Mar 1, 2013 · 3 minute read

By: Colleen Valles

This is the story of one loaf of bread and how it changed the way I eat. My name is Colleen. I bake my own bread.

Once upon a time, in September, in a major metropolis known more for its technological innovations than its gastronomical ones, a young(ish) mother bought a loaf of bread. Her plan was to use this loaf of Archer Farms Multigrain bread to make sandwiches for her daughter’s lunch, and, occasionally, some toast.

pic of multi-grain bread

The week progressed as most of her weeks did — she worked, cooked dinner, hung out with her daughter, their dog and friends. During this week, one of her coworkers told her he had made sourdough bread with his very own starter. She was fascinated, and set out to try making her own.

At this same time, and completely unrelated to her efforts at baking bread, her daughter informed her that she no longer wished to take sandwiches to school. Being a bread lover but not a sandwich fan, our heroine opted to provide warm lunches in a thermos to her daughter.

There were about four slices left in the plasic bread bag on a corner of the kitchen counter, behind the potatoes and bowl of wine corks. They were promptly forgotten.

bread expiration date

In the following months, our heroine pursued bread baking during her (infrequent) free moments. First she tried No-Knead Bread, which started out great for the first few loaves, and then devolved into bunches of baked dense masses after a few tries. Then she moved on with the aid of the book “Tartine Bread,” which started out poorly — her first starter made her whole house smell like dirty feet — but improved significantly with each try.

Periodically, she would check on the leftover slices, opening the outer plastic bag and the inner plastic wrapping to check for mold or the crouton-crunchiness of completely dried-out bread.

She never found either.

cross section of bread

Weeks went by. Her bread-baking got better. Her starter now smelled of warm, yeasty loaves and not stinky feet.

And still, the loaf leftovers in the plastic bag persisted.

Weeks turned into months. Each home-baked loaf grew fluffier and the crust softer until the resident 7-year-old decreed it acceptable for use in sandwiches, which she now wanted in her lunch again. Our heroine even worked out the timing of her baking, so she wouldn’t have to stay home all day Saturday to make bread.

Still, the store-bought slices remained, good as new.

What started as a few forgotten slices of bread are now, five months later, a challenge, a science experiment, and a testament to what our food has become.

The challenge is to leave the slices in the plastic bag on the counter for as long as it takes them to exhibit some kind of change, and not throw them out in disgust or a fury of decluttering.

The science experiment is to see what that change will be and how long it will be before it happens. And also to consider whether I should rub the ageless bread slices all over my face in the hope that their anti-aging properties would transfer to my skin.

That our food has become a science experiment is both saddening and frightening. What are we putting into our bodies and our children’s bodies? Here is a list of the ingredients in the store-bought bread:

bread ingredients

Here is a list of the ingredients in the bread I now bake:

  • water
  • white and whole wheat flour
  • salt

And this is what it looks like:

baked bread slices

Which would you rather eat? I can tell you, the time required to bake your own bread isn’t that much, and it’s worth it to know what you’re eating. Won’t you join me in the effort to produce real food once again?


Colleen Valles
I'm Colleen, a writer, mother, knitter, pet mama and tiny house enthusiast who truly believes that everybody should slow down and simplify to make room for the things that are most important in their lives. I'm on a journey to do just that, to be able to spend more time with family and friends, riding my bike and working in the garden. Sign up to get awesome content right in your inbox, or follow me on social media.