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Summertime 2010 Book Review Series: ‘Bread Matters’ By Andrew Whitley

Posted Jun 14 2010 3:41pm

Books, books, and more books! I got ‘em coming out of my ears for the Summer of 2010, so I’m doing this special series of reviews of the newest and best low-carb, health, and nutrition books that you may want to take a closer look at. Many of the authors of the featured books are scheduled to be guests on my podcast show in the coming months. My goal is to try to feature at least one new book review a day, every day all summer long. There’s a lot of great stuff out there you need to know about and I can’t wait for you to see what all is available! ENJOY!

I enjoy reading books that stretch my intellectual boundaries beyond any preconceived notions that I have about a subject. That’s where true knowledge can be formed when you surround yourself with information that may run counter to what you already believe is true so that you can either strengthen your opposition to it or find a new way to look at it from a different perspective. That’s certainly what I attempted to do by reading British baker Andrew Whitley’s book on the carbiest of all carbohydrates entitled Bread Matters: The State of Modern Bread and a Definitive Guide to Baking Your Own .

People within the low-carb community which I am an active part of may answer the question of whether bread really matters with a resounding NO, but I was willing to hear what Whitley had to say on the subject before hastily dismissing it. Yes, that’s blasphemy in the land of livin’ la vida low-carb, but I like to buck the trend and take a second look at topics that may teach me something. This book certainly didn’t disappoint.

One of my favorite parts of Bread Matters is the fact that Whitley completely annihilates the state of modern bread, especially those claiming to have some sort of “healthy-eating” marketing scheme attached to it. Inferior and cheap breads completely distort the value of real bread made from quality ingredients and the author does an excellent job of exposing the kind of garbage they are putting into bread these days that is completely unnecessary for making it for human consumption. Just read pages 8-13 to see what all they are putting into most modern breads to know why you need to avoid them like the plague.

This book is a historical reference as much as anything showing how bread used to be made before the Industrial Revolution started refining grains and producing these mass-marketed breads that are anything but what bread used to be. It’s kind of like what has happened to a lot of other foods we consume these days with all the added sugars, refined carbohydrates, and processing that makes them virtually useless for human nutrition. That’s what they’ve done to our bread and Andrew Whitley laments this travesty to what he believes is a real dietary staple. While I don’t think that’s necessarily true, I expect a bread maker to say that.

I love the snarkiness of Whitley because he nails the food industry for their hypocrisy. In discussing the food companies that tout the “healthy” versions of their foods, he asks the following question wondering out loud if they’ve even considered the answer: “If all the qualities with which you have so generously endowed this new line are as vital for my health as you imply, why are your ordinary products not as good?” It’s a great question to ask to which we’ll never hear an answer. The food manufacturers don’t care about your health–all they are concerned with is padding their bottom line. There’s nothing wrong with making a buck, but don’t do it under the guise that you care about people’s health.

Then after outlining the problem with modern bread, Whitley does something rather amazing: he shows YOU how to make good, quality bread yourself and there are four essential ingredients you need to have to make that happen–wheat flour (and he describes several different kinds for you to examine to determine which one is best for your baking needs), yeast, water, and salt. He takes you through the five stages of breadmaking and explains why each one is an important part of the process of making real bread. Gorgeous color photos show you what the bread is supposed to look like after you are finished with all the process of making your bread. Recipes for making every version of bread you can think of under the sun are included in Bread Matters and this is certainly the most comprehensive book I’ve ever seen on the subject anywhere.

Although there is a nice recipe for how to make gluten-free bread in the back of the book, I’m not convinced that my diet needs to include a daily dose of bread of any kind just yet. For those who can tolerate more carbohydrates than mine, I certainly don’t see how baking up some fresh real bread for yourself would be out of the question from time to time. While I may not see it as a staple of anyone’s diet, I can now understand why Andrew Whitley declares that Bread Matters which is why he’s undertaken an international campaign to promote real bread around the world. People should stop settling for what they see in a grocery store as their impression of bread and get back to the basics of how it is made the right way.

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