When it comes to wheat, I am ashamed to admit that we are a generation of Indians blaming the arrow. And for a while I, too, bought into the idea that modern wheat is poison. We blame wheat for everything from brain fog to celiac disease and decry that man, through his tinkering, has ruined one of God's best gifts. And while I admit it certainly appears there is continual warfare against the grain by all that is unholy, overwhelmingly I am convinced that wheat is still the best gig in town. Tell me honestly, who except the self-deluded can get excited about a cauliflower pizza crust?
Prompted by an upcoming year of "preparedness" in our ward, my husband and I have been fitting ourselves to the task, and in chatting with others about some of the most pressing temporal preparedness needs, I was really taken aback by how little wheat is esteemed as something that we need to know how to use, let alone store! Truth be told, many folks are under the impression that wheat simply isn't good for us anymore.
This was said in 1980, after the "Green Revolution" that supposedly altered wheat beyond the point of still having value. AND, this was declared by a prophet whose knowledge of agriculture is irrefutable. So...why do we think wheat is so bad for us? Perhaps because we are seeing the results of having, as a society, abandoned its preparation to entities that are purely commercial and whose decisions are based on profit and not on your family's well-being. It has gone from being a "slow-food" to fast food and the price for that convenience is paid in flesh.
How wheat is grown has changed. Common wheat harvest protocol in the United States is to drench the wheat fields with Roundup several days before the combine harvesters work through the fields as the practice allows for an earlier, easier and bigger harvest. This has a huge impact on health as Roundup (the main ingredient of which is the chemical glyphosate) is a destroyer of gut health and linked to many of the plagues of humanity such as auto-immune disease. (Celiac disease, by the way, happens to be an auto-immune disease. And saying that celiac is caused by the slightly increased gluten content in modern wheat is equivalent to saying that rheumatoid arthritis can be caused by an increase in exercise.)
So what do we do about this? Buy good wheat! Look for glyphosate-free wheat at the least, organic wheat at best; local, if possible; from a farmer you know, optimally. I've heard the argument that the newer dwarf varieties are bad news and I agree that their inability to shade out weeds, necessitating the use of (even organic) herbicides is regrettable. But I also understand that the shorter stalks enable the plant to put more of it's energy into the seed head. These are the compromises with mortality that sometimes have to be made the best of when they are outside of one's control.
You know there is a higher power at work for us based on the fact that there is no genetically engineered wheat currently being grown commercially, mostly thanks to the fact that places like Europe and Japan refuse to purchase it (If only the American people would defend their own health and food integrity as vigorously). That is one thing still in wheat's favor. What often does contain GMO material is the monoculture strain of yeast synthesized in a laboratory in 1984 and used in almost all commercial baking (more on that in a minute).
How wheat is milled has also changed since the Word of Wisdom was revealed. With the invention of the steel roller mill in the 1870's, wheat was (with a few exceptions) no longer stone ground, having its vital nutrients difficult to fully separate from the white endosperm. Steel roller mills had the capability of extracting the pure, white, nutritionally devoid flour out of the whole grain. Regardless, purchasing stone ground whole wheat does little to remedy the problem seeing that, once ground up, whole meal does not retain its nutrition for very long. It is simply not shelf-stable (like most foods of quality). The solution? Grind your own flour! You'd have to do it anyway if there were a disruption in the food supply. Why not acquire the means of doing it now?
What absolutely takes the cake, though, in the transformation of wheat as food is the way we have forgotten how to turn whole wheat flour into anything that would tempt even a dog or that doesn't rob the body instead of building it. The kind of genius chemical structure that allows wheat to stay viable even after a millennium entombed in a pyramid deserves respect and some knowledge in handling. Most cultures have traditions stemming back thousands of years regarding the sprouting and soaking of wheat and other grain. It's a "pre-digestion" process that breaks down the packaging (so to speak) and allows the vitamins and minerals to be assimilated. Instant and active dry yeasts are the fast-food monocultures mentioned earlier. Instead of these, try turning your attention to the collaboration of wild environmental strains of yeast and beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus that build depth of flavor and sustained your ancestors beautifully.
When you eat wheat products that haven't been sprouted or leavened properly, phytic acid molecules in the wheat bind with minerals from food in the digestive tract, including calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, chromium and manganese, making them unavailable to us. Not only does phytic acid chelate important minerals, but it acts as an enzyme inhibitor, blocking the ability of certain enzymes like pepsin, trypsin and amylase to break down proteins and starches. You can imagine how this could lead to impaired health over time.
There is nothing in the world like a slowly but naturally leavened loaf of bread, even if it's made with nothing but the wheat, some salt and water. It's the ultimate comfort AND survival food. It saved the Israelites as well as the Egyptians during the seven years of famine. Today, while the sun still dimly shines, is the day to learn to source it, store it and bake with it regularly.
What say ye?