Here is a question for the gluten-tolerant of the group: Are you white or wheat? Actually this question could use some diversification. Maybe we could ask, “Are you white or spelt, amaranth, rye, or any other whole grain?” We are, of course, speaking of bread here. About a half century ago the vast majority of Americans ate white bread on a regular basis, and wheat bread was considered vastly inferior and undesirable.
While Americans have developed an appreciation for the nutritional aspects of wheat and whole grain breads, along with a budding appreciation for some of the flavors and textures that come along with unbleached, unwhite bread, we are still a nation of white bread eaters. According to the Whole Grains Council, only about 60% of Americans eat a whole-grain food (not just bread) at least once in two weeks.
Why is this? Maybe we don’t care enough about fiber intake and nutrition (this is, after all, the same nation that is largely subsisting off of energy drinks) or maybe, just maybe, there is something about the flavor of white bread that is far more alluring than anything wheat has to offer. Talk to a French baker, and they will likely tell you that a finely ground white flour is far superior to your spelt flour or mixed grain flour. Research recently conducted at the Flavor Research and Education Center at the University of Minnesota revealed that white bread crust gave off chemicals that smell like corn chips, potatoes, caramel, and flowers, while the whole wheat produced malty, earthy, cucumber, fatty smells. Manufacturers of whole-grain items and breads know this all to well, as they are inclined to add salt and sugar to whole-grain items to mask some off flavors inherent in whole-grain foods. This does the trick, but also packs on more sodium and calories in the process.
So despite the advances made in artisan bread movement and the proliferation of whole-grain items in grocery stores, American taste buds are still partial to the flavors of white bread and white flour. Where do you stand on the white/wheat divide? Have you developed a love/tolerance for wheat and whole-grain products? Do you still prefer white to wheat?