History of Favorite American Food White Bread Part 2

About the favorite American food white bread, history and information.


The processed flour is sent to the baking plant. During shipment or storage it is vulnerable to absorbing odors such as paint, tobacco, solvents, and disinfectants. Shortenings added to the flour in the bread-making process include lard and beef tallow, which vary according to the cattle. Vegetable oils are usually refined, bleached, and deodorized. Fats may be hydrogenated in order to prevent oxidizing and this process in turn prevents the body from utilizing other nutrients which may be present in the bread. Chemical antioxidants are also added, the more notorious ones being BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene). To this concoction enzymes are added--fungal proteases, amylases, and lipoxidases. Malt is a good enzymatic source and is high in vitamins and essential amino acids. However, companies usually go the other route because it is cheaper albeit nonnutritive. Soy enzymes are good and may add flavor to the extremely bland refined flour; this blandness is, of course, a reflection of the lack of nutritional substance in the 1st place.

The idea of adding vitamins and minerals to enrich white bread came in the Depression years of the 1930s when more than half the diet of city people consisted of white flour products. Even the enriched white flour--which generally has synthesized niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, and iron added back--is still missing major B vitamins and amino acids. Some protein can be found if dried or frozen eggs are used; more often the yellow tint from nitric acid serves as an egg substitute. Calcium propionate (made from the same chemicals that bring you athlete's foot remedies) retards spoilage and prolongs shelf life. Allergic reactions to this substance have been known.

Most of the large processes are handled by machine, but there are human overseers at each step along the way and some jobs, such as shaping irregular baked products, may be done entirely by hand. There is an enormous discrepancy in pay between labor and management. Women are not encouraged to enter higher positions and a 1971 manual of baking industry career opportunities says that "a professional woman should be prepared to encounter some antagonism in these fields.... It is most important that she have a pleasing personality, is well groomed at all times and dresses in a conservative, but fashionable manner." Considering that the baking industry ranks number one in the U.S. in the use of motor vehicles, number of plants, and number of people employed, it sets an interesting example of employment practices and of the relative values of nutrition versus profit.

The loaves are often packaged with misleading labels, then marketed. Chemical additives should be mentioned but not all are. For instance, something may have been thrown in (but not listed) to make the bread hold water so that less dough is needed per loaf. If you squeeze a loaf and it stays indented, or changes in size, beware. Not everything marked "wheat" is whole wheat. In Switzerland white bread is taxed and the revenue given to bakers of whole wheat bread in order to make nutritious bread available at a reasonable price. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen here. Just remember to buy a life-sustaining grain instead of an overrefined substance that is not of interest even to rats and insects.

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