We’re all supposed to eat whole grains–right? In 1992, the USDA (US Dept of Agriculture) CNPP (Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion) came out with the original food pyramid, advocating 6-11 daily servings from the bread, cereal, rice and pasta group. This recommendation stayed in place until 2005, when it was updated to 6 ounces a day, all of this coinciding directly with my childrens’ growing- up years. I tried to be a GM (good mom), so things like whole wheat, brown rice and bran were staples in our household. I was constantly trying to adapt recipes to make them more healthy, which sometimes didn’t work out so well. Sometimes the cookies came out more like hockey pucks. I am often (lovingly) reminded of this by my adult-ish offspring. It’s very funny.
So anyway, fast forward some years down the road and certain members of our family start developing some TT (tummy troubles), which whole grains, bran and the like only seem to make worse! Could it be so? I mean, if there was anyone who should get the MWFFP (Mom Who Followed Food Pyramid) Award–it was me! But things progressed to the point that for a good while, our household was eating no grains at all. Although this is useful for losing weight fairly quickly AND for conversation at dinner parties, over time it’s really not very sustainable. No morning toast? No cake, cookies or hamburger bun? Ever? Really?
Then I discovered the Weston Price Foundation and was intrigued by the principles of a traditional diet. Here’s a quote from Nourishing Traditions, The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.
“The well-meaning advice of many nutritionists, to consume whole grains as our ancestors did and not refined flours and polished rice, is misleading and often harmful in its consequences; for while our ancestors ate whole grains, they did not consume them as presented in our modern cookbooks in the form of quick-rise breads, granolas and other hastily prepared casseroles and concoctions. Our ancestors, and virtually all pre-industrialized peoples, soaked or fermented there grains before making them into porridge, breads, cakes and casseroles.”
This makes sense to me, given our own family experience and considering the number of people you hear about these days with gluten intolerances and related digestive problems. Wheat production has changed over the last generation to the extent that the bread we’re eating these days bears little resemblance to what your grandmother put on the table. I quote Todd Oppenheimer from his article Our Daily Bread in Whole Living Magazine.
“While the evidence so far is sparse and disorganized, there are indications that a good portion of today’s gluten sensitivities come from two big changes in the past half century: first, in how we grow and process wheat; and second, in how we turn its flour into dough.”
I find all of this fascinating, but since avoiding grains altogether was getting a little old, I decided I’d experiment with some fermentation.
Thus, my sourdough baking kick! I got some sourdough starter from Megan at our neighboring Rocklands Farm.
She reports that this particular batch has been around for over fifteen years, and has never contained commercial yeast, but is sustained by the natural yeast found in the atmosphere. The beauty (and fun) of this is that you can use it in any recipe that calls for starter, and you never have to add commercial yeast.
It can be kept in the fridge for later use, or if you want to use it often, you can keep it going on the counter with just a little flour and water every day. So now I have something else to feed! But I’m having fun trying recipes and I LOVE the way it makes the kitchen smell all yummy and yeasty, like Grandma is right in there baking. As for this cinnamon loaf, I have some ideas for making it even better, so when I get it right, I’ll pass it along. In the meantime, if you enjoy baking, you might want to consider going sour yourself!