Pita bread is for simpler times, and white bread isn’t just for the rich anymore…

April 18, 2013

pita breadI have always loved bread, but I know it’s not necessarily all that good for you.  A couple hundred years or so ago, white bread was considered a wealthy class food, while whole wheat bread (and probably barley, millet, and rye) were considered fit for the poor.  How times have changed.  Now the rich buy the more expensive grains like those mentioned above, while the poor eat the highly processed white bread.

Which brings me to pita bread.  Pita bread seems so free of chemicals, which is the way I see naan, french and Italian bread, and baguettes.  This may explain why artisan breads have found a home in America.  We just love the way other countries do bread.  I wonder how hoagie rolls and pizza dough originated?  People get so particular about their pizza and hoagies/ cheesesteaks, that I’m sure the Italians were adamant that their bread use the best ingredients.  Because bread really does make the meal.

I cook bread on my own sometimes.  I love making pizza, and have made pretzels, anadama bread, bread sticks, and rolls/biscuits.  It seems like there is a very big difference between processed bread/cakes/cookies, and the bread that we buy from artisan shops.  The differences seem huge and I hope we narrow that gap into something more presentable to the public.

Maybe these breads that colonials used to eat 200 or more years ago developed because we used to do hard labor like farming and fighting.   Now, in addition to the cornbread and whole wheat bread that have carried us to this point, we also have quick breads, cakes, cookies, etc…  These calorie heavy carbs are now a staple in American cooking.  We have a huge pastry and bread section in our grocery stores, plus lots of independent bakeries.

Maybe that is our downfall.  We have such a rich tradition to choose from like the banana nut breads and carrot cake and now cupcakes and anything chocolate that we forget our roots.   We never want to give up these sweet treats completely which explains the attraction to gluten free goodies.

Breaking bread is something we consider religious since the time of Jesus, but maybe we have gotten a little carried away with the habit since then.   Just look at our food pyramid.  It says we should eat 6-11 servings of carbohydrates a day and only 2-3 servings of beans, eggs, nuts, and meat.  I know if I followed that pyramid, I’d probably be somewhat heavy.  However, the Mediterranean food pyramid suggests not only eating bread daily, but also olives, fruits, beans, nuts, vegetables, cheese, and yogurt.  I wonder how many people eat by the pyramids anyway.

The Mesopotamia region (dating 3000 BC) had a difficult time starting one of the first civilizations.  This area, also called the Middle East, was among the most productive of its time, according to a Think Quest online article.  Now, it seems their centuries developed culture is being forgotten.  The crops from the 2500 BC time were flax, date palms, onions, barley, leeks, and fruit like figs and grapes to make wine.  I kind of wonder how the current Middle Eastern food culture was developed.  Maybe with globalization, even way back then, affected what we eat today.

The Mesopotamia region was historically dry, but yet had fertile soil due to the rivers that surrounded them.  Times have certainly changed since then and in the food culture as well.  Maybe wars have broken out in the Middle East due to the fact that they have all this history surrounding them and no one understands each other’s plight so they argue.

I read that whole wheat bread has surpassed white bread in sales in the US, according to the Chicago Tribune.  The classic American white bread these day is just packaged boring slices.  The new artisan bread seems more homey and harks back to another time where we appreciated fresh quality food.

I don’t really like heavy whole wheat bread.  It has to be somewhat airy and I LOVE the Whole Foods variety with seeds to accentuate that tough, hard living feeling.

I still can’t believe that white breads used to be for the rich as recently as 300 years ago!  This is could be because A: they didn’t know that whole wheat was more nutritious than white, B: they didn’t care that whole wheat was more nutritious, C:  Because white was more expensive to make than wheat back then, the rich just felt like it must be the better one to eat, or D: the poor secretly knew that they were better off eating the whole wheat bread, and went along with the age old tradition until the industrial revolution changed social lines.


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