Playwright and screenwriter Yafa (Cotton: The Biography of a Revolutionary Fiber, 2004) debunks the claim by “the anti-gluten medical contingent” that wheat is unhealthy because it contains gluten, a protein that supposedly contributes to “obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia and more.”
The author suggests that store-bought bread and cereals have been stripped of their nutritional value in order to increase profitability—e.g., by replacing more labor-intensive stone grinding by roller mills and speeding the time of fermentation during baking. Furthermore, bread makers often deliberately remove fiber and wheat germ in order to create easily digestible, popular products such as hamburger buns. This process strips them of their nutritional value, leaving them heavy on starch. “Nobody wants to hear that humans, not nature's gluten all on its own, might be the source of the problem with wheat,” writes the author. Moreover, he points out, since it is the main source of nourishment for much of the world's population, removing wheat from the picture could cause famine. The author's personal confrontation with the issue came when his wife returned from a weekend at a health spa, convinced that gluten was the cause of her muscular distress. An avid home baker as well an investigative journalist, Yafa was soon hot on the trail of the booming new industry of gluten-free products, many of which have less nutritional value than traditional versions. “Real nourishing and delicious bread did not seem to be getting a fair hearing,” he writes, and he delivers on his claim to “tell a more balanced, less sensational story about wheat.” He reports on his months of travel meeting with experts—microbiologists, organic farmers, artisan bakers, specialty chefs, and more—in order to deepen his understanding of the art and science of bread making and its history.
An appealingly complex narrative of a successful quest, with recipes for the home baker.