15 Health foods that are really junk


Well, maybe none of this is news to the few who read this blog, but there are some interesting links about modern wheat in the wholewheat section, including:

Modern Wheat – Old Diet Staple Turned Into a Modern Health Nightmare

from the above link the two following:

       Use of selected sourdough strains of Lactobacillus for removing gluten and enhancing the nutritional properties of gluten-free bread. (Shows decrease of gluten in experimental doughs from 400 ppm to 20ppm by using sourdough fermentation vs. typical commercial yeast leavening, proving that slow natural fermentation significantly alters the gluten profile. Basically, if you ferment the dough properly, the gluten issue is eliminated which is why I only offer organically fermented ‘sourdoughs’.)

       Sourdough bread made from wheat and nontoxic flours and started with selected lactobacilli is tolerated in celiac sprue patients.

Evidence of decreasing mineral density in wheat grain over the last 160 years.

Lack of intestinal mucosal toxicity of Triticum monococcum in celiac disease patients

Search for atoxic cereals: a single blind, cross-over study on the safety of a single dose of Triticum monococcum, in patients with celiac disease

Characterization of Khorasan wheat (Kamut) and impact of a replacement diet on cardiovascular risk factors: cross-over dietary intervention study.

Effects of Short-Term Consumption of Bread Obtained by an Old Italian Grain Variety on Lipid, Inflammatory, and Hemorheological Variables: An Intervention Study

 The sourdough fermentation may enhance the recovery from intestinal inflammation of coeliac patients at the early stage of the gluten-free diet.  (This experiment used sourdough fermentation on gluten free doughs and found they greatly assisted celiac patients in healing gut issues. I suspect similar results would be found when eating my whole grain rye if not all breads offered.)

Some of this stuff is overly technical for many tastes (including mine), and most too extreme (why don’t they have more tests on classic sourdough whole grain rye, Red Fife wheat, spelt, the stuff most of organic bakers and eaters eat rather than rare local varieties or almost unobtainable triticum etc.? In any case, there have been scattered tests, some of which are buried somewhere in this blog.

The bottom line: modern bread comprised of modern wheats, overly processed flours, raised with commercial, single-strain factory-grown, sugar-fed yeasts are essentially what I think of as ‘mass-produced imitation breads’. And some ‘artisan-breads’ are simply small-volume, even hand-made variations on the same ingredients and techniques because the bakers (either home or small artisan bakeries) know no better.
I continue to offer with pride – despite declining sales of late as the gluten-free craze catches on in Cape Breton – heritage grain, slow-fermented breads made correctly without compromise. They are nourishing, highly digestible and good-tasting. They are real food. At some point the fashion will change and people will come back to these breads. Meanwhile I hunker down for a long, hard winter!
Btw, I have an occasional customer is a full-bore celiac who gets violent reactions if she even so much as tastes ‘normal’ bread, but she can eat as much as she likes of mine without any adverse reaction.

Rise of Artisan Bread – traditional Miche in NYC

A friend in the States just shunted this link along about Artisan Bread:

The artcicle is about his miche but I suspect this is a generic photo; in any case, can’t tell which one is the miche.

I was making I pretty good 1.5 kg Miche last year but people stopped buying it, no doubt because it’s just too expensive. I make many hearth loaves weighing around 680g/1.5 lbs which are essentially similar, but mine don’t take 60+ hours to make, ‘merely’ about 30. I suspect that quite a bit of that time is dough soaking in a cool walk-in (which I don’t have) but the article doesn’t explain.

In any case, it’s always good when articles pop up praising what I think of as ‘real bread’. And unfortunate that so many people still aren’t exposed to it or don’t understand it’s significance when they are, how basically an almost miraculously delicious and healthy food has been transformed into something that barely even resembles the authentic article. So much so that when chatting about this with my fresh fish man last week at the market, he confessed that he much prefers ‘traditional bread’ to mine – and of course by ‘traditional bread’ he means the supermarket imitation he and most people nowadays think of and are used to and even enjoy as ‘bread’.



Study: Roundup (glyphosate) may cause Gluten Intolerance



Increased use of Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide (trade name Roundup) could be the cause of the epidemic of  “gluten intolerance”, according to a compelling new peer-reviewed report from two U.S. scientists. Farmers are now using glyphosate not only to control weeds but also to dry down wheat, rice, sugarcane and other crops just before harvest, resulting in higher residues in the foods we eat. The abstract from the paper “Glyphosate, Pathways to Modern Diseases II: Celiac Sprue and Gluten Intolerance” is below.  You can read the full report here and view graphs in the Slideshow connecting increased use of glyphosate with growing rates of celiac incidence, deaths from intestinal infections, acute kidney disease and deaths due to Parkinson’s.

Celiac disease, and more generally, gluten intolerance, is a growing problem worldwide, but especially in North America and Europe, where an estimated 5 percent of the population now suffers from it. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, skin rashes, macrocytic anemia and depression. It is a multifactorial disease associated with numerous nutritional deficiencies as well as reproductive issues and increased risk to thyroid disease, kidney failure and cancer. Here, we propose that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide, Roundup, is the most important causal factor of this epidemic. Fish exposed to glyphosate develop digestive problems that are reminiscent of celiac disease. Celiac disease is associated with imbalances of gut bacteria that can be fully explained by the known effects of glyphosate on gut bacteria. Characteristics of celiac disease point to impairment in many cytochrome P450 enzymes, which are involved with detoxifying environmental toxins, activating vitamin D3, catabolizing vitamin A, and maintaining bile acid production and sulfate supplies to the gut. Glyphosate is known to inhibit cytochrome P450 enzymes. Deficiencies in iron, cobalt, molybdenum, copper and other rare metals associated with celiac disease can be attributed to glyphosate’s strong ability to chelate these elements. Deficiencies in tryptophan, tyrosine, methionine, and selenomethionine associated with celiac disease match glyphosate’s known depletion of these amino acids. Celiac disease patients have an increased risk to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which has been implicated in glyphosate exposure. Glyphosate residues in wheat and other crops are likely increasing recently due to the growing practice of crop desiccation just prior to harvest. We argue that the practice of “ripening” sugar cane with glyphosate may explain the recent surge in kidney failure among agricultural workers in Central America. We conclude with a plea to governments to reconsider policies regarding the safety of glyphosate residues in foods. Click here to read the whole article:



Blast from the Past – Graham on Bread


”  But while the people of our country are so entirely given up as they are at present, to gross and promiscuous feeding on the dead carcasses of animals, and to the untiring pursuits of wealth, it is perhaps wholly in vain for a single individual to raise his voice on a subject of this kind. The farmer will continue to be most eager to increase the number of his acres, and to extort from those acres the greatest amount of produce, with the least expense of tillage, and with little or no regard to the quality of that produce in relation to the physiological interests of man; while the people generally, are contented to gratify their depraved appetites on whatever comes before them, without pausing to inquire whether their indulgences are adapted to preserve or to destroy their health and life. Yet if some one does not raise a voice upon this subject which shall be heard and heeded, there will soon reach us, as a nation, a voice of calamity which we shall not be able to shut our ears against, albeit we may in the perverseness of our sensualism, incorrigibly persist in disregarding its admonitions, till the deep chastisements of outraged nature shall reach the very “bone and marrow” of the human constitution, and fill our land with such a living rottenness, as now in some other portions of the earth, renders human society odious and abominable.” …

(Boy, he sure called that one right!)

From the Chapter ‘Laws of Diet’

“Again, if man were to subsist entirely on food in a natural state, he would never suffer from concentrated aliment. Every substance in nature which God has prepared for the food of man, consists of both nutritious and innutritious matter. The proportions vary in different kinds of food. Thus in a hundred pounds of potatoes, there are about twenty-five pounds of nourishing matter; while in a hundred pounds of good wheat there are about eighty pounds of nourishing matter. There are a few products of the vegetable kingdom which are still higher in the scale of nutriment, than wheat; and on the other hand there is a boundless variety ranging below wheat, extending down to three or four per cent. of nourishment. But nature, without the aid of human art, produces nothing for the alimentary use of man which is purely a concentrated nutrient substance. And God has constructed man in strict accordance with this general economy of nature. He has organized and endowed the human body with reference to the condition and qualities of those substances in nature, which He designed for the food of man. And consequently, while man obeys the laws of constitution and relation which should govern him in regard to his food, he preserves the health and integrity of his alimentary organs, and through them of his whole nature; and so far as his dietetic habits are concerned, secures the highest and best condition of his nature. But, if he disregards these laws, and by artificial means greatly departs from the natural adaptation of things, he inevitably brings evil on himself and on his posterity.” …

{ although many would quibble with certain factoids, in general what he is saying seems basically correct to me. In modern lingo he is simply saying: eat whole, not processed, foods. Personally, I think he is right as do increasing numbers of latter-day food gurus, versus the science-dominated ones of a few decades ago who were so blinded by their belief in the superiority of Man over Nature that whole generations of children grew up malnourished because mothers were persuaded that their chemical concoctions were better than natural breast milk. Oh what folly! And yet it continues today as we see by the miles of processed foods in shiny packages gleamingly lifelessly from supermarket shelves.)

From the Chapter “Properties of Bread”

“WHETHER our bread is of domestic manufacture or made by the public baker, that which is made of superfine flour is always far less wholesome, in any and every situation of life, than that which is made of wheaten meal which contains all the natural properties of the grain.

It is true, that when much flesh is eaten with our bread, or when bread constitutes but a very small and unimportant portion of our food, the injurious effects of superfine flour bread are not always so immediately and distinctly perceived as in other cases. Nevertheless, it is a general and invariable law of our nature, that all concentrated forms of food are unfriendly to the physiological or vital interests of our bodies.

A very large proportion of all the diseases and ailments in civic life, are originated by causes which are introduced into the alimentary canal as articles of diet; and disturbance and derangement of function—obstructions, debility and irritations, are among the most important elements of those diseases.” …

{now he starts to get nasty! :}

“But the testimony in favor of coarse wheaten bread as an important article in the food of man, is by no means limited to our own country nor to modern times.

In all probability, as we have already seen, the first generations of our species, who became acquainted with the art of making bread, continued for many centuries to employ all the substance of the grain, which they coarsely mashed in their rude mortars or mills. And even since mankind began, by artificial means, to separate the bran from the flour, and to make bread from the latter, the more close and discerning observers among physicians and philanthropists, have perceived and asserted, that bread made of fine flour is decidedly less wholesome than that made of the unbolted wheat meal.

Hippocrates, styled the father of medicine, who flourished more than two thousand years ago, and who depended far more on a correct diet and general regimen, both for the prevention and removal of disease, than he did on medicine, particularly commended the unbolted wheat meal bread, “for its salutary effects upon the bowels.” It was a fact well understood by the ancients, that this bread was much more conducive to the general health and vigor of their bodies, and every way better adapted to nourish and sustain them than that made of the fine flour. And accordingly, their wrestlers and others who were trained for great bodily power, “ate only the coarse wheaten bread, to preserve them in their strength of limbs.” The Spartans were famous for this kind of bread; and we learn from Pliny that the Romans, as a nation, at that period of their history when they were the most remarkable for bodily vigor and personal prowess and achievement, knew no other bread for three hundred years. The warlike and powerful nations which overran the Roman Empire, and finally spread over the greater part of Europe, used no other kind of bread than that which was made of the whole substance of the grain; and from the fall of the Roman Empire to the present day. a large proportion of the inhabitants of all Europe and the greater part of Asia, have rarely used any other kind of bread.

“If you set any value on health, and have a mind to preserve nature,”—said Thomas Tryon, student in physic, in his “Way to Health, Long Life and Happiness,” published in London, in the latter part of the fifteenth century,—”you must not separate the finest from the coarsest flour; because that which is fine is naturally of an obstructive and stopping quality; but, on the contrary, the other, which is coarse, is of a cleansing and opening nature, therefore the bread is best which is made of both together. It is more wholesome, easier of digestion, and more strengthening than bread made of the finest flour. It must be confessed, that the nutrimentive quality is contained in the fine flour; yet, in the branny part is contained the opening and digestive quality; and there is as great a necessity for the one as the other, for the support of health: that which is accounted the worst is as good and beneficial to nature as the best; for when the finest flour is separated from the coarsest and branny parts, neither the one nor the other has the true operations of the wheat meal. The eating of fine bread, therefore, is inimical to health, and contrary both to nature and reason; and was at first invented to gratify wanton and luxurious persons, who are ignorant both of themselves, and the true virtue and efficacy of natural things.” ” …

{But now we get to the part I created this post for, an extended dietary experiment carried out on over 80,000 people (soldiers) for several years and which changed the diet of the entire country, so obvious and remarkable were the results of a switch from mainly white to whole grain dark breads due to the exigencies of war-time supply logistics.}

“”During the war between England and France, near the close of the last century,” says Mr. Samuel Prior, a respectable merchant of Salem, New Jersey—”the crops of grain, and particularly wheat, were very small in England, and the supplies from Dantzic, the Netherlands and Sweden being cut off by the French army, and also the usual supplies from America failing, there was a very great scarcity of wheat in England. The British army was then very extensive, and it was exceedingly difficult to procure provisions for it, both at home and abroad—on land and sea. Such was the demand for the foreign army, and such the deficiency of crops at home and supplies from abroad, that serious fears were entertained that the army would suffer, and that the continental enterprise of the British government would be defeated in consequence of the scarcity of provisions; and every prudential measure by which such a disastrous event could be prevented, was carefully considered and proposed. William Pitt was then prime minister of state, and at his instance, government recommended to the people generally throughout Great Britain, to substitute potatoes and rice as far as possible, for bread, in order to save the wheat for the foreign army. This recommendation was promptly complied with by many of the people. But still the scarcity was alarmingly great. In this emergency, parliament passed a law (to take effect for two years) that the army at home should be supplied with bread made of unbolted wheat meal, solely for the purpose of making the wheat go as far as possible, and thus saving as much as they could from the home consumption, for the better supply of the army on the continent.

“Eighty thousand men were quartered in barracks in the counties of Essex and Suffolk. A great many were also quartered throughout the towns, at taverns, in squads of thirty or forty in a place. Throughout the whole of Great Britain, the soldiers were supplied with this coarse bread. It was deposited in the storerooms with the other provisions of the army; and on the day that it was baked, and at nine o’clock the next morning, was distributed to the soldiers—who were at first exceedingly displeased with the bread, and refused to eat it, often casting it from them with great rage, and violent execrations. But after two or three weeks they began to be much pleased with it, and preferred it to the fine flour bread.

   “My father,” continues Mr. P., “whom I have often heard talk these things over, was a miller and a baker, and resided in the county of Essex, on the border joining Suffolk, and near the barracks containing the eighty thousand soldiers. He contracted with government, to supply the eastern district of the county of Essex, with the kind of bread I have mentioned: and he used always to send me with it to the depositories on the day it was baked: and though I was then a youth, I can still very distinctly remember the angry looks and remarks of the soldiers, when they were first supplied with it. Indeed they often threw their loaves at me as I passed along, and accompanied them with a volley of curses. The result of this experiment was, that not only the wheat was made to go much farther, but the health of the soldiers improved so much and so manifestly, in the course of a few months, that it became a matter of common remark among themselves, and of observation and surprise among the officers and physicians of the army. These gentlemen at length came out with confidence and zeal on the subject, and publicly declared that the soldiers were never before so healthy and robust; and that disease of every kind had almost entirely disappeared from the army. The public papers, were for months filled with recommendations of this bread, and the civic physicians almost universally throughout Great Britain, pronounced it far the most healthy bread that could be eaten, and as such, recommended it to all the people, who very extensively followed the advice:—and the coarse wheaten bread was very generally introduced into families—female boarding schools, and indeed all public institutions. The nobility also generally used it; and in fact, in many towns, it was a rare thing to meet with a piece of fine flour bread. The physicians generally asserted that this wheaten bread was the very best thing that could be taken into the human stomach, to promote digestion and peristaltic action; and that it, more than anything else, would assist the stomach in digesting other things which were less easily digested, and therefore they recommend that a portion of it should be eaten at every meal with other food.

“Still, after this extensive experiment had been made with such happy results, and after so general and full a testimony had been given in favor of the coarse wheaten bread, when large supplies of superfine flour came in from America, and the crops at home were abundant, and the act of parliament in relation to the army became extinct, most of the people who had before been accustomed to the use of fine flour bread, now by degrees returned again to their old habits of eating fine bread. Many of the nobility, however, continued to use the coarse bread for a number of years afterwards. General Hanoward, Squire Western, Squire Hanbury and others living near my father’s, continued to use the bread for a long time, and some of them still used it when I left home and came to America, in 1816.”

The testimony of sea captains and old whalemen is equally in favor of wheaten bread. “I have always found,” said a very intelligent sea captain of more than thirty years’ experience, “that the coarser my ship bread, the healthier my crew is.” ”

VOILA! Whole grain is better. Case closed in 1837! (I have read that after the King of England took up this whole grain bread he was nicknamed ‘Brown George’.)

About Graham:


“Grahamites, as Graham’s followers were called, accepted the teaching of their mentor with regard to all aspects of lifestyle.[3] As such, they practiced abstinence from alcohol, frequent bathing, daily brushing of teeth, vegetarianism, and a generally sparse lifestyle. Graham also was an advocate of sexual abstinence, especially from masturbation, which he regarded as an evil that inevitably led to insanity. He felt that all excitement was unhealthful, and spices were among the prohibited ingredients in his diet. As a result his dietary recommendations were inevitably bland, which led to the Grahamites consuming large quantities of graham crackers, Graham’s own invention. White bread was strongly condemned by Graham and his followers, however, as being essentially devoid of nutrition, a claim echoed by nutritionists ever since. Some Grahamites lost faith when their mentor died at the age of fifty-seven. Other than the crackers, the Grahamites’ major contribution to American culture was probably their insistence on frequent bathing. However, Graham’s doctrines found later followers in the persons of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his brother Will Keith Kellogg. Their invention of corn flakes was a logical extension of the Grahamite approach to nutrition.”

Given how young he died, perhaps we should take his recommendations with a grain of salt (and a cracker!), but I find the story of the soldiers in the war quite interesting, to say the least, and assuming it is true, then it provides fairly convincing evidence that whole grain breads are good for you.

Of course, then we get into issues pertaining to methods of preparation and type of grains used (their grains were no doubt different from ours, albeit supposedly the Red Fife I use came from 1850’s stock, i.e. less than a couple of decades after this piece was written).

For those interested, more from the book, now on yeast:

The next thing indispensably necessary to the making of good bread, is good lively sweet yeast, or leaven, to produce what is called the panary, or more properly, the vinous fermentation of the saccharine matter, or sugar.

Some bread-makers will do best with one kind of yeast or leaven, and some with another. I have generally found that people do best with those materials to which they have been most accustomed; but I am sorry to find so general a dependence on breweries for yeast. To say nothing of the impure and poisonous substances which brewers employ in the manufacture of beer, and which always affect the quality of their yeast, I am confident that domestic yeast can he made of a far superior quality. However light and good in other respects that bread may be which is made with brewers yeast, I have rarely if ever seen any in which I could not at once detect the disagreeable properties of the yeast.

There are various ways of making domestic yeast. One of the simplest, and perhaps the best, is the following, which was communicated to me by one of the best bread-makers I ever saw:

“Put into one gallon of water a double handful of hops;—boil them fifteen or twenty minutes, then strain off the water while it is scalding hot;—stir in wheat flour or meal till it becomes a thick batter, so that it will hardly pour;—let it stand till it becomes about blood warm, then add a pint of good lively yeast, and stir it well; and then let it stand in a place where it will be kept at a temperature of about 70° F. till it becomes perfectly light, whether more or less time is required; and then it is fit for use;—or if it is desired to keep a portion of it, let it stand several hours and become cool; and then put it into a clean jug and cork it tight, and place it in the cellar where it will keep cool; and it may be preserved good, ten or twelve days, and even longer.”

Another way by which yeast when thus made may be preserved much longer, and perhaps more conveniently, is, to take it when it has become perfectly light, and stir in good indian meal until it becomes a hard dough: then take this dough and make it into small thin cakes, and dry them perfectly, without baking or cooking them at all. These cakes, if kept perfectly dry, will be good for several weeks and even months.

When yeast is needed, take some of these cakes (more or less according to the quantity of bread desired) and break them fine and dissolve them in warm water, and then stir in some wheat flour till a batter is formed, which should be kept at a temperature of about 60° F. till the yeast becomes light and lively, and fitted for making bread.

Others, in making this yeast, originally put into the water with the hops, a double handful of good clean wheat bran, and boil them up together and strain off the water as above described: others again, boil up a quantity of wheat bran without the hops, and make their yeast in all other respects as above described.

The milk yeast is greatly preferred by many; and when it is well managed, it certainly makes very handsome bread. The way of making it is simple. Take a quart of milk fresh from the cow, (more or less according to the quantity of bread desired,)—a little salt is generally added, and some add about half a pint of water blood warm, but this is not essential;—then stir wheat flour or meal into the milk till it forms a moderately thick batter; and then cover it over, and place it where it will remain at a temperature of from 60° to 70° F. till it becomes perfectly light. It should then be used immediately: and let it be remembered that dough made with this yeast will sour sooner than that made with other yeast; and also that the bread after it is baked will become extremely dry and crumbly much sooner than bread made with other yeast. Yet this bread, when a day old, is exceedingly light and beautiful: albeit some dislike the animal smell and taste which it derives from the milk.

In all these preparations of yeast and dough, it should ever be recollected that “the process of fermentation cannot go on when the temperature is below 30° F., that it proceeds quite slowly at 50°, moderately at 60°, rapidly at 70°, and very rapidly at 80°.”

If, therefore, it is desired to have the yeast or dough stand several hours before it is used or baked, it should be kept at a temperature of about 50°. But in the ordinary way of making bread, a temperature varying from 60° to 70°, or about summer heat, is perhaps as near right as it can well be made.

Prof. Thomson gives the following directions for making yeast in large quantities:—”Add ten pounds of flour to two gallons of boiling water;—stir it well into a paste, let this mixture stand for seven hours, and then add about a quart of good yeast. In about six or eight hours, this mixture, if kept in a warm place, will have fermented and produced as much yeast as will make 120 quartern loaves” (of 4 lbs. each.)

A much smaller quantity can be made by observing due proportions of the ingredients.

To raise bread in a very short time without yeast, Prof. Thomson gives the following recipe:

“Dissolve in water 2 ounces, 5 drams and 45 grains of common crystallized carbonate of soda, and mix the solution well with your dough, and then add 7 ounces, 2 drams and 22 grains of muriatic acid of the specific gravity of 1,121, and knead it as rapidly as possible with your dough;—it will rise immediately—fully as much, if not more than dough mixed with yeast—and when baked, will be a very light and excellent bread.” Smaller quantities would be required for small batches of bread.

A tea-spoonful or more (according to the quantity of dough or batter) of super-carbonate of soda dissolved in water, and flour stirred in till it becomes a batter, and then an equal quantity of tartaric acid dissolved and stirred in thoroughly, will in a few minutes make very light batter for griddle or pancakes; or if it be mixed into a thick dough, it will make light bread.

Good lively yeast, however, makes better bread than these alkalies and acids: howbeit these are very convenient in emergencies, when bread or cakes must be prepared in a very short time; or when the yeast has proved inefficient.

We see then that wheat meal consists of certain proportions of starch, gluten, sugar, bran, &c.; and that in making loaf bread, we add yeast or leaven, in order to produce that kind of fermentation peculiar to saccharine matter or sugar, which is called vinous, and by which the gas or air is formed that raises the dough. But the sugar is an incorporate part of every particle of the meal, and is therefore equally diffused throughout the whole mass; and hence if we would make the very best loaf bread, the fermentive principle or yeast must also be equally diffused throughout the whole mass, so that a suitable portion of yeast will be brought to act at the same time on every particle of saccharine matter in the mass.

But let us endeavor to understand this process of fermentation. To speak in the language of chemistry, sugar is composed of certain proportions of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. The yeast, acting on the sugar, overcomes those affinities by which these substances are held in the constitutional arrangement of sugar, and the process of decay or decomposition of the sugar takes place, which is called vinous fermentation. By this process of decay, two other forms of matter are produced, of an essentially different nature from each other and from the sugar. One of them is called carbonic acid gas or air, being formed by a chemical combination of certain proportions of carbon and oxygen. The other is known by the name of alcohol, and consists of a chemical combination of certain proportions of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Carbonic acid gas is also produced by animal respiration or breathing, by the combustion of wood, coal, &c. &c. and in other ways of nature and of art: but neither in nature nor in art is there any known way by which alcohol can be produced, except by that process of the decay or destruction of sugar called vinous fermentation.

The carbonic acid gas, produced in the manner I have stated, is the air which inflates or puffs up and swells out the bread, when there is sufficient gluten or other cohesive matter in the dough to prevent its escape.

If the dough be permitted to stand too long in a warm place, the fermentation, having destroyed most or all of the sugar, will begin to act on the starch and mucilage, and destroy their nature, and produce vinegar; and therefore this stage of it is called the acetous fermentation: and if it still be permitted to go on, it will next commence its work of destruction on the gluten; and this is called the putrefactive fermentation, because it in many respects resembles the putrefaction of animal matter.

The vinous fermentation, therefore, by which the dough is raised and made light, may be carried to all necessary extent, and still be limited in its action to the saccharine matter or sugar—leaving the starch and gluten, and other properties of the meal, uninjured; and this is the point at which the fermentation should be arrested by the heat that bakes the dough. If it be permitted to go beyond the sugar, and act on the mucilage and starch, and produce acidity, the excellence of the bread is in some degree irreparably destroyed. The acid may be neutralized by pearlash or soda, so that the bread shall not be sour; but still, something of the natural flavor of the bread is gone, and it is not possible by any earthly means to restore it; and this injury will always be in proportion to the extent to which the process of the acetous fermentation is permitted to go in destroying the nature of the starch, and the bread will be proportionably destitute of that natural sweetness and delicious richness essential to good bread. Yet it is almost universally true, both in public and domestic bread-making, that the acetous fermentation is allowed to take place; and saleratus, or soda, or some other chemical agent is employed to neutralize the acid. By this means we may have bread free from acidity, it is true, but it is also destitute of the best and most delicious properties of good bread; and generally, by the time it is twenty-four hours old—and this is particularly true of bakers’ bread—it is as dry and tasteless and unsavory as if it were made of plaster of Paris.”

Comment: he says quite a lot here, much more than is usually mentioned in modern bread books. Later on (not included) he goes into how bad it is to have bread that is too sour etc., but his critique about over-fermentation is well taken. That said, he doesn’t appreciate the alimentary benefits of fermentation sufficiently (imo). In the last sentence though, he basically nails it in terms of what can most easily be observed, namely the keeping quality of a properly made loaf: sourdough breads simply last longer, retaining moisture, aroma and taste far better than yeast breads which tend to dry out and become tasteless within a day or so of baking. Barring obvious over-fermentation, that in itself is a sign of a properly made bread. For those of us using rye starters (such as myself), even when the timing and duration is perfect, there will be more sourness in the finished bread because of the nature of rye fermentation.

Speculation about gluten issues raised by this reading: I find it quite plausible to speculate that perhaps the problem with gluten stems from having consumed too many processed foods, not enough plant foods and moreover in all categories not enough natural fibre (which is in plant foods). (His point about the potatoes.) The fibre helps the alimentary canal process food both initially and as it gets broken down into an ever more liquid soup. Without the fibre, perhaps everything is turning into a sludge which doesn’t move down the bowels well, accumulates and ferments and rots and causes inflammation and so on. Perhaps. So perhaps those with gluten issues should get into eating far more fresh roughage – carrots, celery, cabbage and so forth, and then maybe – just maybe! – try a fresh-ground whole grain rye or spelt loaf and see how it sits. I have quite a few customers who swear by these loaves and who otherwise can’t handle bread at all.

Seeds of Revolution

A collection of articles read in the past couple of days, sparked by a kind submission from ‘follower’ Suzanne of the link which has ‘whole wheat doesn’t suck’ in the text (!).

The artisan as scientist: baker Jonathan McDowell in the Bread Lab Photos: Tom Philpott

Seed/Grain Research series:


Suzanne’s article about a laboratory in Washington State University researching wheat varieties that make good whole grain breads, which modern wheat varieties, mainly bred to make good white flours, do not.


Related article in local publication


Another related article showing how others are interested and involved, including King Arthur Flour’s Hemmelman, without question one of the most influential bakers in America.

General Comments: I find these articles encouraging in that they make me feel less alone. I run a small operation in Sydney, a town with few people interested in such matters and indeed, the majority of ‘health food types’ here are so into gluten-free approach even though, as these articles show, what I do might be regarded as being on the cutting edge of a recent movement in creating healthy, traditional breads using heritage grains which only a small minority of artisan bakeries offer in Europe and North America. Reading these articles gives me encouragement that perhaps such efforts are not in vain, despite the relative lack of response to date.

Personally, and even thougoh I don’t use them because they cost double my current Milanaise Red Fife white, my favorite flours are the Speerville ‘Whole Whites’ made from either Red Fife or Acadia wheats; these retain most of the germ but have sifted out most of the bran. Yet I suspect that different varieties in the experiments mentioned in these articles might well have less brittle bran structures and so might make better whole grain breads, obviating the need for ‘whitening’ them. The past century, we have been favouring very hard grains not only for white flour production, but also to function optimally in steel-rollers which do not – unlike stone mills – favour soft grains. Moreover the recent hybrids have been bred to grow in dead soils augmented by synthetic nitrogen fertilizers (and a few other) chemical inputs developed by the scientist who gave us mustard gas in WWI and Zyklon B in WW II (!), and therefore are not necessarily the best grains to use for organic farmers.

These articles give hope, because I agree with the premise in some of them that it is time for us to use not only heritage varieties versus post-war hybrids, but also develop new varieties bred to flourish in particular regions and in organically cultivated (aka ‘biotically alive’) soils, and bred to make good whole grain versus white, breads. The way in which local artisans, successful chefs and millers and farmers can come together on this – even if only via an occasional conference – is a new wave in wheat growing and bread baking development, and I hope it succeeds. At the very least, it’s a refreshing example of a time-honoured battle-cry:


(don’t let the bastards get you down!)

I wish more farmers here in Cape Breton could grow such stuff, but because of the dominance of agribusiness these days, not a single farmer on the island even grows conventional bread grains. I wish the regional Agricultural College and the Department of Agriculture were more involved in this sort of thing, but of course they mainly promote an agri-business approach to farming even if they might say, and sincerely believe, they don’t. What choice do they have? Rural communities and small farm holdings are a thing of the past; rural populations are dying out throughout the developed west with literally hundreds of villages in food-friendly France virtually empty (one occupant surrounded by thirty empty houses is quite common). Presumably, we are all supposed to move into the city and work at call centers shuffling data around. Heavy manufacturing and farm work is done by low-wage coolies in China and, no doubt in a few decades, Africa.

Anyway, these articles give me hope that maybe, just maybe, there will be a place for local and regional artisanal approaches to food and culture and more alternatives to Big Box culture in general.

Related Mother Jones articles series:


Oct 4 2013: “I’m fairly confident when I say that last week at the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture—a sprawling farm/restaurant nestled in a rural corner of Westchester County, New York, on land donated by the Rockefeller family—I witnessed the globe’s first-ever meeting between a roster of renowned chefs and a set of utterly obscure, highly accomplished plant breeders, mostly from US land grant universities.”

Top chefs from around the world meet to consider ways to work on developing more diverse, nutritious and flavourful locally grown plant varieties; new wheats developed to make pleasing whole grain loaves play big role in demonstration.


May 2 2012: “Like a good buffet, Nature‘s recent meta-analysis comparing the productivity of industrial and organic agriculture offered something for every taste.

For enthusiasts of large-scale, chemical-intensive agriculture, there was this headline finding: Yields on organic farming—the amount of crop produced per acre—are on average 25 percent lower than those of industrial farming.”

The article then goes on to argue that it ain’t that simple – at all….


June 15 2011: the distortions and lies Big-Ag tell themselves and moreover try to force onto the rest of the world.


July 11 2007. The effectiveness of well-administered organic farming is old news: “Organic farming can yield up to three times as much food as conventional farming on the same amount of land. A new study from the University of Michigan refutes the long-standing assumption that organic farming methods can’t produce enough food to feed the global population. The researchers found that yields in developed countries were almost equal between organic and conventional farms, while food production in developing countries could double or triple by going organic. The study also found that equal or greater yields could be accomplished using existing quantities of organic fertilizers, and without putting more farmland into production. Ivette Perfecto, of U-M’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, said the idea that people would go hungry if farming went organic is ridiculous. “Corporate interest in agriculture and the way agriculture research has been conducted in land grant institutions, with a lot of influence by the chemical companies and pesticide companies as well as fertilizer companies—all have been playing an important role in convincing the public that you need to have these inputs to produce food,” she said. JULIA WHITTY” {That’s the complete article, btw}

I will try to find links to the new RSI (?) methods in Asia which have been winning yield prizes in rice for several years now and are organic and use only self-made fertilizers, i.e. No need for corporation-supplied ‘inputs’ or subsidies or GM tyranny – the farmer can be master of his fate again.


Aug 5 2011: “In 1968, India’s farmers cranked out a record-setting wheat crop at a time when many observers feared the nation would plunge into famine. That triumphant harvest represented the culmination of decades of work by a group of foundation-funded US technocrats. Their effort, which became known as the “green revolution,” still casts an imposing shadow more than four decades later.

Its technological architect, the Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug, was all but beatified upon his death in 2009. In its obituary, Reason Magazine proclaimed him “the man who saved more human lives than anyone else in history,” while The New York Times wrote that he “did more than anyone else in the 20th century to teach the world to feed itself.”

Meanwhile, the powerhouse funding institution most associated with the Green Revolution, the Rockefeller Foundation, has joined forces with today’s richest funder, the Gates Foundation, to recreate Borlaug’s magic in Africa. Their “Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa” push got a de facto endorsement from President Obama when he tapped Gates’ chief ag-development man, Rajiv Shah, for a top research job at USDA. Today, Shah serves as director of United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Thus the “green revolution” idea still percolates in high-level development policy circles. But if our top foundations and development policymakers are pushing to recreate the green revolution for an entire continent, than it’s worth figuring out precisely what led up to that famous bumper crop nearly half a century ago—and what it means for the future. In his 2010 book The Hungry World, the University of Indiana historian Nick Cullather does just that.”

Sure enough, the real story is quite different. Again and again in so many fields (journalism, medicine, education, politics, food, you name it) there is a revealing pattern of greed and outright deception. It is time we collectively stop buying and eating the BS they keep shovelling down our throats and psyches.

A Tale of Two Breads – first draft of work in progress

This is the latest of a series of 1-2 pagers I am putting together as handouts at the Farmers’ Market booth. Previous offerings including a basic Ingredient list and something about commercial yeast vs. organic yeast have been a tad lackluster. This one shows some promise…

A Tale of Two Breads


Bread is a tricky subject these days. On the one hand increasing numbers of people have been experiencing not only celiac but also ‘gluten intolerance’, with books like Wheat Belly and Grain Brain making persuasive cases that anything containing gluten is toxic. On the other hand, you have the seeming circumstantial evidence of people having consumed gluten-containing bread for about 5,000 years as a staple part of the diet. Whole books should be written about this, but here we shall look at two core aspects involving first: the quality and type of grains used for the flour, and second: the way these grains are fermented or otherwise processed, for I believe these two aspects go a long way towards explaining why something which used to be so good (‘real bread’) has become so very, very bad (modern imitation bread). I am not saying this is the whole story necessarily, but both are key characters in our ‘Tale of Two Breads’.




  • Modern wheat hybrids have been bred to accommodate post-industrial production methods which began with mechanical harvesters in the mid 1800’s shortly followed by steel-rollers at large, industrial mills, followed by mechanical mixers in ever-larger commercial bakeries which all but eliminated small artisan bakeries and communal village bake-oven traditions. (One of the first commercial applications of Watt’s steam engine was for the Albion Mill in 1786.) Desired qualities in modern hybrids include:
    • Softer husks to facilitate mechanical threshing during mechanical harvestng
    • Harder grains (= more protein = more gluten) for the steel-rolling process
    • more elastic, resilient gluten to facilitate intense mechanical mixing
    • dwarf variety plants to prevent drooping of tall stalks from heavy nitrogen inputs needed to facilitate growth in soils deadened by chemical inputs
    • grains which can tolerate heavy pesticide use needed because sick plants raised on dead soils lack normal immune systems which repel pests.
  • Heritage Grains: Heritage grains come from seed stocks prior to post-industrial hybrids, so they: are not dwarf varieties, do not have unnaturally dense gluten, are grown in microbially vibrant organic soils and thus have healthy immune systems and so do not need chemical fertilizers to survive until harvest time.
  • French Road Bakery uses the following grain from certified organic farmers provided by both Speerville NB and Meunerie Milanaise QC (from whom I get steel-rolled Red Fife white flour).
    • Wheat: mid-1800’s Red Fife or 1930’s Acadian ( Maritime variety)
    • Rye – organic, believed not a modern hybrid since no need, grows everywhere
    • Spelt – ancient variety going back to Egyptian times
    • Barley, Buckwheat, Oats* – used in smaller quantities, not sure about varieties
    • Khorasan, a heritage grain from which comes durum used for pasta




Recently, cutting edge (albeit far too rare) research in Italy and also from the American Gut Project (both on my blog) is indicating that most gluten and related problems are most likely due to modern agricultural and processing methods which increase profits by lowering costs by saving time, extending shelf life and underpricing locals. Machines save time during tilling, planting, watering and growing, weeding, protecting, harvesting, threshing, washing, drying, grinding, mixing, leavening, baking, packaging and shipping – not to mention questionable chemical and other additives used to prolong flour storage and finished bread ‘products’. All of the above have degraded the nutritive content and digestibility of this time-honoured staple. In the 1800’s the average person in England ate a pound a day of slow-leavened bread, a working man often more like 2.5 pounds, with similar amounts in France, Italy, Germany and Eastern Europe including Russia. And this had been the case for centuries. Indeed, the way in which bread has gone from being a healthy staple to a possible killer is testament to the failure of modern, ‘scientific’ methods as practiced by mainly commerical, profit-driven corporations.


Along with fresh-grinding whole grains for the dark flour content (which avoids the vitamin degradation which takes place within a few days of grinding) French Road Bakery only uses fresh starter cultures grown from the grains themselves, not the factory-produced freeze-dried single-strain commercial product used by most commercial, home and even ‘artisan’ bakers today.


Traditionally, there are two main types of bread: those using specialised beer yeast remainders from nearby breweries (favoured by the English), and those using ‘sourdough’ leavens which are complex starter cultures grown from the flours in the breads. With either method the dough and/or starter cultures are soaked and/or fermented overnight at room temperature or for several days in cooler cellar temperatures, during which time a multitude of marvellous enzymatic, yeasty and bacterial ‘fermentation’ phases unfold, producing layers of esters, acids, vitamins and proteins, some being released from the previously dormant, chemically bound seeds, others from the microbes themselves, the end result being that when baked – the final transformational process which gelatinizes the starch rendering it soft and digestible – the breads rise and aerate into a well-woven textural and aromatically delightful tartan, with crunchy, rich-tasting, anti-bacterial crusts without, and soft, redolent organoleptically delicious crumb within, creating what we, in typical linguistic shorthand call simply: ‘bread’.



Back to our Story


Well, the thing is: such traditional slow-fermented bread really isn’t the same thing as modern bread, both that which is supplied from high-volume machine-led processes in commercial ‘production facilities’, and also that produced by home bakers using commercial single-strain yeast. The same word ‘bread’ is describing two very different things. Significantly, every single anti-bread book or article I have read thus far fails to make any substantive distinction between what can be called ‘real bread’ and modern ‘imitation bread.’


How many times do people walk past my booth refusing a sample, telling me they don’t buy ‘bread’ any more, and how many times do I think to myself ‘good for you, that is a wise choice, but I can’t help but wonder: do you know the difference between traditiona Real Bread like mine, and the modern imitation?’ Of course, most of them are not even aware there is such a difference, especially since you can use the same word, ‘bread’ to describe two very different things. (Same goes for properly processed/fermented, vs. improperly/too rapidly processed ‘gluten’.)


In sum: instead of ‘bread’ as most people think and speak of it today, French Road Bakery offers traditional ‘Real Bread’, a bedrock staple of a healthy diet in the West for millenia, versus the modern imitation which has been adulterated by mechanical shortcuts and is proving increasingly unhealthy, along with so many other poorly farmed and processed foods distributed via high volume supermarket systems which have undermined locally grown and prepared fresh foods, and in so doing have fostered no end of auto-immune and other systemic health problems along with almost wiping out vibrant rural and small town community culture by eliminating so many sources of local employment. This is a problem endemic throughout the developed world these days, but maybe in Cape Breton, with our deep roots in local community culture, we can show the rest of the world a way forward. Yes:


You CAN fight ‘the system’!

Buy a loaf of ‘Real Bread’!

Buy local produce at your Farmers’ Market!


Some of my best friends are germs – Pollan again


I like this guy so much I ordered a few of his books last night. Increasingly am using the internet to find things of interest on the radar, so to speak, but if I want to drill down to any level of detail. I buy books. That said, this long magazine article is probably as good as most books.

I like the way Mr. Pollard is a truly excellent writer; you don’t have to agree with him to enjoy his crisp, colourful, and moreover very clear prose. Really a pleasure to read.

And this is a very long article, so I won’t try to summarize or anything. Just take a snippet from a part in the middle I found particularly interesting because I had a lot of dental work (and antibiotics) the past few years (no more, I had all the back teeth taken out so no more work needs to be done!).

These days Blaser is most concerned about the damage that antibiotics, even in tiny doses, are doing to the microbiome — and particularly to our immune system and weight. “Farmers have been performing a great experiment for more than 60 years,” Blaser says, “by giving subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics to their animals to make them gain weight.” Scientists aren’t sure exactly why this practice works, but the drugs may favor bacteria that are more efficient at harvesting energy from the diet. “Are we doing the same thing to our kids?” he asks. Children in the West receive, on average, between 10 and 20 courses of antibiotics before they turn 18. And those prescribed drugs aren’t the only antimicrobials finding their way to the microbiota; scientists have found antibiotic residues in meat, milk and surface water as well. Blaser is also concerned about the use of antimicrobial compounds in our diet and everyday lives — everything from chlorine washes for lettuce to hand sanitizers. “We’re using these chemicals precisely because they’re antimicrobial,” Blaser says. “And of course they do us some good. But we need to ask, what are they doing to our microbiota?” No one is questioning the value of antibiotics to civilization — they have helped us to conquer a great many infectious diseases and increased our life expectancy. But, as in any war, the war on bacteria appears to have had some unintended consequences.

One of the more striking results from the sequencing of my microbiome was the impact of a single course of antibiotics on my gut community. My dentist had put me on a course of Amoxicillin as a precaution before oral surgery. (Without prophylactic antibiotics, of course, surgery would be considerably more dangerous.) Within a week, my impressively non-Western “alpha diversity” — a measure of the microbial diversity in my gut — had plummeted and come to look very much like the American average. My (possibly) healthy levels of prevotella had also disappeared, to be replaced by a spike in bacteroides (much more common in the West) and an alarming bloom of proteobacteria, a phylum that includes a great many weedy and pathogenic characters, including E. coli and salmonella. What had appeared to be a pretty healthy, diversified gut was now raising expressions of concern among the microbiologists who looked at my data.

“Your E. coli bloom is creepy,” Ruth Ley, a Cornell University microbiologist who studies the microbiome’s role in obesity, told me. “If we put that sample in germ-free mice, I bet they’d get inflamed.” Great. Just when I was beginning to think of myself as a promising donor for a fecal transplant, now I had a gut that would make mice sick. I was relieved to learn that my gut community would eventually bounce back to something resembling its former state. Yet one recent study found that when subjects were given a second course of antibiotics, the recovery of their interior ecosystem was less complete than after the first.

Few of the scientists I interviewed had much doubt that the Western diet was altering our gut microbiome in troubling ways. Some, like Blaser, are concerned about the antimicrobials we’re ingesting with our meals; others with the sterility of processed food. Most agreed that the lack of fiber in the Western diet was deleterious to the microbiome, and still others voiced concerns about the additives in processed foods, few of which have ever been studied for their specific effects on the microbiota. According to a recent article in Nature by the Stanford microbiologist Justin Sonnenburg, “Consumption of hyperhygienic, mass-produced, highly processed and calorie-dense foods is testing how rapidly the microbiota of individuals in industrialized countries can adapt.” As our microbiome evolves to cope with the Western diet, Sonnenburg says he worries that various genes are becoming harder to find as the microbiome’s inherent biodiversity declines along with our everyday exposure to bacteria.

Catherine Lozupone in Boulder and Andrew Gewirtz, an immunologist at Georgia State University, directed my attention to the emulsifiers commonly used in many processed foods — ingredients with names like lecithin, Datem, CMC and polysorbate 80. Gewirtz’s lab has done studies in mice indicating that some of these detergentlike compounds may damage the mucosa — the protective lining of the gut wall — potentially leading to leakage and inflammation.

A growing number of medical researchers are coming around to the idea that the common denominator of many, if not most, of the chronic diseases from which we suffer today may be inflammation — a heightened and persistent immune response by the body to a real or perceived threat. Various markers for inflammation are common in people with metabolic syndrome, the complex of abnormalities that predisposes people to illnesses like cardiovascular disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and perhaps cancer. While health organizations differ on the exact definition of metabolic syndrome, a 2009 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 34 percent of American adults are afflicted with the condition. But is inflammation yet another symptom of metabolic syndrome, or is it perhaps the cause of it? And if it is the cause, what is its origin?

One theory is that the problem begins in the gut, with a disorder of the microbiota, specifically of the all-important epithelium that lines our digestive tract. This internal skin — the surface area of which is large enough to cover a tennis court — mediates our relationship to the world outside our bodies; more than 50 tons of food pass through it in a lifetime. The microbiota play a critical role in maintaining the health of the epithelium: some bacteria, like the bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus plantarum (common in fermented vegetables), seem to directly enhance its function. These and other gut bacteria also contribute to its welfare by feeding it. Unlike most tissues, which take their nourishment from the bloodstream, epithelial cells in the colon obtain much of theirs from the short-chain fatty acids that gut bacteria produce as a byproduct of their fermentation of plant fiber in the large intestine.

But if the epithelial barrier isn’t properly nourished, it can become more permeable, allowing it to be breached. Bacteria, endotoxins — which are the toxic byproducts of certain bacteria — and proteins can slip into the blood stream, thereby causing the body’s immune system to mount a response. This resulting low-grade inflammation, which affects the entire body, may lead over time to metabolic syndrome and a number of the chronic diseases that have been linked to it.

Evidence in support of this theory is beginning to accumulate, some of the most intriguing coming from the lab of Patrice Cani at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Brussels. When Cani fed a high-fat, “junk food” diet to mice, the community of microbes in their guts changed much as it does in humans on a fast-food diet. But Cani also found the junk-food diet made the animals’ gut barriers notably more permeable, allowing endotoxins to leak into the bloodstream. This produced a low-grade inflammation that eventually led to metabolic syndrome. Cani concludes that, at least in mice, “gut bacteria can initiate the inflammatory processes associated with obesity and insulin resistance” by increasing gut permeability.”

I think that this is important work and an intelligent article; moreover that most if not all problems with bread – which of course concerns me as an organic sourdough baker – derive from this issue, namely a degraded internal system due to degraded (over-processed = overly denatured) inputs.

We all need more fresh air, exercise therein, and fresh and/or well fermented foods. It’s not rocket science.



Article linked in above snippet:



The indigenous human microbiota is essential to the health of the host. Although the microbiota can be affected by many features of modern life, we know little about its responses to disturbance, especially repeated disturbances, and how these changes compare with baseline temporal variation. We examined the distal gut microbiota of three individuals over 10 mo that spanned two courses of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, analyzing more than 1.7 million bacterial 16S rRNA hypervariable region sequences from 52 to 56 samples per subject. Interindividual variation was the major source of variability between samples. Day-to-day temporal variability was evident but constrained around an average community composition that was stable over several months in the absence of deliberate perturbation. The effect of ciprofloxacin on the gut microbiota was profound and rapid, with a loss of diversity and a shift in community composition occurring within 3–4 d of drug initiation. By 1 wk after the end of each course, communities began to return to their initial state, but the return was often incomplete. Although broadly similar, community changes after ciprofloxacin varied among subjects and between the two courses within subjects. In all subjects, the composition of the gut microbiota stabilized by the end of the experiment but was altered from its initial state. As with other ecosystems, the human distal gut microbiome at baseline is a dynamic regimen with a stable average state. Antibiotic perturbation may cause a shift to an alternative stable state, the full consequences of which remain unknown.”

This page has further links on this topic for those who wish to explore further.

Michael Pollan – the Science of eating well

from the podcast site Enquiring Minds: https://soundcloud.com/inquiringminds

This is an unusually intelligent food discussion.

He also explains – again unusually well – what happens with proper (sourdough) bread. He also mentions the Italian research that suggests that those eating slow fermented sourdough (20+ hours) (such as mine), even some celiacs can tolerate it.

In any case, he talks about the beneficial effects of cooking, the paleo diet issues (including the problem with factory-farmed meats vs true wild meats of yore), and the value of fermentation. Also the epidemiological studies indicating plant-based diets are best, but he qualifies that very intelligently.

Towards the end of the bread discussion he speculates that perhaps the reason people nowadays are having problems with bread/gluten is that we (our gut systems) have changed due to modern diets and lifestyles, and ‘that may be at the root of a great many of the allergies we see because gluten intolerance is …. and auto-immune disorders that has to do with our relationship with bacteria.” But the growth in gluten free is far in excess of any change in our microbial cultures.

He has written a book which emphasises the importance of microbes. So I guess I’ll have to get that book!

Not sure which book, but this guy has an interesting selection starting with ‘The Botany of Desire’ to the most recent in 2013 ‘Cooked – a natural history of transformation’ and ‘Food Politics: How the Food industry influences Nutrition and Health.’

(I am still listening to this whilst writing this entry:) Ha! He is the guy whose body-bacteria was used for some experimental cheese recently (from belly-button, between the toes etc!). This playful experiment was based on noticing that stinky cheeses have similar bacteria to those we find on our bodies. I read years ago, for example, that the only place they have found the sanfrancisco yeasts naturally is in the human mouth, not in the fair fields of California.

Then he is discussing a recent article of his in the New Yorker about the behavioural and strategic intelligence of plants. Sensory sophistication. Plants have 15-20 distinct senses – smell, taste, sound – they can recognise the sound of caterpillars chomping on leaves and then prepare chemical defense against them! – also can sense chemicals in the soil, soil, volume, hardness, touch obviously, they can move towards a pole.

To demonstrate plants ability to demonstrate intention and consciousness, in a video a friend showed him a bean-plant in time-lapse photography over several days, looking nowhere except at a pole 18″ away and it throws itself over and over again until it finally makes contact, and after it has made one revolution around, it relaxes and starts to grow on it happily, so it seems they make a noise and are using some sort of radar to sense the pole, or maybe there is some other basis. The main point is that they have incredible sensory acuteness, brilliant defenses, and have kin recognition – they don’t compete with others of the same family. Also: trees in a forest are linked by fungi, so all fir trees in a forest, for example, are linked and they use the fungal network to send both messages and food. ‘The wood-wide web’ it has been called! (and why our internal flora have to do with brain function, I am thinking.) Can plants learn? Can they remember? ( I would say yes), Even though they don’t have brains. But how can you do these things without neurons? There must be other ways. (I think most of our theories about brain function are totally wrong so this is a promising direction.)

Amazing stuff!

Amazon.ca search page on him:



By the way, I came to the above interview from one previous with Deborah Blum about poisons in modern industrial/commercial practices etc.

Michael Pollan’s Plant article in the New Yorker:


The Greatest Hits of in NY Times:


Also in NYTimes:  http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/p/michael_pollan/


Gluten deconstructed – uh-oh: it’s an ‘abstraction’…


(from: http://www.naturalnews.com/040538_wheat_gluten_proteins.html )

Wheat Contains Not One, But 23K Potentially Harmful Proteins

Related: http://newhope360.com/news-amp-analysis/future-wheat-lies-heritage-varieties

Okay: in previous post about Rye, I went on a bit of rant about how we misuse language sometimes, both in ordinary parlance but also to engender rather serious fallacies in important things like the so-called ‘scientific method’ (which is far more faith-based than most of us are willing to believe!).

From the greenmedinfo gluten article link at top:

Most folks don’t realize that when we are talking about health problems associated with wheat, or gluten, we are not talking about a monolithic entity, a singular “bad guy,” solely responsible for the havoc commonly experienced as a consequence of consuming this grain. After all, how could just one villain cause the 200+ different clinically observed adverse health effects now linked in the biomedical literature to wheat consumption?

No, the problem is that “gluten” is an abstraction, and in its perceived singularity profoundly misrepresents the true extent of the problem, much in the way that the tip of an iceberg does not convey the massive threat submerged below …

Gluten is the Latin name for “glue,” and signifies the doughy complex of proteins within the wheat plant, further classified as either gliadins (alcohol soluble), glutelins (dilute acid or alkalis soluble), or other. Because wheat is a hexaploid species  (doesn’t that sound creepy?), the byproduct of three ancestor plants becoming one, with no less than 6 sets of chromosomes and 6.5 times more genes than found in the human genome, it is capable of producing no less than 23,788 different proteins – a fact as amazing as it is disturbing.[i] “

Dear Readers, I draw your attention especially to this part: No, the problem is that “gluten” is an abstraction, and in its perceived singularity profoundly misrepresents the true extent of the problem, much in the way that the tip of an iceberg does not convey the massive threat submerged below …

Now let us leave aside the gluten argument because AS USUAL, there is no discussion of preparation process and any transformation that may or may not occur therefrom (no difference between raw or fermented soybeans, raw or fermented grains, raw cream or fermented curds = cheese etc. etc. ). But a very good point is being made here: that so-called ‘gluten’ which sounds discrete, identifiable, factual, solid because it has a basic name (‘gluten’) doesn’t really exist as such. In fact the word refers to any one of 23,788 things, and of course each of those things has other variables depending on what else is in the mix, both other ingredients, weather patterns, harvesting timing, dampness, and last but not least, fermentation and final temperature after baking or boiling and so on.

So my rant in the last post may well have been over the top but I take heart from the sheer coincidence which ensued, namely that the next article I opened up from the science.natural news site looking for something comparing wheat and rye after the rye post, happened to go into this business about single, simple terms like ‘gluten’ are abstractions.

Agreed. It’s time to stop dumbing us all down with catchy terms that everyone can too easily glom onto (or rather gluten onto) and go back to using our senses:

This blog author maintains that until there is solid evidence to the contrary – and thus far he has not seen any published – that good quality, preferably heritage grains, properly fermented using natural ‘slow sourdough’ method, and using ideally 50% or more of the whole grain to include the germ and fibre which respectively boost nutritional content and aid the peristaltic digestion process, are basically good foods (in moderation as with all foods, including water).

I am willing to grant that most modern fast-production breads are harmful, but even there we must be a bit more careful: is it due to overly quick fermentation with single strain yeast? Or is it chemicals from the agro-business fertilizers and pesticides? Or some subtle transference of malaise from the sick energy of the sick plants raised in such soils? Or something from the plastic it is usually wrapped in at the supermarket? Or is it the overly refined methods in modern flour, wherein whole wheat, for example, is steel-rolled, i.e. very finely pulverised, white flours, usually bleached, to which is then added some of the bran and germ taken out during the white flour extraction process, albeit this bran and germ comes from different batches of grains? Or is it prolonged storage, wherein fresh-ground flour loses most of its vitamin (and thus no doubt other nutrient) content within a matter of days after being ground? Or over-hybridized grains bread to grow in dead soils with chemical inputs, with short stalks which won’t droop after their diet of elevated nitrogen so the machine harvester can fork them up, and with weaker husks that are less resilient to pests and so require more pesticide coverings but are easier to thresh mechanically, and with higher gluten – up to 40 times according to some reports – so that highly refined white flour products will rise nicely mimicking the soft rise of a natural sourdough 8-36 hour fermentation (depending on amount of starter percentage and temperature)? Or is it simply that food should be made by hand, with care and attention, not by zillions of whirring metal machines and mechanical mixers? Or the additives in the flour to facilitate mechanical mixing which makes for rapid ‘gluten development’ in about 10 minutes which otherwise takes 12 hours with slow fermentation (during which a whole load of other things happen to this so-called ‘gluten’ and which is rarely if ever studied after such transformation), additives such as human hair – which makes the dough initially more stretchy during mechanical mixing and kneading but which then becomes firmer later on to make for a nice, springy loaf), and chalk to make it white, and denatured enzymes to help with dough development, and synthetic vitamins, or the really-bad-for-you ‘refined table salt’ they put in everything?

Is it all or one of these factors that make modern bread harmful? Have there been any solid studies on this? If anyone knows, please contribute so I and other readers may learn more.

I think you will find that by and large there is mainly junk science which I will narrowly define in this particular context as being that science which follows a general fallacy these days, which I can call in shorthand the ‘one-word fallacy’.

Again, as the writer of the greenmed piece RIGHTLY points out: ‘gluten is an abstraction’.

Which also means that nearly all conclusions about gluten are probably little more than guesses.

Oh – I didn’t mention the elephant in the room: let us say that all the problems with gluten are basically correct: is it the gluten or the damaged digestive systems which is to blame? Put another way: will a healthy person have a problem eating

a) properly made sourdough

b) high quality artisan, slow- fermented (now) conventional yeast risen

c) mass produced commercial


Perhaps what we are witnessing is a whole load of sick people brought up on bad, mass produced food, gradually becoming unable to digest certain things, one of them being under-fermented, over-hybridized grain products?

Is there any attempt to really understand all this?

We have trillions of dollars and Euros to spend on building bigger bombs. But understanding something as simple and basic as bread?

Nah, clearly it’s a simple thing: that little word ‘gluten’, obviously that is the culprit, and clearly our ancestors going back 5,000 years were deluding themselves when they though that bread was in any way, shape or form good for you!

PS: please don’t get me wrong. I have both respect and concern for those with gluten issues. I am just frustrated – as a baker who deals with this issue more than most – at how paltry is the research offered despite widespread condemnations and generalisations. Moreover it is clear that not only are many unhealthy gluten-free products flooding the mass marketplace, but also that going back to basics – which is my approach – is both under-studied and under-appreciated. Most importantly for my purposes: I cannot make a fair evaluation of the issue using studies properly conducting by well-trained, impartial experts, because we are so busy building bombs and making fancy financial products and whizz-bang gadgets that we have no time or interest to study basic things, let alone supply them in our modern world.

Basically Good things like:

good butter from pasture-fed cows

good cheese from the same

good bread – made from fresh-ground organic grains grown in local healthy soils

good vegetables, again organic from healthy local soils

good meats – again properly raised on local healthy soils

good clothing made from natural fabrics with regional styles

and so on.

All these simple, basic things are becoming increasingly rare.

Which is why the latest fad in Silicon Valley is…. wait for it… you guessed it…

$4.00 a slice sourdough toast with organic butter and jam!

$4.00 a slice.

Hmm…. maybe I’ll try it at the FM….


Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's sourdough

Update Wed 22nd: follow-up on this scientific method business:



Starting with David Hume in the 1700’s there have been serious, substantive objections raised concerning the so-called ‘scientific method’.

I’ll give one very small example relating to climate science concerning the temperature readings. Not only the instruments themselves (see how many of your thermometers give the same reading when put together in the same place!), but also placement: just a few feet higher or lower makes a big difference, also if there are breezes blowing at the time recorded, or not blowing, or some are placed by air conditioning vents, or in parking lots or airport runways which heat up far more than the surrounding zones, and so on.

The point is, that there is far more variability and unreliability in many of the data sets used to make, not scientific conclusions, but merely educated guesses which are then dressed up as science.

A clue: any time you read ‘scientists believe’, pay attention, for in fact that is the truth: they are about to tell you what they believe, not what they know. In other words, what they are about to tell you is not scientific at all even if their jumping-off point is scientifically gathered data. Data is not a conclusion.

Rye is good article plus my rant on how we use words like ‘rye’

Something I stumbled onto in web via Natural News Science pages:

Disclaimer: as with anything posted here, I don’t necessarily approve/agree with everything, but offer it as food for thought in these matters here discussed involving food/nutrition etc.

At bottom I offer a couple of comments, but first the article:

Consumption of rye linked to weight control and vigorous health

by Carolanne Wright

(NaturalNews) Rye is more than a flavorful ingredient in baking; research shows that this humble grain packs a serious nutritional punch. Contributing to cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, and management of diabetes, rye is an important addition to the diet. Not only is this grain healthy, but it also has been found to promote weight control and digestive health when consumed as dark rye bread.

Rye is a grass that is a close relative to wheat and barley. It grows in poor soils and cold conditions which makes it an important staple food for Europeans. In fact, Russia and Poland are the world’s largest producers of this grain. Rye flour has a far lower gluten content than wheat and is excellent for use with a sourdough starter.

Rye is very nutrient dense, supplying high levels of iron, calcium, potassium and zinc as well as vitamin E and a variety of B vitamins. It is also a good source of protein and soluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps one to feel satisfied longer as it slows down the breakdown of carbohydrates and sugars. Rye contains ‘fructans’ (a type of fructose) as its main sugar source.

Rye has been shown to reduce heart disease and cancer risk while supporting diabetic health. Since rye is an outstanding source of cholesterol lowering soluble fiber, cardiovascular health is enhanced. This nutritious grain is also magnesium rich which helps control high blood pressure. Another advantage of rye is that it ferments in the gut, producing arabinoxylan, a short chain fatty acid. This in turn supports the immune system by triggering lymphocyte production while balancing blood sugar levels and lowering cholesterol. An article for Green Footsteps states, “Arabinoxylan is thought to act much like beta-glucan from oats. Beta-glucans are responsible for some of the heart-healthy attributes of oats and have a whole bundle of health benefits credited to them.”

Rye provides an abundance of lignans, a phytoestrogen that protects breast tissue from the cancer inducing effects of estrogen. Additionally, a study in Finland found that consuming rye bread offers protection against colon cancer. Rye binds to bile acids that may trigger this disease while safely eliminating them from the body. A separate Finnish study also found that consuming high fiber dark rye bread enhances insulin secretion while improving b cell function, which is positive news for diabetics. Moreover, it is a natural cure for constipation and hemorrhoids. For centuries, rye has been used to cleanse the stomach and intestines of impurities and parasites.

Research in Sweden found that rye can help with weight management. Volunteers who consumed rye bread for breakfast felt less hunger throughout the day than those who consumed whole grain wheat bread. Dark rye bread made with rye bran was found to be the most successful in reducing hunger. Researchers are unclear as to why rye suppresses the appetite more than wheat bread since both are excellent sources of fiber. One explanation may be that the fiber in rye bread has an unusually high water binding capacity that expands during digestion and produces a pronounced feeling of fullness.

Take pleasure in the many delicious virtues of whole grain rye and reap the bountiful health supporting benefits.

Sources for this article:

“All About Rye Flour, Rye Nutritional Benefits and Rye Production and Uses”, Green Footsteps. Retrieved on December 18, 2010 from, http://www.greenfootsteps.com/rye-flour.html

“High-fiber rye bread and insulin secretion and sensitivity in healthy postmenopausal women”, Katri S Juntunen, David E Laaksonen, Kaisa S Poutanen, Leo K Niskanen, and Hannu M Mykkanen, February 2003, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 77, No. 2, 385-391.

“The Tasty Health Benefits of Rye Bread”, Kristie Leong MD, September 6, 2009, Associated Content. Retrieved on December 18, 2010 from, http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/211…

“Study finds rye bread at breakfast more filling”, September 3, 2009, The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on December 20, 2010 from, http://www.newsday.com/news/health/study-fin…

“The Nutritional and Medicinal Uses of Rye Over the Centuries”, N. Soltys, May 12, 2009, Associated Content. Retrieved on December 20, 2010 from, http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/170… the_nutritional_and_medicinal_uses_pg2.html?cat=37

About the author

Carolanne enthusiastically believes if we want to see change in the world, we need to be the change. As a nutritionist, natural foods chef, and wellness coach, Carolanne has encouraged others to embrace a healthy lifestyle of organic living, gratefulness, and joyful orientation for over 13 years. Through her website www.Thrive-Living.com she looks forward to connecting with other like-minded people from around the world who share a similar vision.

ASH comments:

She doesn’t mention natural fermentation (‘sourdough’) except in passing. Personally I think this is a big mistake but one too commonly made these days. We have words and words have meanings and because they have meanings we think they give a clear picture. This is simply false. Back to Buddhism 101:

What is a river? The word is clear. The meaning is clear. But if you actually point at a river in front of you, it is always moving, never still. The clear meaning you have in your mind is not reflected in reality. There is no river as you conceive it, even though there is. This is not supposed to be mysterious hocus pocus, it’s a fact. Most modern medical science studies dead tissue, dead bodies in order to identify and categorise the parts. Or if not dead, then it isolates things in order to give them clear names, things like ‘blood cells’, ‘hormones’, ‘nerves’ and so forth. You can indeed identify such things, but just as with the word ‘river’ – which simply gives a name to something which is in constant flux and has no solid existens as such – you are merely naming a process, not a discrete (separate) thing.

And it’s not just that this ‘thing’ is a process in constant change. How can you separate the notion of ‘river’ from a situation which includes: terrain, including earth which supports the water in the ‘river’, and air around which gives space for such movement, and the rains and/or snows which give the ‘river’ it’s water contents, terrain again with higher elevations from which such waters flow, and vegetation in and around the ‘river’ which clean its waters, and wind which ruffles or disturbs its surfaces, and its various currents, including tidal flows influenced both by moon and rotation of earth. All these things – not to mention fishes and fishermen and children swimming – are part of the situation which altogether makes up what we can name as ‘river’ and moreover if you took any of the first conditions away (terrain, rains, air, sun, earth’s rotation etc. ) there would be no such thing to identify as ‘river’, therefore regarding it as a discrete, separate thing, although doable and understandable via our cognitive, conceptual process, is not – strictly speaking – accurate.

One could go so far as to say (and personally I would) that most of the so-called ‘fact-based scientific method’ is built on cognitive fallacies such as these, which in turn are exploited in our materialist, overly commercialised world today, which in turn is degraded our sense of natural environment and how to lead lives in accordance with that and our fundamental natures and potentials. (This is a big little issue, how we name and isolate, or perhaps rather freeze – things once we have named them!)

This is the same with most food ingredients, which we name – as in this case ‘rye’ – but in fact if you look closely, you won’t find any rye there. Rye is a grain which is in a continuous state of process, change, and moreover in terms of preparation and eating, how it is processed is at least as important – probably much more so – than simply what it is. Eating raw rye kernels – which is not hard to do when they are fresh, by the way – is very different from eating boiled rye, or rye mixed with wheat and fermented with single-strain sugar-fed yeast, or mixed with buckwheat and raised with natural sourdough cultures grown from yoghurt and apples, or sourdough cultures grown from the rye itself.

These things matter. They change the dynamic structure of the ‘rye’ on a cellular level. Not to mention a huge difference if it is boiled (as one can do, oatmeal style) or baked as in loaf of bread style.

Modern science, and in turn ‘nutritionists’ largely believe a fallacy: that by identifying and naming various bits and pieces of an organism, and analysing the chemical constitutuents (things like protein structures, carbohydrate structures, vitamins, phytonutrients, enzymes and so on) that they can therefore understand – or even chemically duplicate – their effects in isolation. You find out that oranges have lots of Vitamin C, for example, and leap to the conclusion that if you make an artificial chemical imitation of Vitamin C that it’s the same thing. It isn’t, the electro-magnetic fields on the subatomic and also crude cellular level are entirely different, the context is different, the substance is different, it goes from being part of a living, inter-related, organic matrix to an isolated, non-organic, non-living part, which although it is still connected somehow is far less vibrant, and certainly not the same thing.

In other words, just saying ‘rye is this and rye is that’ without qualifying what types of rye and how it is processed, is incomplete.

Why do I care about this? Because as an organic sourdough-only baker I am up against this all the time, this word-name business.

I mean: bread is bread right? ‘They’ (the new experts) say it is bad for you, right? It’s a major killer these days. What you make is called bread so even if you say it’s not the same as the supermarket stuff for $1.99, since both your stuff and that stuff is called bread, it’s basically the same.

That’s like saying that wild moose and discount hot dogs are the same because they rae both ‘meat’, or that Campbells canned ‘shepherd’s pie’ is the same as one made from scratch because they have the same name.

There is a huge amount of confusion about many things nowadays because people – some unscrupulously and many unwittingly – fool themselves and each other with overly hasty use of language. In this case, how the word ‘rye’ is used.

Here endeth the rant!

Except that: a following post will take a look at gluten in this same slightly deconstructive way, albeit I won’t do the looking but rather another author from the science.natural news site. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/wheat-contains-not-one-23k-potentially-harmful-proteins

Comment 2: I think I read in Graham’s book on bread (written in late 1700’s I think) that rye is known as a good muscle builder, and that athletes in Scandinavia use it during training. Come to think of it, they didn’t talk of athletes back then so it must have been somewhere else I read it. My personal experience is that when I regularly eat the fresh-ground 100% rye loaf I sell, that the stomach feels better, along with bowels etc. Rye is very earthy and satisfying, also simple on the system, nutrient-dense, quick to break down, easy to absorb and also enzymatically stimulative and harmonious. It’s a very different animal, actually but until you try it 100% you can’t really tune into it that way.

If I were forced for whatever reason to only make one loaf, it would be the 100% fresh-ground rye. No question about it. But if it were not naturally fermented, I would have no interest at all.