We Catholics refer to the Eucharist as the Bread of Life because that’s what Jesus called Himself; wheat is called the “staff” of life.
But how does that comport with modern times?
Why would anyone call bread the staff of life when there are daily articles from many publications warning that refined white flour — composing most of today’s bread, and all that pastry — is one of the least healthy things we eat, precisely due to that “refinement”?
And the answer is right there: we think we have refined what God made, but what we actually have done is bleach out the nutrients and add chemicals to make it look better and last longer on the shelves of our sacred supermarkets: in those stores where the typical Christian spends more time each week than praying, reading the Bible, or tending to real Bread: the Eucharist.
The one time bread should be white is perhaps as the Communion Host.
And even this is problematic for some: the refinement, the alteration of wheat, and the production of too much gluten, causes or contributes to celiac disease and the inability of certain Catholics to partake of it. Barley as used in ancient times was low in gluten and did not respond to yeast, so it lost its popularity when leavened bread became the standard for bread-making.
Of this we can be sure: the Virgin Mary did not bake Wonder Bread.
Her bread was dark, full-grain, natural — and wondrous in ways both physical and transcendental because it was simple and true to God. Many nutrients were contained in it, making it easier to fast on.
Read ingredients. In Jesus’s time, the outer kernel, the bran and germ, were left in the grinding process, so that it was a whole grain. Some bread was made of legumes such as lentils, making bread the main course. As Mother Angelica once said, many Europeans still throw everything in it “but the kitchen sink.”
While we’re all programmed to believe any change in what is natural is “progress,” our disease rates and the way we age — the debilitating ailments from arthritis and clogged arteries to allergies and cancer — can sometimes and even often be connected to ingesting “fake food,” if we may use fake in the true sense (for once) of its meaning.
Today’s white bread is such that the Swiss have even banned the way we manufacture it — that fashion in which bread is bleached with nitrogen, chlorine, chloride, and benzoyl peroxide. Lost have been the phosphorous, iron, and magnesium, leaving poor protein and fattening starch.
“The most primitive method of baking bread was the laying of cakes of dough on heated stones,” we’re instructed by the website Biblical History. “A Scriptural example of this is from the experience of Elijah (I Kings 19:6): ‘And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head.'”
They refined flour to some degree. But obviously it wasn’t mass produced — and it is mass production wherein is a secret to society’s current health dilemmas.
Parched grain was sometimes used for food without any other preparation (Ruth 2:14). Bread was prepared by kneading in wooden bowls or “kneading troughs” (Genesis 18:6; Exodus 12:34; Jeremiah 7:18). The dough was mixed with leaven and made into thin cakes, round or oval, and then baked.
The corn or grain employed was of various sorts. The best bread was made of wheat, but “barley” and spelt were also used. John 6:9,13; Isiah 28:25 The process of making bread was as follows: the flour was first mixed with water or milk; it was then kneaded with the hands (in Egypt with the feet also) in a small wooden bowl or “kneading-trough” until it became dough.
And so it was. Now? “Many of us know to avoid white bread whenever possible,” says another site called Simplemost. “But what about all of the other options in the bread aisle? It often seems like you need a science degree to figure out which type of bread is best for your sandwich.
“The biggest key, nutrition experts say, is to look for the word ‘whole’ on the label. According to the FDA, ‘Whole grains are cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked, or flaked kernel, which includes the bran, the germ, and the innermost part of the kernel (the endosperm).’”
Quinoa, amaranth, spelt and Kamut (a patented variety of wheat).
It pays to pay attention in this modern time when we ingest too much of what man has made, diverting from the original Plan of God.
Claims about the breads abound: They’re said to be packed with whole grains, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, and they’re supposedly safe for people with wheat allergies or gluten intolerance. But although the ancient grains are undoubtedly healthful and tasty, not all of the claims hold up.
Don’t be fooled by “multi-grain”: that doesn’t mean whole. Did you know that white bread turns into sugar when we digest it? Did you know it collects in veins and arteries (including the blood vessels in the brain)?
What is comes down to: precisely simplicity. Go back to what is closest to the grain God fashioned, and eschew the concoctions of technology.