Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

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My first experiment a success

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Not my bread – for illustration purpose only

Marc Loiselle, a farmer from Vonda, Saskatchewan has spearheaded a revival of interest in Red Fife. The Loiselle farm also grows a selected strain of Marquis. A growing number of consumers are discovering the superior taste of bread made from Red Fife or Marquis flour.

I bought a bread machine a couple years ago and always had the dream of making bread with Red Fife wheat. Yesterday I drove out to Vonda and bought a 10 kg sack of Red Fife flour, organically grown, nothing added, nothing removed.
Marc told me that this flour does not behave quite like other flours, the dough needs to be more moist and sticky. Today I made a loaf with 50% white flour and 50% whole grain Red Fife flour. It turned out great. That was the first experiment, from here I will continue to increase the proportion of whole grain Red Fife flour until I can, hopefully, produce a 100% whole wheat loaf in the bread machine.

The Loiselle family has an informative website which includes recipes: http://sites.google.com/site/loisellema/

 

Background on Red Fife wheat and the gluten issue
David Fife arrived in Canada from Scotland in 1820 when he was 15. His parents settled in Otanabee township, east of Peterborough, Ontario. At that time Ontario farmers were growing a winter wheat variety known as Siberian. It survived the winters, but was low yielding and susceptible to rust, a fungal disease that weakened the plant.

David Fife wrote to a friend in Glasgow asking for a sample of a better wheat. His friend found a ship unloading wheat in Glasgow harbour and managed to obtain a few kernels to send to David Fife. The wheat had been loaded at Danzig and had probably been grown in Ukraine.

The package of wheat kernels arrived just before seeding time in 1842. David Fife didn’t know if it was winter wheat or spring wheat. He planted half the seeds in spring, planning to sow the rest in fall. It must have been winter wheat, as the spring seeded grain did not mature — except for one plant that produced three heads of ripe grain. David Fife planted the seeds from those three heads the next spring and continued to multiply the seed, until he harvested 240 bushels in 1848. By then he knew that he had a variety of wheat that yielded better than Siberian, matured early and was not susceptible to rust. It also made excellent bread.

Since the kernels were red and the variety was introduced by David Fife, people called it Red Fife. By the end of the nineteenth century Red Fife wheat had the reputation of being the world’s best spring wheat. Thus, Red Fife wheat is descended from a single kernel of wheat picked at random from a boat being unloaded in Glasgow. David Fife’s careful work in multiplying the wheat grown from that single kernel made it possible to nourish millions of people

In 1908 my father, his brothers, and my grandfather homesteaded south of Old Wives Lake in Saskatchewan. The wheat they grew the first few years was Red Fife. The prairie growing season was a little too short though and sometimes it froze before it was mature. Dr. Charles Saunders crossed Red Fife with Hard Red Calcutta and selected plants that were early maturing, high yielding, had stiff straw and whose kernels had the best milling and baking qualities. Marquis began to be distributed to farmers in 1912 and by 1918 was grown on 20 million acres from southern Nebraska to northern Saskatchewan. This was the wheat that made the Canadian prairies a bread basket for the world. In later years Red Fife and Marquis were supplanted by new, higher yielding varieties

I remember as a boy picking a head of ripe whet, rolling it in my hands to thresh out the kernels, then popping the kernels into my mouth and chewing them. Soon I would have a gummy wad in my mouth, somewhat like chewing gum. This was the gluten in the wheat kernels.

Gluten is the major component of the protein in wheat and this gummy characteristic is what makes bread rise. The fermenting yeast in bread dough produces carbon dioxide which the gluten traps in small bubbles.

About 1% of people have a problem digesting gluten. There is even a scare campaign being spread today that says gluten is bad for all of us. If that is so, why didn’t gluten cause as much problems in past generations?

Gluten is actually a compound of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin. In old varieties of wheat, such as Red Fife and Marquis, the gluten is roughly 1/3 gliadin and 2/3 glutenin. These grains do not appear to cause celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance. Modern bread wheat varieties may contain up to 80% gliadin.

There in a nutshell is the problem. Wheat varieties have been “improved” to boost yield and disease resistance. In the process, flavour has been lost and some people have health problems from eating bread made from these wheat varieties.Gluten is also added to a wide variety of other foods and this will be gluten from newer wheat varieties with a high Gliadin count. Those who are sensitive to this need to read the labels carefully when grocery shopping.

Wednesday morning gripe session

Sixty years ago a scientific study concluded that saturated fat was the primary cause of heart disease. Saturated fats are those that come from animal sources, like cream, butter and lard. That study pretty much destroyed the market for butter and lard and got most people to switch to drinking partially skimmed milk and using coffee whitener instead of cream. It turns out that the author of that study selected data from six countries that appeared to support his intended conclusion and rejected data from 16 other countries that did not fit his hypothesis.

A massive new study, the largest ever conducted, does not show any adverse health effects from saturated fats, but shows that trans fats can increase the rate of cardiovascular disease by 34%. This study was led by Doctor Russel de Souza of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario and published in the British Medical Journal. Trans fats are found in vegetable oils that have been hydrogenated to solidify them. Thus, butter has no bad health effects, margarine may be dangerous. (Not all margarines contain hydrogenated vegetable oil.  Check the label — if it does not mention hydrogenated vegetable oil and says 0 trans fat, you should be OK.)

The media bring us news about all sorts of “scientific” studies, and often the results of one study directly contradict the results of another. “Scientific” is not a magic word, one needs to know the methodology and whether the results have been replicated by others using the same methodology. That kind of information is generally considered too arcane for the general public, so many of us are becoming more and more skeptical of anything labelled as scientific.

At suppertime yesterday evening, I sprinkled some dried cranberries over my salad. Then I looked at the package. These were organic cranberries, with no trans fats, gmo’s or gluten. Are there people out there gullible enough to believe that cranberries might contain trans fats, gmo’s and gluten? If so, I expect any day now to find bottled water on the supermarket shelves, labelled as organically grown, gmo free, gluten free and trans fat free.

About forty years ago, CBC television did a news report on Dutch Puck Disease. It showed a grove of trees bearing shrivelled up hockey pucks due to this disease and speculated that the NHL season might have to be cancelled. The interviewed Bobby Orr, who managed to keep a straight face while lamenting the possibility that he might not be able to score any more goals. Then they did man in the street interviews and showed the shocked reaction of people upon hearing this news. Millions of people had a good laugh at the story, but thousands believed it.

Red Fife wheat for people with gluten intolerance

I remember as a boy picking a head of ripe whet, rolling it in my hands to thresh out the kernels, then popping the kernels into my mouth and chewing them.  Pretty soon I would have a gummy wad in my mouth, somewhat like chewing gum.  This was the gluten in the wheat kernels.

Gluten is the major component of the protein in wheat and this gummy characteristic is what makes bread rise.  The fermenting yeast in bread dough produces small bubbles of carbon dioxide which are trapped by the gluten.

In perhaps the last forty years it has become evident that about 1% of people have a problem digesting gluten.  There is even a scare campaign being spread today that says gluten is bad for all of us.  If that is so, why didn’t gluten cause as much problems in past generations?

There does appear to be a problem with gluten, but not with all gluten.  Gluten is actually a compound of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin.  In old varieties of wheat, such as Red Fife and Marquis, the gluten is roughly 1/3 gliadin and 2/3 glutenin.  These grains do not appear to cause celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance.  Modern bread wheat varieties may contain up to 80% gliadin.

There in a nutshell is the problem.  It is not necessary to avoid bread altogether, or to use exotic flour substitutes, just go back to the old varieties if you have a problem with bread made from the newer wheat varieties.

Red Fife wheat is once again being grown in all parts of Canada, not in huge quantities, but it is available.  Marc Loiselle of Vonda, Saskatchewan is a major producer and promoter of Red Fife.  Two bakeries in Saskatoon make bread from the Red Fife wheat grown on his farm.  The Loiselle farm website lists other bakeries from Whitehorse, Yukon to Chapel Hill, North Carolina and from Sooke, BC to Skohegan, Maine.  The Loiselle farm is also beginning to grow a selected strain of Marquis wheat.

There is considerable gluten research going on today.  Wheat varieties have been “improved” to boost yield and disease resistance.  In the process, flavour has been lost.  Now it is becoming evident that we cannot tamper with the proportions of gliadin and glutenin in the gluten without causing suffering to at least some people.

I do not believe that we need to be too radical in seeking a solution to this.  There is no need to abandon bread, when there is flour and bread available from varieties like Red Fife and Marquis.  Nevertheless, gluten is added to a wide variety of other foods and it would be well to read the labels carefully when we go grocery shopping.

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