Tuesday, July 31, 2012

When Did Our Daily Bread Take a Wrong Turn?

Bread went from being a major part of our ancestors’ food intake to being a very small part of the food we eat today.

Heavy, rich, and nutritious bread was once a daily staple; today commercial “industrialized” bread is produced in fully automated factories and is full of chemical additives and preservatives, too much salt, and has too little nutritive value.
What went wrong?
Humanity has been making and eating bread – at first unleavened and then later leavened with a variety of yeasts – for thousands of years. It was about 10,000 years ago that man began to domesticate the cereal grains that would become bread.
The earliest known ancestral wheat species – einkorn and emmer (also known as “farro”) – grew naturally all over the eastern Mediterranean area. They were “hulled” grains with a tight husk around each seed that had to be removed by parching or thrashing the grain. Modern bread wheat with “naked” grains or those that separated easily from the husk was an early cross that appeared around 9,000 years ago.
Today’s bread wheat has been one of the successes of selective breeding resulting in high grain yield, good quality, disease and insect resistance, and salt, heat, and drought tolerance.
Bread was truly the “staff of life” for both the peasant and the nobleman for centuries. In the Middle Ages (the 5th through the 15th centuries), for example, a majority of the population – mostly peasants – ate 2 to 3 pounds of bread a day.

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