Bread-making has changed from its peasant origins. Between the original flour, water and salt that made the first loaves and modern industrially-produced bread lie what Pollan says are as many as 37 additives. Agreed, white bread is cheaper to produce and less perishable, made with mass-produced roller-milled flour instead of stone-ground whole-grain flour. But it’s also less nutritious. So the big bakeries fortified breads by adding vitamins, minerals, dough conditioners, stabilizers, amino acids, preservatives. Do those additives upset my gut?
In “Air,” Episode 3 of his Netflix series, Cooked, Pollan turns his analytical mind to the most ephemeral of the elements in his exploration of bread-making. Air adds gases and other flavours as well as lightening bread’s texture. Gluten is the balloon that contains the bubbles of gas and air in bread.
Why can I eat sourdough? I read studies showing that sourdough bread’s slow fermentation process reduces the amount of FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols), types of carbohydrates that are present in bread but are not well absorbed in the small intestine and cause bloating and flatulence. But Pollan suggests that just as important is the long slow fermentation inherent to sourdough bread-making. Fermentation is key to health: wheat is hard to digest. That long fermentation allows bacteria to fully break down wheat’s carbs and gluten strands and releases its minerals for easier absorption.
I feel vindicated. And I keep baking. Sourdough bread is the most satisfying food in my kitchen.
Ask your artisan baker for a cupful of starter (or make it yourself.) Then get out the bread knife and the butter. First we eat, then we talk about crust and crumb.
“Sourdough bread is the most satisfying food in my kitchen.”
“Bread & Water is an emotionally arresting, beautifully written series of essays.”
~ Jurors’ Citation, Saskatchewan Book Awards, University of Saskatchewan President’s Office Nonfiction Award
“Food is a wonderful agent for storytelling... and Bread & Water demonstrates this brilliantly.”
~ Sarah Ramsey, starred review, Quill & Quire
“[Bread & Water is] An amazing feast... riveting... eloquent.”
~ Patricia D. Robertson, Winnipeg Free Press
“[Bread & Water is a] sensuous experience; she brings her poet’s eye and ear to everything within her purview.”
~ Professor emerita Kathleen Wall, Blue Duets
“A deep love of the art of cooking that includes the language of fine dining (cassoulet, confit) even if the lamb was raised in Olds and she picked the rhubarb herself... she impressively manages this collision of worlds with a wholesome, approachable style.”
~ Megan Clark, Alberta Views
“These finely focussed poems [in Wildness Rushing In] invite us into a sensuous and emotionally rich landscape.”
~ Don McKay, winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize
“The writing [in Wildness Rushing In] is honed and textured, the senses so alive that you can practically taste the language. There are moments of brilliance rare in a first book.”
~ Jurors’ Citation, Saskatchewan Book Awards
“dee Hobsbawn-Smith’s stories [in What Can’t Be Undone] are written with a poetic edge. Her descriptions, particularly western landscapes, are often luxurious, lending themselves a kind of nuanced impression, a delicate fingerprint on the reader’s mind. "
~ Lee Kvern, Alberta Views
“[Foodshed is] A rich encyclopedia of facts, farm-gate lore and original recipes... a politically engaging narrative in which Hobsbawn-Smith articulates the challenges and joys faced by small-scale producers... don’ t let the alphabet theme fool you. This is no tame nursery rhyme; it is a locavore call to arms.”
~ P.D. Robertson, The Globe & Mail