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February 27, 2018


I suspect you are already doing so. But if not, it would probably be worth trying organic flour for the bread you make. It is still probably a hybrid, but the chemicals are gone.

For example, my wife has become a devote of King Arthur Flour

This is interesting. I don't have any undiagnosed ailments, but it does make me wonder if I'm messing with my body in more subtle ways, such that I could change specific things about my diet that would just make me feel better (other than the obvious things like not eating junk food).

Very interesting post, Janie. I've resisted giving wheat up for ages, but it's idiotic not to at least try since I have lots of gut issues, and giving up wheat helped 2 of my family members. Maybe I'll commit one of these days. In the meantime, as usual, I'm keen to hear the next instalment whenever you're ready to give it.

Janie: ...(and nowadays I would add, my gut bacteria as well) ...

One of the rites of passage into old age is the dreaded colonoscopy. The worst part of a colonoscopy IMHO is the "prep". The express purpose of the "prep" is to flush the large intestine so clean that the doctor could eat of off it if he wasn't preoccupied with maneuvering a plumber's snake through it.

I asked my doctor: doesn't the "prep" flush out the bacteria in my gut -- bacteria that I rely on for digestion? He mumbled something along the lines that it re-establishes itself soon enough. And I suppose that must be true.

Still, bacteria (like people) come in all sorts. The wrong sort (e.g. gun nuts) moving in can ruin the neighborhood. As far as I can tell, the replacement cohort in my case is different now: my gut has been much gassier since the colonoscopy than it ever was before.

I have not changed my diet, BTW, being honestly and sincerely conservative when it comes to personal change of any sort. In particular, a meal is not a meal for me without some form of bread, and never has been. Italians like Janie may be culturally attached to bread, but they got nuthin on Greeks like me in that respect.


Tony :

After a colonoscopy, live-culture yogurts are your friends.

I asked my doctor: doesn't the "prep" flush out the bacteria in my gut -- bacteria that I rely on for digestion? He mumbled something along the lines that it re-establishes itself soon enough.

The thing is, just like after getting a course of antibiotics (e.g. for a root canal), what gets "re-established" may well not be what you had before. As Joel says, live-culture yogurt is your friend. But it still may not get you back to where you were.

FWIW, and I don't even know if you can get it in the States, but my gastro-enterologist recommends something called VSL#3, which he says is far superior to live yoghurt. I use it a lot, it is in individual sachets of powder containing billions of varied bacteria, which you put into juice or (non-gassy) liquid of some kind, and drink. He says it survives to get to the gut much better than anything else he knows. FYI, he is very eminent, deeply eccentric, and absolutely not in the pocket of any manufacturer - the opposite in fact. Good luck.

Oh, I love you folks.

I am just about to take a course of antibiotics (much against my will, but the infection is on my eyelid and won't seem to go away, and I don't want to mess with anything near my eyes). And I was fretting about the effect that's going to have on my gut; last time I took antibiotics, five or six years ago, I had a bellyache for six months.

I bought some probiotics that I've used in the past, but hey, this VSL #3 stuff looks interesting, and is apparently available over here

Holy sh!t, but then there's the first review.....!

Life is full of complexities, I guess.

What about bread made from other crops than wheat? Over here rye is quite popular.

@GftNC: On rereading, I picked up on the fact that you actually take VSL#3 yourself. So are the assertions in that Amazon review overblown? Is it possible to take it in smaller amounts, at least to start?

@hartmut: Admittedly, I have been writing generically about "bread." And my non-traditional consultant spoke generically about "wheat" (and not gluten as such). But if gluten is the real problem, rye isn't the solution, since rye also contains gluten.

Anyhow, as far as my taste goes, rye bread is okay, but I wouldn't walk across the street to get some. It's kind of like if I said "I love chocolate" and you offered me some milk chocolate, then I would have to say "Ooops, I meant *dark* chocolate........" ;-)

@Tony P: Still, bacteria (like people) come in all sorts.

Indeed. I remember reading a few years ago, but don't have time to chase it down right now, that some researchers were starting to think that people have different optimum mixes of gut bacteria, something like the way they have different blood types. That wouldn't surprise me. Oddly, my two (?) colonoscopies haven't affected me anywhere near as much as antibiotics do. This one I'm on now is new to me; we'll see if maybe it's a little less upsetting than others I've taken.

"If prosperity continues to spread and poverty to decline globally, kitchen appliances and ready-made goods will free up more and more hours of women’s food preparation time around the world. There may always be freak accidents like the one in Manhattan, but there is no reason why innovation cannot lessen the risk by liberating women everywhere from kitchen chores."
Cooking: From Full-Time Job to Hobby

free up more and more hours of women’s food preparation time around the world

maybe men should do some cooking, too?

(i do all the cooking and baking, in our house)

maybe men should do some cooking, too?

From the article:

"In the United States, from the mid-1960s to 2008, women more than halved the amount of time they spent on food preparation (whereas men nearly doubled the time they spent on that activity, as household labor distributions became more equitable between the genders)."

I don't cook, but I'm good for take-away or dinner out 2-3 times a week.

I don't know if that counts or not...

It's kind of like if I said "I love chocolate" and you offered me some milk chocolate, then I would have to say "Ooops, I meant *dark* chocolate........"

Janie, I can definitely relate. Not because I personally care, but for this:

A couple months ago, I got a business trip to Brussels. And I went with a spousal mandate: pick up some Belgian chocolate. So I find a store with chocolate . . . lots and lots of different kinds of chocolate.

But when it comes to the various kinds of chocolate, I'm like the option in those surveys which reads "Just know the name": I've heard of milk chocolate and dark chocolate, but that's absolutely all I know. And faced with an entire row of shelves full of different kinds? Sigh.

So OK I bought a couple of kinds. And hoped.

Turns out that my wife, like you, isn't much on milk chocolate. But since it was there (I did get some dark chocolate too; pure luck), she tried that one, too -- and loved it. Apparently Belgian milk chocolate is nothing like the milk chocolate you get in California.

Just saying, you might not want to be totally closed to it.

Apparently Belgian milk chocolate is nothing like the milk chocolate you get in California.

s/milk chocolate/beer/g

Yes, but even I knew about American vs European beer. And I don't drink beer.

Chocolate was a new one on me.

wj -- Just saying, you might not want to be totally closed to it.

"The world is so full of a number of things" (Robert Louis Stevenson)...

I spent a month working in Brussels in 2008. The colleague I went over to work with lived near a little square in which there were seven chocolate shops. Some of them were fancier than a nice American jewelry store, with chocolates laid out in much the same way rings and necklaces might be.

Good priorities over there. ;-)

In reference to the Washington Post article linked in the OP:

"Well, now he's had a new urine test, and he's eager to tell us the results. Living as he does a BPA-free lifestyle, he's happy to report that he had a low level of BPA. Alas, the test also found 'high levels of a BPA substitute called BPF.'"
New York Times Columnist Is Worried About What's in His Urine: The FDA debunks his fears.

I am going to bitch on a not-bread-related food topic, just because.

I bought some coconut milk today that said "Sugar-free." Since I buy so little prepared/canned food, I had forgotten that "Sugar-free" does not mean unsweetened.


Fragrance-free doesn't mean the same as unscented, either.

Just in case you were wondering.

I'm often senseless, despite having the ability to see, hear, taste, smell, and feel.

note to all:

if you happen to accidentally buy a jug of vanilla flavored almond milk instead of the unflavored variety, do not use it in meatloaf.

@cleek: lol.........you made me laugh, a welcome interlude in a day full of minor annoyances (aka first world problems).......

I didn't know anyone used any kind of milk in meatloaf.

sometimes people who put bread/crumbs in meatloaf to render it moister and less compacted soak it in milk first....

It's called a panada, and it's a really good idea:


It's one of the mysteries of life why Americans eat the stuff they call chocolate.

But back to bread. I make my own bread, usually wholemeal (wholewheat), in a bread machine. A couple of years ago I stayed with friends in the USA, and bought them a similar bread machine, partly as a thank you present, and partly so I could have bread I liked. It worked OK for white bread, but I just couldn't get wholemeal bread to rise properly, however much I experimented with different flours and yeasts. Anyone know why?


Pro Bono -- I made whole wheat bread for years with no problem, but my experience, as I said in the OP, is not recent. The bread I'm making right now is white; more on that in the next installment. The ordinary daily whole wheat bread I used to make was from the Tassajara Bread Book, FWIW.

Since you experimented with different flours and yeasts, it's strange that nothing worked, but what's even stranger on the face of it is that you've apparently had no problem making wholemeal bread at home. I.e., even if whole wheat bread takes more rising than white, or whatever, why would your experience be different over here?

Well... there might be different varieties of wheat being grown here vs in the UK; in fact, American vs European wheat and dairy is one of the things I've been reading about.

Then again, even that doesn't explain much, because lots of people do make whole wheat bread in the US.

I dunno, I'm mostly writing to sympathize. When I started making bread again last fall, I made a starter from commercial yeast and have been using it with what's really meant to be a pizza flour. It took me a while to realize that whatever role each component plays, the combination means far longer rising times than I expected.

That's a fascinating Smithsonian post, lj. It would never have occurred to me that there were differences.

But then, it wouldn't occur to me to bake anything but whole grain bread at home. Guess everybody has their own kinds of blindness....

Chocolate gets its own comment.

PB: It's one of the mysteries of life why Americans eat the stuff they call chocolate.

Sneer all you want, but next time you're over here, try a bite of this, or some of this, or some of theirs, or theirs.

The chocolate picture has become much more varied in the US in the past twenty years or so, at least among the coastal elites. ;-)

Nothing I've linked to is cheap, but neither was the Belgian chocolate I enjoyed when I was in Brussels. And it doesn't take much to make my day. As an indulgence, it's pretty small-scale.

Someone's version of Edward Espe Brown's Tassajara whole wheat bread recipe. Lots of rising, in phases.

But the original is much wonderfuller (I bought another copy from Abebooks recently for under $4 because I was too lazy (and cold) to dig around for my original in the attic). Brown takes 17 pages to explain his basic whole wheat bread recipe, describing every step in the kind of detail someone would need who had never turned on an oven before. Alternate pages are line drawings illustrating the steps.

Hey, he was the chef for a Zen center.......

Got curious about what Edward Espé Brown did after/besides the bread book. From Wikipedia:

Brown makes his living by teaching meditation in his home and by giving baking and cooking workshops at Zen centers in the United States, Canada and Austria. Brown tells his students that "every dough is different, just as every day is different". He also says that baking and living both come down to the same thing: "developing attention and awareness".

And some biography:

Brown's mother died when he was three years old. Three days after her death, his father decided to send Brown and his older brother Dwite to an orphanage in San Anselmo, California, because that was the only way he could visit them regularly (the alternative was to send the boys to live with relatives in South Dakota). Brown's father remarried four years later, and then the boys returned home.[1]

In 1955, Dwite and Brown flew to Falls Church, Virginia to visit their aunt Alice. It was her homemade bread baking that inspired Brown,[1] who called her bread "fabulously delicious". He wondered why other people weren't eating the same thing instead of "foamy white bread" bought in a store. Brown resolved to learn how to bake bread and to teach others how.[2]

When he got home he asked his mother to teach him to bake bread. She said, "No, yeast makes me nervous." Brown eventually learned to bake bread, eleven years later, from two chefs at Tassajara. Brown later asked his brother if he remembered their trip to visit Alice. Dwite said yes he did, "What I remember was the Smithfield ham, but it didn't change my life".

Just so everyone gets to read this one more time:

No, yeast makes me nervous.

ah bread.

i took my sourdough starter out of the fridge to feed it, this AM ... and it had gone all moldy. i've had that one for like three years. oh well :(

"No, yeast makes me nervous."

Say it in Christopher Walken's manner to get the full effect.

cleek -- condolences. That sucks.

Anyone know why?

American wheat is higher in gluten (in general) ?


My sister (who avoids wheat most of the time) says American wheat gives her far worse symptoms that European wheat, FWIW.

The Tassajara Bread Book! Talk about a rave from the grave - along with The Whole Earth Catalogue, Our Bodies Our Selves and the I Ching this was on every self-respecting bookshelf of my youth.

It was always a little odd that so many people I knew had the Tassajara Bread Book. But I, who didn't, was the only one who actually baked bread.

It occasionally occurred to me to wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that the road our place was on growing up was . . . Camino Tassajara. (Although it was a couple hours north of where the Tassajara Zen Center eventually got established. A whole different "Slaughterhouse Road.")

"Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive drug worldwide. Alcohol gave civilization its start, and it certainly helped the species drown its sorrows during the grinding poverty of much of human history. But it was caffeine that gave us the Enlightenment and helped us achieve prosperity."
How Alcohol and Caffeine Helped Create Civilization

"Moreover, the quality of American beer can be very high. To celebrate the annual International Beer Day, for example, one British newspaper ranked the best beers in the world. In a story titled World's best beers to try before you die, six out of the top 17, including the overall winner, came from the United States."
Cheers to American Beers, Triumphs of Capitalism and Technological Progress

mmm. Schneider Wiesse .

One of the flours I use is "Canadian Very Strong Stoneground Wholemeal Bread Flour", sold by my local supermarket, which works just fine here in the land of the unfree. So it's not simply about which continent the flour comes from.

what do you use for water?

any chance your unfree water is highly chlorinated ?


as far as my taste goes, rye bread is okay, but I wouldn't walk across the street to get some.

That's the first foolish opinion I've ever heard you express. Don't tell me you eat corned beef sandwiches on non-rye bread.

You won't catch her in the rye...

Pro Bono -- conversely, I've been using flour labeled "Italian." But it's not organic, and the fact that something is labeled "Italian" may not mean sh!t; the wheat could have been grown anywhere and just ground into flour in Italy, or for that matter it could have been grown in one or more places, ground in some other, and shipped to Italy for packaging. See Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil for an extended look at that phenomenon. (Fascinating book.)

Point being: "Canadian Very Strong...etc." may be misleading, unless the packaging certifies somehow where the wheat was grown. One thing I've been bemused by: you can buy olive oil (let's say) that's been certified as organic by the USDA or one of the European certifying agencies (according to whichever standards; they're not all the same). But that only certifies that it's organic; I doubt very much that it also certifies that the locale on the label is necessarily where the olives were grown and processed. Extra Virginity IIRC says that olive oil may be labeled "Italian" if the only contact it has ever had with Italy is to be on a ship that has docked at an Italian port.

These are some of the distinctions between kinds of wheat that I've been learning more about:

-- summer wheat / winter wheat
-- hard wheat / soft wheat
-- organic / not
-- degree of hybridization (there's someone in Maine, connected with MOFGA, growing some kind of European heritage wheat and grinding into whole wheat flour; I haven't tried it yet because I'm concentrating on white bread for the moment)
-- gluten content

And with flours -- the size of the grind.

Your difficulties making bread over here remain a puzzle!!

byomtov -- I didn't say I don't *like* it, I just meant to sort of say "eh, it's nothing special." :-)

Rest easy, if I were to eat a corned beef sandwich I would have it on rye. But I haven't had one in decades; I eat very little meat, and I've gotten out of the habit of even thinking about sandwiches in restaurants. After the first few years, my avoidance of wheat became avoidance of gluten in general, and rye bread isn't gluten-free.

Maybe sometime when I'm down there (which is less often nowadays), we can meet up at your favorite corned-beef-on-rye deli and have lunch. (P.S. my office has moved to Central Square after 39 years at the old place!)

I'm glad you like my other opinions!

rye bread is okay, but I wouldn't walk across the street to get some.

If we're talking light rye, I would agree. Dark rye, on the other hand, is great stuff.

I'm glad you like my other opinions!

I didn't say I liked them, totally, I just meant to sort of say they aren't foolish. :-)

Let me know when you're going to be here. We can take a train to NY and get a great corned beef sandwich.

byomtov -- I'll take comfort from the fact that they're at least non-foolish. :-)

NYC, now that would be a fun lunch outing.

Obvious wheat categorization I forgot:

-- white (bleached) / white (unbleached) / whole wheat

any chance your unfree water is highly chlorinated ?

No. Thanks to the tyranny of the Drinking Water Inspectorate, I know what's in it.

But you might be on to something. The water I use in England is very hard. The water I was using in the US could plausibly have been very soft. That could be a factor.

Note that "softening" water with a high mineral content (i.e. "hard" water), at least when we did it at home growing up, involved running the water thru salt. I don't recall being able to taste the salt, but it had to have an effect.

according to The King, 'very hard' water does have an effect: it tightens the gluten.

Have you been genetically tested for celiac disease? It's progressive. Don't mess around with it.

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