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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Trouble with Bread


This 26-minute documentary investigates the changes to something so basic to humanity, and yet recently, so demonized: bread. As a self-deprecating, gluten intolerant filmmaker, I journey from farm to mill to bakery on a hunt for the perfect loaf – one I can eat without getting sick – and a quest for answers about gluten intolerance.

Along the way, I learn that the way we grow and mill wheat and ferment bread has changed significantly in the past couple of generations, and that these changes could be making us sick. The film also features the personal quest of renowned baker Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, and an interview with food writer Michael Pollan, whose recently released book, Cooked, explores the role of gluten in bread making.

In a food industry that glorifies the term “gluten-free” -- and the $4.2 billion worth of products that carry that label -- we’re missing the point. This film explores the idea that maybe it’s not the gluten itself, but the way we manipulate wheat that’s the problem. There is so much more to learn about wheat – and how it has changed – before we completely rule out gluten.

But in a food system governed by efficiency and affordability, not even bread is simple. It remains hard to pinpoint the extent to which bread has changed, and who or what is to blame. But one thing is for sure: modern bread, as we know it, is not what you think.

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