Day 339: What Did Industrialization Do To Our Bread?

In the normal school of a first world western country, such as Sweden, my country of birth, the curriculum includes learning about the history of industrialization. Not surprisingly, industrialization is for the most part praised as a ingenious evolutionary step wherein the human being finally enabled himself to create a comfortable life. Obviously, as we know, industrialization did not only create a more convenient and comfortable life for the bigger mass, it also created heaps, and heaps of consequences. The more commonly known consequence is the destruction of ecological systems through the expansion of infrastructure, and the release of toxins in nature, causing symptoms such as global warming and fluctuating weather patterns.

Now, in this blog I am going to look at some of the more unseen consequences of industrialization, and also look closer at the very reason and purpose for why we industrialized our production of goods, and how our starting point also decided the outflow and final creation as what is here today.

First, let me introduce our point of departure and set the scenery for the coming discussion – this will be BREAD. Yes, bread, that simple and basic food product, that unfortunately, many of us take for granted. I thought that bread was just bread and that the way bread is made now do not differ from how it used to be made in the past. This is not the truth, and in-fact, the history of bread exposes how us human beings, through approaching life from within and as the mind, have distorted and destroyed our physical well-being.

The breads we buy today in our supermarkets are very different from what bread used to be some hundred years ago. Industrialized bread is a lot cheaper to make than its predecessors. That is because grain used to be grounded utilizing stone mills, a slower process, which created a more varied whole grain flour. Industrialized grain is grounded using roller mills which makes it possible to create pure white flour a lot cheaper and faster.

To raise the bread, the industrialized bakery have developed yeast. This is in contrast to the old baking techniques were sourdough was used, which involves a slow moving fermentation process within which yeast interacts with micro bacteria in the air. In this process the carbohydrates and gluten in the dough breaks down, which makes it easier for the body to absorb the nutrients of the grain when the bread is consumed. The modern way of directly inserting yeast into the dough bypasses the fermentation process making the bread raise a lot faster, however it creates a end-product that is not at all as nutritious as the traditional sour dough bread and that is harder for the body to break down. In fact there are indications that gluten intolerance is a consequence of the modern industrialized bakery, simply because it skips the fermentation process.

Now, if we look at the starting point of why bread production changed during the industrialization this was to save time, which consequently made the bread cheaper and easier to mass produce; it meant less hours of labor had to be put into each unit of bread and less production costs per unit of bread. What we got was quantitatively more and cheaper bread.  Instead of baking our own bread, we could now afford to buy them. Hence, we began to buy bread to save time, to make room for leisure activities and work. It is interesting to see how it all ties together. After the second world war when more women joined the work force and techniques had been developed to bake bread using industrialized methods, bread that was cheaper and that had extended longevity (initially because it had to be shipped abroad to feed troops), the women had less time to cook and prepare food, thus the modern bread was greeted as a savior.

However, was it worth it?

The industrial revolution was all about making things cheaper, all about saving, harnessing efficiency, and above all making MORE money. And in the interest of money and convenience, we have created massive consequences, and as can be seen with for example bread, this has lead to a significant drop in nutritional quality. It is time that we ask ourselves what qualities and values we have missed in our pursuit of happiness. That we have access to a lot of resources, a comfortable and convenient lifestyle, this might not be possible if we also want to have a life where we have the best possible food. Because in order to get the best, we have to put in effort and work. And in order to get the best, we must invest time. It will never be possible to just get something for free, and then expect that this freebie is of any substance or quality. All goods and services will only ever reflect the human being that is behind them – and if that human being does not have the intention of creating the best – but rather the intention of making the most money possible – we have a problem.

Somewhere we took a wrong turn. Industrialization, which could have been an opportunity to refine and make our bread even better, became a way for us to bake it cheaper and faster. This also goes to show that it is never about the technology or the system involved – it is all about WHO WE ARE within it, and what we decide to make out of it. Hence the solution is not to go back in time and attempt to do things the way our forefathers did it. The solution is to start living and creating using a different principle – to approach life within the principle of creating what is BEST for ALL.

We take the system that is here – and change it. As such, if you are working as a baker, or you are you are baking bread at home, this is an opportunity to expand yourself – to instead of wanting things to go fast and smoothly – look at how you are able to produce the best bread possible.

For further information on this topic I suggest that you watch the Netflix original series Cooked.


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