Can white whole-wheat flour be used as a substitute for whole-wheat in the bread recipe?

Expand full comment

As a retired science educator and botanist for over 30 years and having taught human nutrition on numerous occasions I find the reply of Dr. Eisenberg to be provocative. He seems to suggest that there is no science outside of cut and dried numerical and strictly controlled experimental studies. And that somehow food and its necessary use by humans and its impacts on the environment are somehow out of your or even his ability to understand in a meaningful way. "I suggest you stick with recipes you like and avoid foolish pretend science."

The history you provide is essential to the understanding of this modern problem. (Let’s hear it for historians). I applaud your work and the airing of this most important world cultural, economic, political and scientific problem.

I sympathize with the taxonomic problem finding a consistent terminology for various fruits and seeds. All grasses are grains except corn which is a vegetable. Though not all grains are grasses. Ouch! :)

Expand full comment

Eric Carle’s illustrated children’s story, Pancakes, Pancakes! is the perfect parable for the damages of the industrial food system and white flour that your post this week describes. Baked goods like pancakes were originally labor intensive and thus treats rather than readily available staples. (One crucial step described in the book is the milling of the flour).

Expand full comment

so where in Canada can you get good quality flour whole wheat or other?

Expand full comment

Mark, thanks for sharing this illuminating information. I, too, look forward to your book. I wonder if you will go a bit deeper into the way our depleted soils, and the use of toxic chemicals, affect the nutrition we can expect to get from even whole wheat.

Expand full comment

I have taught biology for many years (my Ph.D. is in genetics, UC Davis 1985) and I must disagree in part with Dr. Eisenberg. Because I use "food" as an organizing principal to teach biology to non-science majors in a university setting, I have followed the literature on nutrition. I agree with Dr. Eisenberg that there has been much "junk" science in the field, because it is extremely difficult to do controlled studies on nutrition with human subjects. However, there have been advances, and some notable attempts to synthesize good science into a better picture of the complexity of nutrition. A recent review, among others:

Dietary fat: From foe to friend?

Ludwig DS, Willett WC, Volek JS, Neuhouser ML. Science. 2018 Nov 16;362(6416):764-770. doi: 10.1126/science.aau2096. PMID: 30442800 Review.

I am eager to read your entire book (I have it on reserve at my local library) because I think it may be very useful as an accompaniment to teaching courses such as mine, particularly to students with limited backgrounds in science.

There are also, of course, a number of areas in which unfortunate "natural" experiments with nutrition, such as the outbreak of pellagra in the American South post-Reconstruction, have given us insights into the complexity of nutrition and the importance of cooking methods, not just the ingredients, in maintaining good nutrition.

Thank you for the work you are doing.

Gail Simmons

Expand full comment

Dear Mr. Bittman,

Thank you for your fine recipes.

But the dietary 'science' you cite is not subject to experimental test as is the science that made the electronics that you use to distribute (and probably to write) your recipes, nor is it subject to test as are the biological science that is so central to our lives in the Covid crisis.

In those sciences, EVERY statement is subject to direct experimental check. EVERY statement can be reduced to numbers (often shown as graphs because humans are animals dominated by our visual senses). Certainly there are sciences which cannot easily perform those checks (astronomy, historical sciences, etc), but those are notable by the fuzziness of their conclusions and their failure to create useful devices.

It is nearly impossible to do reproducible experiments ON THE TIME SCALES NECESSARY to test any of the dietary ideas you quote. It is nearly impossible to do reproducible experiments at all in these areas. Reproducible experiments must be done over a range of conditions and then compared with measurements in a different range of conditions, designed to isolate the parameter of interest.

Such experiments are notable by their absence in dealing with human diets.

I suggest you stick with recipes you like and avoid foolish pretend science.

If you wish to include science, in my opinion you should discuss foods and recipes

that include definite defined poisons (like the frightening findings of heavy metals in rice and tuna fish).

I adore both rice and tuna fish so these findings appall me. But they are true, easy to make and reproducible. I have the integrity to acknowledge those facts despite my prejudices about these wonderful foods.

I look forward to seeing if you have the courage to deal with real knowledge of dangers in food like that.

Ever yours

with thanks for your fine recipes

Bob Eisenberg

Bard Endowed Professor and Chair emeritus

Dept of Physiology and Biophysics

Rush University


PS There are easy ways to bind up the heavy metals in rice and tuna fish so they are unlikely to do harm. Let me know if you would like to discuss how to do that. I have no academic or financial stake in those methods. I do quite different science as a google search will show.

Expand full comment

I appreciate your hard work trying to educate people about the devolution of our food system. It's mostly about money & mass consumerism, but I tend to think it may now be about power as well. Nestle's comes to mind and their quest to own complete water rights globally.

I enjoy reading this section of your project and look forward to the next installment. BTW, thanks for the bread recipes.

Expand full comment