MATT PRE­STON

Feel guilty no more – the white loaf is back in vogue and it’s the best thing since sliced bread

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - MATT PRE­STON

For­get the guilt trip – white bread is back, and it’s the toast of the town.

IT’S about as bo­gan as moc­casins with a mul­let and as un­pop­u­lar as the cake stall at a Pete Evans pa­leo rally. It’s even so cheap it makes chips look like they’ve been on a shop­ping spree on Rodeo Drive with Kanye West’s credit card.

White bread has been de­monised for be­ing ev­ery­thing from a cause of can­cer to just empty calo­ries for the emp­ty­headed. But af­ter decades of smil­ing our way through all that wor­thy wheat germ and teeth-crack­ing sour­dough, things are chang­ing. White bread is back, baby!

TOASTIE OF THE TOWN

White bread’s re­newed pop­u­lar­ity is be­ing buoyed by the toastie’s re­birth.

As ex­hibit A, con­sider the boom in toastie pop-ups and food vans and how top pas­try chef Dar­ren Purch­ese’s new book, Chefs Eat Toasties Too, is a homage to them. The fluffy white loaf of death is, of course, the only choice for the vast ma­jor­ity of toasties given how it crisps up and squishes in the sand­wich press.

CHEFS KNOW BEST

Dar­ren isn’t the only top chef who has put white bread back on the menu.

In­sta­gram is awash with im­ages of soft white bread at the hippest hang­outs, such as Cut­ler & Co’s abalone katsu sand­wich or Bar Lib­erty’s GLT (gribenes, let­tuce, tomato) in Mel­bourne, the ris­sole sand­wich at Scout in Bris­bane, the crispy chicken skin sand­wich with pan drip­pings for dunk­ing at Ade­laide’s Africola (sigh) and, in Syd­ney, The Dol­phin Ho­tel’s Tokyo 7/11 sand­wich, or the katsu sando at Cafe Orat­nek.

BUT­TER FIN­GERS

Even Gag­gan Anand, of Bangkok’s Gag­gan restau­rant, voted num­ber 7 in the world, has weighed in. Asked by CNN for the 2017 hot trend, he cited bread and but­ter. “Din­ers are get­ting tired of jel­lies and foams, and the fine din­ing mar­ket is sat­u­rated with chefs who for­age, pickle and fer­ment,” he said.

CRY­ING SHAMERS

There is a dis­tinct whiff of snob­bery and pov-sham­ing go­ing on with some of the stuff writ­ten about white bread.

The foodie in­tel­li­gentsia is quick to vil­ify the fluffy white stuff. Cer­tain so­cial com­men­ta­tors con­stantly shame Aussie bat­tlers for their food choices in their lit­tle corner of the bl­o­go­sphere, where house­hold bud­gets can af­ford to run to im­ported grains, grass-fed rare-breed meat, or­ganic veg­eta­bles and the fees for their kids’ Steiner school.

You’ll sel­dom see these key­board war­riors point­ing their bar­rels at other po­ten­tially high GI foods like gluten-free pasta, brown rice and the much beloved sour­dough which, at least one aca­demic points out, when made with white flour is not much bet­ter than the fluffy stuff.

THE WHITE LIE

Do any read­ing about the dan­gers of white bread and you’ll soon come across the Mi­lan re­search that linked can­cer to eat­ing five or more slices of bread a day.

How­ever, this re­search didn’t dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween white bread con­sump­tion as op­posed to whole­grain or sour­dough. Nor did it look at what was be­ing put on this bread. But­ter? Car­cino­genic cured meats? Fresh air?

Still, when you’ve got an agenda to push, why let the facts get in the way? (Which is the point I am try­ing to make – you can twist facts to make even the most despicable foods, like broadly damned white bread, ac­cept­able.)

I’M BAD, YOU KNOW IT

The food in­dus­try has a sneaky habit of load­ing con­ve­nience foods with stuff that makes them taste good. The lofty GI of white bread is a worry un­less you want an im­me­di­ate en­ergy hit and you don’t mind pay­ing for it later.

Leav­ing the fi­bre in the flour makes di­ges­tion eas­ier. It leads to a more de­sir­able, slower re­lease of en­ergy. Whereas by re­mov­ing the outer part of the grain ker­nel, our body can ac­cess the en­ergy more eas­ily and this leads to en­ergy spikes. Many sci­en­tists have sug­gested these surges in blood sugar and in­sulin lev­els may fuel can­cer cell growth, pro­mote the risk of di­a­betes and in­crease the risk of hy­per­ten­sion.

DEV­ILS IN DISGUISE

Let’s not just blame it all on the fluffy white loaf. There are large num­bers of pop­u­lar foods with a high GI score, in­clud­ing most wheat-based break­fast ce­re­als, short- and medium-grain white rice, bis­cuits, cakes and pota­toes.

A LIT­TLE LUX­URY

In­stead of call­ing it “bread”, let’s see it as be­ing some­thing else – a mag­i­cal, elas­tic aer­a­tion of sug­ars, fats, gums and rather more salt than we’d like to ad­mit.

Let’s view it as an oc­ca­sional lux­ury with a strange ethe­real tex­ture that means it makes the best chicken mayo sand­wiches, and can con­jure up the most vivid child­hood mem­o­ries whether spread with Vegemite or honey, or dunked as sol­diers into a drippy egg.

My 12-year-old daugh­ter de­scribes it as “I-wanna-but-i-canna” food, point­ing out, “sure, white bread is the devil, but it’s a very yummy devil”.

Just like her, maybe we can all be a lit­tle more hon­est about how much we like it but also a lit­tle more sen­si­ble about how much we eat.

Matt Pre­ston’s toasted cheese sand­wich with quick­led onions. Recipe at de­li­cious.com.au

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