We’re not big bread eaters in my house.  Long ago I discovered that eating a loaf of bread would cause me to break out with pimples so I stopped eating it.  Subsequently I’ve read a lot about low carb diets, and gluten.

However, I have never really been totally satisfied that everything I’ve read has been settled.  I have some friends who are adamant that carbs are bad and some who swear the whole thing is a conspiracy.

The anti-wheat anti-gluten craze seems to be a north american thing. I’m starting to think that it’s not wheat that’s the problem but the industrialization of wheat and/or the additives we have put into wheat here that is causing us to second guess our bread.

To start with the strain of wheat we grow here is nothing like what was grown even 100 years ago. Selective breeding and then genetic screening of strains of wheat has created a wheat that produces the most white flour per acre.  It has a very different profile of carbohydrates and proteins than the stuff my parents grew up on. Because of the way the market is set up here there is very little we can do as consumers to choose good flour from bad, as such the main determining factor for what wheat gets grown is based on yields rather than quality and taste.

The second problem with our bread is that it’s nearly impossible to buy real whole wheat flour.  What is sold here as whole wheat is actually processed white flour with bran mixed back in.  Real fresh ground flour doesn’t have a long shelf life and doesn’t end up in the grocery store.  There is only one small bakery I could find in Calgary to get fresh milled flour, and even there it’s an off menu special order.

A potential worrying factor has been the additives in our flour here.  It’s difficult to even find out what they are; dough conditioners, gelling, stabilizing, and colouring agents are potentially added to our flour that don’t need to be advertised on the ingredients list.  Legally in France they are not allowed to have any additives to their bread, the result is a very different product.  There, it tastes far better, and goes stale by end of the day. Here, wonder bread that stays eatable for a month is a bit freaky in comparison.

As I learned earlier this week another confounding influence is the factory produced bread where corners have been cut to reduce the time given for yeast to do it’s thing, and to reduce the cooking time needed.  Yeast doesn’t have time to eat and grow.  The sourdough you buy here is more likely to just be regularly produced bread with some acidic additive mixed in.

All these factors together make me wonder what does ‘real’ bread taste like?

In the next few weeks I’m going to track down fresh milled whole wheat flour and get a starter of a yeast culture to try and make my own fresh bread.  It’s frustrating that even in a big city like Calgary, in the heart of the agriculture region of Canada, it’s still going to be difficult to find the ingredients I’m looking for.