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That Homey Loaf of Bread — So Close and Yet So Far

(post, Deborah Madison)

Once wasn't enough. We ate the first loaf of bread, so I made some more.  It was fine. No, it was delicious. I've now become reacquainted with the sheer goodness of toast with butter and honey and found that it's good any time of day! (Maybe that's the problem with bread!)

As I was giving a class at something called the Science Cafe to about 100 high school students that night on food and sustainability, I suddenly thought it might be useful to see where all the ingredients came from in my bread.  I'm still kind of reeling from what I found.

The salt was from Spain.
The honey was from India - (a really nice fair trade product that was sent to me).
The various flours and brans were all from North America, which basically means Canada.
The organic canola oil was from Canada.
And the yeast was from Mexico.  
The egg was from nowhere, apparently. I looked over any number of cartons and found no clue as to origin. Not one. (Now I really can't wait for my own chickens!)
The water was from my well, and that was it for the US. 

The ingredients for my all-organic, very affordable (about $1) big loaf of bread traveled across oceans and over entire continents — thousands and thousands of miles. I thought, "Here you try to do something right, and right away you're participating in this huge shuffle of stuff around the world." So that's what we talked about in class and the bread stayed home.  

A few things can be corrected. The honey can be from Northern New Mexico — even next door. There are salt beds here too; they were once used by Zuni. (I think they might be off limits, as are the salt mountains that house our nuclear waste.) There used to be hundreds of wheat fields and flour mills all over the state. There's only one working now, and its wheat is too soft for bread, but new fields of hard wheat  have been planted and were used in a local bakery until it closed this year. The egg can easily be local. The puzzling thing is the yeast.  A glance at other brands this afternoon showed some from Germany and Canada, but you can always make your bread via sourdough, salt-risin,g and other naturally fermented breads. Come to think of it, after two weeks I'm starting to miss that tangy yeasty taste of a a slow risen wild yeast bread. I think that will be next.

I hadn't meant to embark on a study of food miles when I started baking again, but there it is. I've always suspected that 1500 miles is low for the average distance our food travels, and if a loaf of bread is any indication, it is. Perhaps it was fitting that one of the students asked what should we consider local — North America, our continent?