I do. With disturbing frequently. And I'm not dreaming about gluten-free bread!
If you're like me, the dream involves a sandwich. It’s made from two thick slices of homemade white wheat bread; it doesn’t matter what’s between them, it’s about the bread. The outer crust is crispy, even a bit tough. The inner “crumb” is soft, moist, slightly sweet and a little chewy. The fragrance fills my nose and the airy wheatiness caresses my tongue. Some people might ask you if you dream in colour but I ask, do you dream in flavour?
The memory, the cold sting of reality leaks through the dreamy haze and reminds you “you can’t have this, you have celiac”.
Mouth still full, the panic sets in. What do I do?
Sometimes I find myself running to the bathroom, spitting out the bread and rinsing my mouth to get rid of every last crumb and praying for only a mild reaction.
Sometimes I find myself holding the sandwich back from my lips for a moment and deciding “What the heck, I’ve gone this far” and finishing it, consequences be damned.
Are you relieved when to wake up to find it was only a dream? I do. I won’t be in bed for the next several days with the shades drawn against the migraine and, well we don’t need to get into the rest.
Funny the dream is never about cake.
It’s like the quest for the holy grail; the search for the best gluten-free bread, or if we’re being realistic, the search for even a decent loaf of gluten-free bread. But why? For those of us with celiac disease, we can still eat most of the food that planet earth provides for us. All kinds of fruits and vegetables, whole fresh cuts of meat, eggs, cheese, even wine, the very nectar of the gods. So why do we obsess over bread?
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I think bread is deep inside our psyche. It’s part of our DNA and resonates through every human culture. Bread after all is almost as ancient as agriculture. Michael Pollan in his book Cooked, a Natural History of Transformation1, tells the story of one of our human ancestors, somewhere in Egypt about six thousand years ago noticing something strange about a bowl of cooked wheat porridge. Maybe it was left on it’s own a bit too long.
Forgotten in the pot near the fire it started to bubble and ferment. From there it was not too much of a stretch to discover that this bubbly mass could be cooked over the fire perhaps in an ancient crucible and bread was discovered.
Since that fateful fantasy day in ancient Egypt, humans and bread have been inseparable. We associate bread with society, family, joy and celebration. “Give us this day our daily bread” we pray and to “break bread” is to share a meal solidifying bonds and healing rifts. Is it coincidence that bread and wine are so often depicted together, even forming the basis of Christianity?
First we have to ask the question "is bread healthy". I think the answer to that depends on what you're trying to accomplish. If you’re following a keto or low carb diet for example, you’re like eliminating or drastically reducing all grains, including any form of bread from your diet.
Brett Weinstein and Heather Heying who are both evolutionary biologists and co-authors of the book A Hunter-Gatherers Guide to the 21st Century2 make the point that "humans no longer eat just to satisfy energetic requirements any more than we have sex just to make babies". I would add to that by saying that health is about more than just vitamins and minerals. Our mental and spiritual health is important too and having food we enjoy and can enjoy with others is at the very foundation of that.
So yes, bread, in moderation is healthy, gluten-free bread included.
Original Photo by Kristine Wook - Unsplash (sandwich is mine)
For more answers to your questions about healthy gluten-free bread go here:
With everything we've learned about how hard it is to mimic gluten in gluten-free products, is it even possible to have a naturally gluten-free bread? If you've read much of my work you'll know that I look at "natural" as being on a continuum and balance as the key to, well everything. To learn more, click the link below.
Weinstein and Heying go on to observe that:
“if you had a list in front of you of the people you know and the people with whom you’ve broken bread, you’d find that the broken bread with list is special."
I find that to be profoundly true and for those of us with celiac, the social and cultural importance of "breaking break" meaning to enjoy a meal together is especially significant. We realize very quickly after diagnosis that almost every occasion or milestone of importance involves food, which for us means extra planning, extra precautions and often means bringing our own food. We then find that, even if we are eating with our family and friends, the fact that we are not eating the same food as they are makes us feel strangely left out even while being included in the group. We don't eat just to satisfy caloric requirement, food is so much more.
Have I helped at all to solve the mystery around gluten-free bread? Why the moment we're told we can't have wheat, it's a thousand loaves of bread that flash through our minds and haunt our dreams? Do you think bread is really in our DNA? Or maybe it’s just our childish nature, we want what we can’t have.
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1. Pollan, M. (2014). Cooked: A natural history of transformation. Penguin Books.
2. Heying, H. E., & Weinstein, B. (2021). A hunter-gatherer's guide to the 21st century: Evolution and the challenges of Modern Life. Portfolio.