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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: August 2009



It is no surprise for historians of science that in any scientific field ideas which in one generation seemed to be firmly based truths should be overturned in the next.

Kenneth J. Carpenter (1994)

ALLAYING PUBLIC HEALTH concerns about food quality was a necessary step in America's march toward food globalization. How could one be adventuresome about new and strange foods when even familiar ones were suspect? Moreover, perceptions had to change. For example, throughout most of baking history, white bread has been preferred by the elites; the whiteness signifying purity and refinement. By contrast, brown and black breads suggested coarseness, so that in racially-mixed Spanish America, skin color was closely associated with the color of the bread consumed.

Sylvester Graham had railed against white bread in the nineteenth century but not for the right reasons. He thought white bread was too nutritious to be digested properly. Regardless, Graham's railing did little to slow white bread production or to improve its yield of nutrients. Quite the contrary. The steel roller mills that came into use in the 1870s made it possible to turn out bread flour lacking both bran and wheat-germ as well as important vitamins and minerals. Interestingly, it was only after white bread became universally available that the upper classes, at least, discovered the virtues of coarse bread that was high in fiber, and the counterculture of the 1960s found practically anything brown (brown bread, brown rice, brown skin) preferable to white (white bread, white skin, White House).

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A Movable Feast
  • Online ISBN: 9780511512148
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