Thursday, December 16, 2010

The bread of Life

Today is bread day.
I don't always bake on Thursdays. It just depends on when we need bread. Today's the day. It seems that the pioneer women I often read about have certain days of the week that have tasks associated with them- mostly chores- wash day, ironing day, cleaning day, bread day.

Today's bread day.

I know how to bake bread.
I've made bread on many special occasions in the past: Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays.... But I've never actually made a habit of it until now. I started because a couple of months ago I read an article in the paper that stated that the DNA combination of wheat had been cracked by British scientists. Wheat was one of the last major food crops to be sequenced. This is because the the genome of wheat is absolutely huge- 17 billion base pairs make up the DNA sequence. Wheat can now be adapted at the genetic level. Scientists have been working on this for years. Now I know this could be good news. Cracking wheat's genetic code could mean that the grain could be modified to withstand drought, climate change or to increase yields. The increasing yields could decrease the world food shortage. Genetically modified wheat can also decrease the United States vulnerability to food issues stemming from possible terrorist attack. Modification has already been completed on corn, soy, cotton, canola and rice. These are all good things.

But it also means that sometime in the near future, all bread and bread products (cookies, rolls, hamburger buns, hot dog buns, muffins......anything with wheat!) could have genetically modified grain cooked, baked and otherwise hidden in the deep recesses of our store bought food. (We as consumers don't even have a choice of whether or not we want to buy genetically modified food because the FDA does not make food companies include GMO information on the ingredient labels.) I used to think that if I made as many of our food products here at home, my children would be receiving the best food I could possibly provide for them. But that might not be true anymore. If the basic building blocks of our wheat, corn and other raw food materials have been changed (and maybe damaged) at the cellular level, using flour or corn meal as a "baking from scratch" option might not be the healthiest food option at all. We don't know what effect prolonged exposure to genetically modified foods is going to be on the human body. And I don't really want to feed my kids anymore fake ingredients than I have to. So I'm trying to learn how to make all our baked goods at home. And if we ever get the word that wheat has been successfully genetically modified, I will buy organic wheat berries from our local wheat farm, grind my own flour and truly start from scratch with food material that is clean and right out of the dirt, so to speak. (Actually, my plan is to start buying wheat berries as soon as I use up the #200 of flour I have stored in my pantry that was bought in September.)

All that aside- baking bread is fun, pretty easy.......and cheap.....(a loaf of bread costs me 18 cents to bake at home) and there is NOTHING better than the smell of freshly baking bread.

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