So I’ve been listening to the audio book Cooked by Michael Pollan and thinking, in light of the current war on gluten, ongoing war on sugar, and my wanting to be healthier in general, about my mother, and her cooking, life habits, etc. Pollan’s book reviews several things including the baking of bread. He writes about the role of gluten in the baking process. At the same time I was listening to a chapter, I visited my mother and started thinking about her health and what does this new information on the aforementioned items mean.
Mind you (before you read), I’m not advocating we don’t think about the ramifications of gluten, sugar, lard, and hand washing on our daily health, but, I remain skeptical about the nature of our disease ridden American daily life and how much we are doing in the name of healthy habits that could truly be hurting us.
First, my mother is 85. She is thin, relatively active (she tries to mow her own grass and lives in the country where she carries things to throw them over a hill), and has only a few aches and pains. She cares for my 87 year-old father everyday which sometimes means lifting him. Her habits? She still uses white sugar, white flour, and, uses simple soap and water to clean. She eats few vegetables and still prefers white bread. The best thing about coming home on Friday’s as a child was being hit in the nose with the wonderful aroma of plain white bread baking in the oven and on which we would later slather real butter when the bread was still warm and the butter would melt onto our fingers. Side note: my parents still put butter on every sandwich they make.
Second, Michael Pollan, presents several what could be unpopular sentiments in this book. One is his rich description of the role of gluten in the bread making process. Given the bread that my mother makes, I started salivating as he talked about bread making. I didn’t wince once when he described what gluten is and how it works in bread making. Instead, I thought of those heavenly rolls I ate in my mother’s kitchen and marveled at how no other bread has ever tasted quite like it. I don’t think I ever will.
In another chapter, Pollan writes about bacteria and how this generation has to ADD bacteria back into the digestive system because we have exorcised bacteria from our daily lives. He contends that we’ve taken bacteria out of our lives so much that we may indeed be making ourselves sick. I’ve had food poisoning so I know the seriousness of these issues yet I still find myself skeptical about over protecting ourselves from bacteria. My mother uses soap and water (okay sometimes she uses Mr. Clean) and her house is not one in which you could eat off the floor. Yet I rarely remember getting sick when I was a child and I still don’t get flu and colds (I do not and will not use hand-santizer). So what, I wondered, does all of this mean?
Well, for me it means continuing to be mindful about what I put in or what I do not put into my body. It means watching signs for what bothers MY system and not depending on what bothers someone else’s system. It means not blindly following the crowd proudly displaying signs of gluten-free, sugar free, spice free, wheat free, bacteria free, etc., but not dismissing them either. In short…
all of these things make me wonder.
Now I want some bread.