wreaked upon childrens' teeth everywhere!

Terri-Ann said...

(Yes, I read Michael Pollan last year - "In Defense of Food" - fantastic read!)

James and I have had the conversation of how bread came to be - I mean, who thought - hey why don't we grind that wheat over there, leaven it, and eat it? Your point is well made about pioneers and the need for what bread offers. But I whole-heartedly agree about our current lifestyle and food habits.

(BTW - I've never bought a box of goldfish crackers.)