Below the butter: bread

Note: More pictures to come!

This weekend Elyse and I took a trip up to Massachusetts to visit the Berkshire Mountain Bakery featured in Michael Pollan‘s Cooked documentary.

Bread has always been an interesting topic for me and there is a past post where I talked about bread and butter and the idea that around the time we started removing the butter from our fridges and counters we started seeing more gluten intolerance.

When I was a kid I would pilfer butter and bread in the moonlight while everyone was sleeping. Bare chested I would take a plain slice of Wonder bread, spread a thick layer of butter on it, fold it in half and smash it together, and eat it.

[A superior butter transport is in fact raisin bread which allows 2 sometimes 3 layers of butter before caving in under structural stress. I studied this. The raisins act as miniature tension rods.]

Sometime in my 20’s I did this diet where I eliminated bread from my diet. I read things about gluten, gliadin, schizophrenia, gluten ataxia, various autoimmune disorders, etc., and decided to throw my main butter transport ship out the window. I most certainly ate less butter as a result.


20160626_160302This past year I really began to branch out in experimenting with various sources of carbohydrate. I largely avoided wheat before that, aside from the occasional sprinkle in stews and gravy. So I decided to spread my cheeks and blow a nice medium winded gluten free fart over the Internets gluten dusted bible and investigate it’s pages further. I started looking for plain breads that were made with no oils. I’ll give you a dollar for each loaf of bread I found without oil (feel free to laugh and/or cry on that one).

I finally found some local artisan bread (artisan is short for hippies in garages charging high quality prices for low quality shit) at Whole Foods, had it sliced and began to nibble on it with butter. I made some grilled cheeses, some garlic bread at one point, etc. It was good, I was excited, but after a while I lost interest, it didn’t rekindle my childhood memories of bread and butter, and I’m definitely not the type of guy who wants good bread to sit down and eat a loaf of it, I just need a proper transport. And honestly I’ve never found in all these years a suitable alternative to bread and I’m not the type of guy to settle for anything but the best. So I went without it.  I moved on and began to look at approaching the bread problem myself, got a book, did research, figured out the problem, and then never followed through because of work related activities. But my plan was to work on my own starter and use long fermentation times. Stuff like that takes a lot of time to work on.

I was on Netflix one day looking for something interesting to watch and saw the Cooked documentary up there. See I really hate food documentaries, they give me reflux. But I couldn’t find anything, so I bit my brain tongue, turned it on, and prepared myself to be transformed. It turned out it was 4 episodes. I watched them all and was pretty impressed.

I liked all the episodes but the episode where they featured the Berkshire Mountain Bakery caught my eye, this guy did shit the right way and the one thing he said that I could experimentally test was the “spit test”. He said essentially that with fake bread you always have to have something to wash it down (I would agree), and that real bread causes your mouth to produce saliva as it begins the digestive process. So I looked to see where his bakery was and boy was I a happy camper when I found out he was only a few hours away.

There were two locations within 30 minutes of each other. One was like a pizza slash cafe type deal and the other was were the magic happened and the main bakery.


The town the place is located in was small and reminded me more of how New England is supposed to feel whereas Connecticut seems more like a ghetto the size of a state. I grew up in a conservative religious family and my father was essentially a fanatic. When you grow up that way and your brain develops and starts thinking freely you develop this kind of weird sixth sense. You know those small towns were everybody is polite and nice but you know they are engaging in candle lit cannibalism? Yeah that kind of town where even the hippies are conservative. I can detect that 10 miles out. I can’t be sure if it’s some type of electric field I’m tuned into or the faint smell of witches burning in the air.

The purpose of this trip was the spit test to see if this bread made my mouth salivate and to decide whether or not we would place a bigger order online to store in our freezer. We tried some samples, and holy shit, not only was my mouth salivating and producing an abundance of spit, but for 30 minutes after it was like my mouth was watering. We bought some raisin bread, various different named breads, a chocolate croissant, and some other things Elyse picked out. Everything was priced much less then what I’d expect for such a labor intensive product.

20160626_170452We then went over to their pizza and cafe place. Ordered a cheese pizza and waited about 15 minutes. It smelled wonderful. At first when we opened it was kind of strange seeing actual real mozzarella on a pizza as real mozzarella when melted has almost a wet rubbery appearance that can be off putting. So we went out in the car to try it while we were driving home. Holy crap, easily the best pizza I’ve had in my life and growing up I’ve had pizza from all the major pizza regions. The pizza crust was done the same way, slow fermentation, it caused elevated spit production, and there was not lead ball sitting in my stomach after eating it.

The entire experience was enlightening, stimulating, and the kind of thing I associate with curiosity and that curiosity eventually took us on this adventure. That is the way life should be, for better or worse, an adventure.

Beyond the butter, there is the bread, and if the bread sucks it ruins the butter and that is not a good thing. There are things that happen during slow fermentation that don’t happen with manufactured starters and other methods that are used to speed up the bread making process. I think there is good reason to believe that something is fundamentally changed when bread is done right and I think there are very few people who are reading this who have ever had a real piece of bread and felt the sensation, the tangy taste, the light spongy moist texture, and the pleasure of a proper butter transport.

[Europe your bread is better then America’s but this isolated bakery just beat you with a stick.]

In my past post I talked about how when we stopped putting butter on our bread it seemed like we started having an elevation in gluten intolerance and allergies. Not only did we stop eating butter on our bread we stopped making bread right.

If your feeling dangerous give it a try if you can. They have a $50 order minimum but it can be frozen. If you are in search of a butter battle ship this is the one, see on you on the starboard side, look for the guy having the left over roast beef sandwich.

Best wishes,

18 Comments Below the butter: bread

  1. Shane

    AWESOME post Edward!

    I, like you (if I may be so presumptuous), have always been and continue to be fascinated by bread. Maybe its my north-west European heritage yearning to break free, but I’ve simply never been able to accept that gluten must simply be banished from any and every modern day human’s dietary, period. History shows us that that simply wasn’t the case in the past. There’s more to it.

    I wholeheartedly agree that where we’ve gone off the rails with what was once a comfort food that I would argue actually brought people a kind of zen-like sense of inner peace and satisfaction (even the Bible talks about bread!) that is now so provocative to our physiology is when, as you say, “we stopped making bread right.” (let alone the GMO issue) When you read about how much effort indigenous populations used to have to put into the bread-making process -sprouting, hulling, fermentation, even the big woodfire ovens I’m sure played an important part in the overall process- well, it’s no surprise to me that our modern-day ‘equivalents’ fall so short.

    Bread really is more that just a food; eating it with butter, dipping it in soup, making soul-nourishing sandwiches with ‘the works’, there’s just *nothing* else that matches the experience of eating bread. We need to look to our ancestors for the answers to the problem. People looked a whole lot happier and healthier back then than most of us do today. I’ll betcha regular bread consumption played a small part in that!

    Do you mind if I ask the name of the book you mentioned?

  2. Matt

    Reminds me of how traditional cultures usually fermented the shit out of their starch sources, like in cassava to help eliminate some of the natural cyanide content, or in Africans WAP studied who hulled their rice and then fermented it into sour poridge, or fermented it even more into an energy paste. Also, of masa where they used lime to make corn more digestible and the nutrients more bioavailable.

    Do you still err on the side of low CHO, or do you think the context is more important [source of carbs, tolerance of the individual, etc]? Do you agree with Rosedale when he says “The degree to which you burn CHO for energy will determine the speed at which you age.” I understand that if eating bread means you eat more butter, it could be a compromise that makes sense.

  3. Edward

    Ha, “fermented the shit out of their starch”.

    Like I said, I’m not the type of guy to sit down and eat a loaf of bread, even the good stuff. I wouldn’t say I err on the side of low carbohydrate in the sense I consciously count anything. There are ups and downs this past year mainly because I’ve stopped caring so much, some days I eat very little carbohydrate which for me is around 100g from milk. Some days I might pop above 200g if I have vanilla ice cream and/or sugar in my coffee. There is nothing ever “scheduled”.

    I tend to autoregulate when it comes to carbohydrate and usually it depends on what I’m hungry for after weightlifting as if any sugar eating is going to happen its usually correlated with that. It’s not that I feel lifting weights gives me a free pass it’s more so eating sugar is conducive to better recovery which is something that if you asked me about 2 years ago I would have given you a different answer, but experience and progress has said otherwise. And that is the thing about me, I tend to let my experiences and observations overtake whatever it is I’ve happened to convince myself of.

    For example, a while ago I noticed that when I worked out that if my sweat was salty that I would have good workouts. I sweat a lot, like there is a puddle on the ground when I’m done (I’ve slipped in it before), but if I didn’t sweat a lot or I didn’t have salty sweat I noticed my workouts weren’t as good. That meant a couple of things to me, either I wasn’t eating enough salt or I wasn’t recovered enough and venturing into stress hormone fueled workouts. Eating more salt and sugar fixed that.

    But then at the same time I would have good workouts even when I wasn’t eating a lot of carbohydrate. So in a round about way I came to the conclusion that there was some type of balance there between saturated fat, sugar, and salt that was conducive to consistency vs. inconsistent training. Inconsistent training to me means something is off. That’s not to say you’re never going to have a day were you’re not lifting to full potential but you certainly shouldn’t be feeling like crap on light days.

    Another thing that I’ve noticed is that eating too much meat can throw me off for days. It’s not that I don’t like meat or don’t consume it regularly it’s that I noticed that my performance was not as good so while I consume meat regularly and feel that it is necessary for optimal health, I don’t consume more then 1/2 pound per day and the rest of my protein comes from dairy. For me that makes sense in the way I think about things, I tend to think that excess flesh meat interferes with respiration and energy substrate usage which in turn activates stress hormones and overall can put you into an energy deficit. But don’t tell anybody I said that blasphemy.

    My flesh meat intake is consistent, there is always an emphasis on saturated fat, and my carbohydrate intake is fairly inconsistent. And when I do eat sugar it’s plain white table sugar either in my coffee or if it’s already mixed in the ice cream. I do not feel well eating fruit and I don’t notice the same effects for whatever reason. Shrug. I have a hard time explaining that one, sugar is supposed to be sugar right? But in general I don’t eat a lot of plant matter aside from outright starch like occasional tubers or rice and with those things it’s hit or miss and it’s not a lot. Plants are evil.

    Then there are days were me and my wife take a trip, they are rare, but when we do it’s usually to try some new food, like the other day I had that pizza from the bakery. I didn’t have milk or meat that day and I ate about half of it and was satisfied for the rest of the day, had a great workout the next day, and picked up where I left off. Our only rule on those days is don’t eat anything with industrial seed oils.

    So when I’m thinking about nutrition the contextual question is always functional performance, does how I’m eating allow me to do the things I love to do, not get sick, maintain curiosity, allow me to perform well in various measured parameters (e.g. I still do typing tests on occasion and game on the PS4), do I feel relaxed or agitated, do I have to eat every 2 seconds, am I grumpy when fasted, etc. Whatever way of eating gives me the greatest consistency in those things that mean the most to me is the way I’m going to eat.

    As far as Rosedale, I’ve never followed his work to any great extent or for that matter any of the low carbohydrate aficionados, I do read a handful of blogs, but I tend to like to carve out my existence following my own train of thought. I’ll read any blog once, but my favorites are always the ones where I can tell there is a general evolution in thought and interests. As far as his comment that the degree to which you burn CHO will determine the speed at which you age, I think that is complete bullshit.

  4. Matt

    Your salty sweat monitoring reminds me of Matt Stone, another health blogger. He was big on electrolyte balance, and how important it is in keeping catecholamines suppressed, and how hyponatremia can really exacerbate the stress response [i.e chugging water all day b.c someone said it was health] or be indicative of one. His route was ultimately sleeping and eating a lot of everything, raising salt and sugar intake, and trying to destress in general in order to return the body to normal functioning. Sweating a lot, and having mineral rich sweat, was one of the major signs he believed signified an optimally functioning metabolism.

    I definitely agree on the meat thing, and have always wondered why people don’t put as much emphasis on keeping meat intake low as they do on carbohydrate, as overeating meat can definitely make me feel as bad or worse than carbs. I’ve just recently started reading Rosedale’s stuff, and at this point he thinks excess protein is worse than carbohydrate, and his reasoning is that it upregulates mTOR. But yea, if carbs are a slime that gums up the metabolic gears, then protein is a wrench.

    I definitely agree with your position on carbs to an extent, and based on my own personal experience, tolerance varies a lot between individuals based on activity levels, metabolic health, sleep, stress, source of CHO, etc. For what it’s worth, I pounded sugar by the cupful when I was a Peatard, and it usually made me feel better rather than worse, at least for a little while. Combining it with SFA is a whole different animal IMO [inflammation?]. Sugar post-workout makes sense, cuz u know, dat depleted glycogen or w.e. For me right now, sugar seems to beget more sugar, ad infinitum, so I’m not sure what that means other than that I broke something when I was Peating, or I could go the intuitive eating route and say its b.c my body wants more. I have no way of knowing. Kill me please.

    Anyways, this shit is too complicated. I demand simple answers.

  5. Rachael

    Do you think the harms of gluten are overstated? I know fermenting in general seems to make proteins much more innocuous – I do great with fermented milk for instance and horribly with unfermented (even lactose free). It’s amazing how much the devil is in the details. I guess that’s why long-standing traditional methods can be such a useful rule of thumb. That pizza looks fantastic.

  6. James

    “I tend to think that excess flesh meat interferes with respiration and energy substrate usage”

    I’m curious about your intuition there. Intuitively, I don’t see why it would, after all it is quality fat, protein and maybe vitamins and minerals. But I never experience much positive effects from eating much of it, I keep trying but I can hardly deviate from a diet insanely high in dairy. I know Ray Peat writes it’s due to the calcium, phosphorus, tryptophane, methionine…so basically calcium because from that perspective the protein profile is not better in milk. Although maybe there is something to do with proteins there, I find supplementing gelatin useful, surprisingly.

  7. Matt

    I hit a wall in terms of satiation pretty fast when I eat meat, so unless I force myself to eat more I don’t end up eating much. Most of the “blue zone” groups I’ve read about err on the side of very low meat consumption [once a week], and get protein from legumes, dairy, etc.

    Milk always causes me problems as well though, almost worse than meat. I’ve tried non-homogenized, raw, etc., and I never feel good after. Cream, on the other hand, often forms the bulk of my calories. The only cream I can get around here that isn’t full of additives is pasteurized and mixed with milk, and it tastes kinda shitty. When I was in Texas, I had some cream by a company called Mill-King that used low-temp pasteurization, and it was pretty incredible. Tasted nothing like the chalky stuff I have where I’m from. Kinda opened my eyes to the sad state of our dairy supply.

  8. Edward

    Hi Matt, the state of dairy in the US is horrible compared to when I was in Germany and could drink any of the regular store milk a lot of it which happens to be unhomogenized but I did well too on the homogenized (I think they might used a gentler homogenization process). I’ve been lucky to find good sources wherever I have lived, but not with out going out of the way. I’m in Connecticut right now and have been fortunate enough to find 3 good suppliers of milk. A few weeks ago all 3 were sold out and had to drink some regular milk and had nothing but problems with it, gas, bloating, the shits, etc. When they finally came back into stock the difference was night and day. I have no idea what they do to regular milk in the US, I’m healthy, and if I have that kind of reaction no wonder so many people can not tolerate it. For a long time I was getting most of my calories from cream, I still do get a fair share from cream, but I’m back up to drinking 2 liters a day quite easily and sometimes 3, it keeps my skin nice, my ass clean, and has always been conducive to good weightlifting.

  9. Edward

    I don’t think it is all protein, just excess meat, it could be the skewed amino acid profile, but sometimes I check the configuration and it seems not horrible. But it totally could be a US thing thus a contextual thing (e.g. Maasai) Meat quality in Germany was so much better and fresher too. I could get liver that smelt sweet and tasted wonderful but in the US I have to drive an hour on set days just to get it fresh out the cow. I don’t stress about it though. I think things are changing, better quality stuff is getting easier and easier to get a hold of these days I was out of the US for close to 10 years and when I came back I was pleasantly surprised that people are starting more and more to take food quality seriously. Some states and chains faster then others of course.

  10. Edward

    In a way yes I do think they are overstated in the sense that “bread” is not bread. However, most studies with gluten are done as gluten verses no gluten. And those studies do show that gluten and gliadin can be problematic for some people, but those studies are focused on an isolated protein.

    In reality it should be slow fermented bread verses industrial “bread” verses control. During slow fermentation 80-90% of gluten and gliadin is hydrolyzed and depolymerized what’s left probably is the dose makes the poison type deal some will be more sensitive then others and the low level of gluten and gliadin in slow fermented bread might have some type of hormetic effect stimulating the immune system in a beneficial way by developing mucosa associated lymphoid tissue in the digestive track. It’s also important to point out that during fermentation the carbohydrate content drops as well but I don’t know by how much.

  11. Matt

    I’ve had raw milk before, from a seemingly high quality supplier, and I definitely didn’t have the same issues I usually do with milk. It also tasted incredible, whereas most store-bought milk has historically tasted like literal shit to me. However, even the raw milk made me feel kind of weird…like I had taken supplemental estrogen or something. Hard to describe. I’ve never gotten that feeling after drinking cream, but I get it almost every time I drink milk, raw or otherwise.

    One thing I’ve been thinking about with milk is that many of the cultures that consumed cow’s milk heated it first. Also, when it would be consumed by baby cows, it would be at body temp. Maybe temp has an impact on digestibility?

  12. Edward

    Hi Matt, yeah, I know that I have read somewhere that when a Masai was sick they would heat the milk before they would drink it, the heating might have denatured the proteins making them more digestible and less reactive? Not sure. Of course the Masai also drank a lot of their milk sour which I’m sure also had an impact on the structure of the proteins. I think I might have had similar experiences on occasion, but it seemed to correlate more with the time of day I drank milk. It was like an uneasy feeling.

  13. Edward

    Very interesting Robert. I’ve really never had a reaction to gluten even after I wasn’t eating it for years, and I was expecting to develop some kind of reaction that would put me in the ER! Some types of breads did give me weird reactions in the past that I attributed to gluten but thinking back it doesn’t always fit with the gluten thing, but this idea provides some interesting jumping off points into other hypotheses.

  14. Chris

    You said you play PS4. What games would you recommend for increasing metabolic rate?

  15. Jacob D.


    Hahahaha that’s funny.

    But if I may, I might try to answer that question seriously…

    I think anythings that’s fun and wholesome will increase your metabolic rate. That means no games made by EA.

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