Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why Baking Bread Matters

In my first few years of motherhood, I believed that serving my family healthy foods was important.  We ate mostly home-cooked meals and we included lots of fruits and vegetables in our diets.  I baked muffins and cookies sometimes, but mostly I was content to offer my young daughters whatever they would eat.  Often this included packaged breakfast cereals, crackers, toast and pasta. 

Without a doubt, our diet was wheat-centric, a tendancy common in many North American families.  Then I started to read in various places that less is more when it comes to wheat.  (I won't leave lots of links here because you can find tones of online articles about the downside of eating wheat if you do a simple search.)  I began to phase out purchasing any breakfast cereals or crackers and we started to eat pasta only once per week.

But I stubbornly believed that bread was good.  We always purchased high-quality (by which I mean expensive) whole-grain bread from the brand Country Harvest.  One day I read the ingredient list on the bag of bread and discovered that it contained 2 additives to keep the bread soft and another additive to slow down mold growth.  I was surprised!  I thought that the more expensive the bread was, the healthier it was likely to be.  Not so.

I began baking bread about 2 years ago.  Immediately, my two older daughters were not interested in eating it.  My Partner-Guy was still buying grocery-store bread for making his lunches to take to work, and as long as that bread was in the house, my daughters refused the momemade variety.  The only way to get the additive-filled bread out of their diets was to get it out of the house.

So for approximately the past 18 months, I have been able to make all the bread that we consume.  I make whole wheat bread for toast and sandwiches, white hamburger buns and sometimes crusty Italian bread or garlic bread.  I bake bread only once or twice per week and I always freeze whatever won't be used within 48 hours of baking because it does go stale pretty fast.

As a result of baking bread, our diet is no longer nearly as wheat-dependent as it used to be.  We have conscienciously reduced our consumption of wheat and increased our consumption of legumes, fruits and vegetables.  Since the children don't enjoy the homemade bread as much as grocery-store bread, they ask for less of it.  It is also more dense and filling, so less is required.

I find the act of baking bread to be peaceful and joy-inducing:  the smell of the yeast, the elasticity of the dough, the magic as it rises to double its original size and finally the intoxicating aroma of baking bread that fills the entire house.  I never feel too tired to bake bread;  it is always something on my to-do list that I look forward to.  I look forward to running out of bread so that I can bake again.

Baking bread has made me more mindful about all of the food that I feed to my family.  I want to know where every ingredient came from and whose hands touched them before they went into my child's mouth.  I want to spend my money for food responsibly and teach my children that the people who grow our food are honourary members of our community.  I want to love my children with healthy food, not by stuffing it into them, but by providing it for them as a gift of my love.

I want them to see that preparing their food is not just another chore, but an act of love, joy and mindfulness.

Tomorrow:  Why Giving Up a Career Matters


  1. This is lovely. Baking bread is one of those things I always dream of having time to do. I hadn't thought of the additional benefits you mention in your post. I may reassess and try to do it just once instead of regularly...

  2. Looking forward to hearing your uncompromising views on motherhood and careers...

  3. @Jenny
    And it's probably not what you're thinking...