"I still need to decide about breakfast"
- Lierre Keith
In private conversations with Macropneuma, following his reply to my very first blog entry, I indicated that I didn't know where blogging about bread was going to lead me, and in fact I suspected from the outset that it might lead me to give up on wheat and bread altogether.
Nevertheless, in this blog I would investigate bread, including the dangers and health benefits of eating grains, and I would strive for whole grain recipes.
I certainly suspected from the outset that bread -- certainly, the bread we have been given in our supermarkets, and probably even most of the loaves that we can make at home from all purpose and polished bread flours -- are unhealthy. But I craved bread. Is it truly the exorphins in the grain that did that to me? Who knows? Perhaps. Is it the junkie in me talking, when I say that I've come to believe that there is no way that the earth with its growing population can sustain an animal-protein diet? Whether or not it is true that the entire world can no longer eat the same way a paleolithic pre-agricultural hominid tribe did, I have come to believe that we need grains to feed the world, and bread is one way to get the protein and calories into us.
No doubt part of my thinking in this matter has been influenced by a book I read several decades ago: John Robbins "Diet for a New America." That book was influential in turning me into a vegetarian. I was a vegan for a year, but at the time I found it especially difficult, and ultimately, for me, unhealthy. My compromise in remaining a vegetarian might not sit well with Robbins, who is pretty entrenched in writing vegan propaganda.
More recently, I read Lierre Keith's "The Vegetarian Myth: food, justice and sustainability," (complete with some rebuttals of some of Robbins' points) and if you read an old review I wrote on it, I think that you can tell I was deeply influenced by that book as well. Not enough to stop being a vegetarian yet -- because I do not believe the book adequately addressed all the reasons I had for becoming a vegetarian in the first place, and I do not have the ability to adequately raise animals sustainably on my small urban landholding for slaughter. Or, after 20 odd years as a vegetarian, it may just be habit by now.
The power of books about our diet to change whole lifestyles cannot be overestimated. We want to eat healthy. We want to do the right thing for ourselves, for our loved ones, for the planet. But we all draw our lines in different places. I have read dozens of books on Peak Oil, but I still drive a car despite my deep moral regret. Likewise, I can understand if someone reads a book on vegetarianism and comprehends the moral and environmental reasons why our current practices in meat production are wrong, but he or she continues to eat meat.
We all make choices about what we are going to eat. We all draw the line somewhere. I have an embarrassing story about that, actually. I was once speaking with a bunch of co-workers who asked me, as a vegetarian, if I ate milk, cheese, eggs, etc. When I said I did, I also indicated that each of them also drew a line about what they would and would not eat: "How many of you won't eat liver? Or kidneys? Or brain? Or cow's tongue?" Just then, another co-worker walked into the room, and everyone became utterly silent. It was almost as if we had stopped talking simply because she was in the room, and the silence grew uncomfortable. I could see in her eyes that she thought we were talking about her. So I tried to include her in the conversation. Unfortunately, I blurted out to her, "Do you like tongue?"
The point is, we all make decisions based on what we read, or what we think we know; and I suspect we all have our own preferences, predilections and prejudices to guide our thinking when it comes to food. That is why I am sympathetic to something that recently happened to another bread blogger that I follow (thanks to Google Translate). Mariana Aga has written thoughtfully and well, and although she writes in a language I can't read, I've come to appreciate her depth and her interesting thoughts on many subjects related to bread in her blog "Выпечка хлеба" (Bread).
However, it seems now that the bread blogging community may lose one of its favourites. At the precise moment when she went to the bookstore to buy half a dozen books on German bread baking, which surely would have turned her blog into one of the premier bread blogs on the planet, she also brought home William Davis' book "Wheat Belly: Lose the wheat, lose the weight, and find your path back to health". And reading Davis' book has caused her to consider forever giving up on wheat, rye, barley. She is now as disgusted with bread made with these glutenous grains as I was with meat, twenty odd years ago.
Google translate will not translate all of the many many replies she has had to her blog entry (it translates some of them, but then it decides no one will read all of them, and so quits translating). But it would appear that many people, like me, look forward to her writing and love the breads and the thoughtfulness that she shares with the world. They all will miss her writing. Some are for the book, some against it. Some are angry about her choice, some applaud it.
But Mariana has not yet totally given up blogging. Since reading Davis' book, she has continued to write and share her baking expertise. In reply to someone who was grateful that she has not stopped, she replied (In Russian, of course, and this is Google Translate's attempt at delivering her meaning to me):
I continue to come from a parcel of books about the bread that I had ordered, and there are very interesting. I decided to share:) after I told them that cooled to wheat, one hundred people went pisyat leave a comment that I was a fool and shook his finger at his temple, and another hundred pisyat add to buddylist. it is strange to me, what are they add, if I said I would write more about. But I decided to at least about these books brand new blog to tell your friends so they know where to look for information. I know how difficult it is when you start and you do not know what to grab.
And so, it seems, she will begin to blog about gluten-free baking.
And I will continue to follow her thoughts, via Google Translate.
YAOB: Yet Another Olive Bread
One of my co-workers likes my olive bread, so I've made her yet another loaf.
|A couple of small tins of olives, in salt brine and nothing else: 364g for 2 loaves|
The loaves are each about 600g of flour, at 80% hydration
You mix up the flour, water, leaven and olives and let it bulk ferment. Then you shape it and stick it into a flour-lined tea-towel in a basket to proof. You stick a Dutch Oven (or as I did for a year before owning one, a casserole dish) in the oven to preheat (450 degrees F), and plop the dough into it, covering it for the first 20 minutes of a 40 minute bake. The last 20 minutes are uncovered, and then the bread comes out of the oven to cool on a rack. Simple.I made 2 olive breads here. In the bread I made for myself, I added some boiled, soaked, spiced and roasted wheat berries to see what would happen.
This is one cup of wheat berries added to a thermos, and it sits in boiling hot water overnight. Then they are sieved, and a few spices (I guess I've got salt, paprika, cumin, turmeric and coriander) are added to them while still damp. Then the berries are roasted in the oven. I stopped roasting this batch when the grains were still a bit chewy. By adding them to the olive bread though, the ones on top are quite crunchy, and the ones on the interior added a variety of textures. The crunchy ones mostly roll off while slicing, so that is just messy. But they make a nice snack on their own, so hey.
|She cracked into her loaf right away at work.|
|I waited until the next day to crack into mine|
For now at least, I continue to eat and blog about bread.
Perhaps because it doesn't disgust me as much as many other things I could eat.
Notes to Myself
- Where do you draw the line, between what you will eat and what you won't eat? Remember that this line is a shifting line. Remember that every choice is a political act.
I hope we don't all end up eating Soylent Green.
- You can give a starving girl some olive bread and she will be satiated for a day; or you can teach that same girl how easy it is to bake bread and she will be satiated for a lifetime. Even if she does prefer her friend to make it for her.