Tuesday, June 02, 2020

The Gluten-free Chicano Finds Real Bread

The Gluten-free Chicano
Biting Is Believing: Analog Derrotada
Michael Sedano

Analogs, in general suck. We’re talking wheat-based food here. The list of acceptable exceptions is shorter than this sentence: a few pastas, a rare beer, semi-tolerable bread-like products from select bakeries. For people allergic to gluten, analogs look like what they’re not without tasting good. Wheat-eating people in The Gluten-free Chicano’s household get asco when he offers a plate of analog.

Long-suffering Celiacs learn to take silently a meal with friends, sipping water and declining to eat. It’s that, or lose friends over tiresome whining about all the food the gluten-intolerant diner watches his friends consume. Pizza. Soy sauce. Warm sourdough bread slathered in butter. Pan dulce. Ay de mi, a warm concha right off the tray. This is all poison to celiacs.

Ours is a bread and wheat-eating culture but people like me dare not consume any food contaminated by wheat or barley or rye. We read labels religiously and don’t buy ambiguous ingredients like “maltodextrin” and “yeast,” unless we’re sure they’re safe for people like us. Restaurants get put through a third-degree on prep and ingredients.

Bread analogs make the pain never go away. Find some in the freezer aisle, tiny shrunken loaves whose dense brittle slices have a uniform crumb like poundcake, and unpleasant texture in your mouth. Los Angeles’ La Brea Bakery makes an acceptable loaf that, like many breadlike gluten-free products, adds seeds to the masa to hold the crumbly flours together. Your bread crunches when you chew it.

Altadena Bread Company bakes gluten-free bread. Not an analog, bread, real bread. It’s not a miracle but the product of love, knowledge, industry, and the right ingredients. You can visit ABC’s website for details on their process (link). 

The Gluten-free Chicano got his hands on a beautiful hemisphere loaf of brown bread that immediately awakened his skeptic’s suspicion. This is artisan bread, wrapped in brown paper and cellophane. Tear off the ABC label and slide your hand under a brown crusty exterior, rich nose of toasted grain, the heft of a solid work of oven arte. 

How could something so gorgeous…the Gluten-free Chicano’s urban farmer daughter assured the loaf’s gluten-freeness, so he was prepared to be amazed.

El Gluten-free Chicas Patas sliced a chord off the half-globe and began a fabulous experience in unbelievable gluten-free eating. The knife edge pushes curling mantequilla across the welcoming plane, packing flavor into the lovely carpet of vacuoles left behind by expansion and contraction during baking of Altadena Bread Company’s marvelous multigrain masa.

That bite is exquisite.

Memory races through countless dining experiences dark atmosphere, white-vested waiters red leather banquettes, sharing basket of warmed bread accompanied by a white ceramic ramekin  mounded with whipped butter. All those dates with Barbara compressed into this bite. I ate bread. It was good.

Altadena Bread Co. bread is more than good, it meets ten criteria The Gluten-free Chicano expects any bread analog to meet or surpass.

1. Looks
2. Smell
3. Slice & crumb
4. Eaten plain with sweet butter.
5. Toasted with traditional toppings.

Slice this bread thin, all the way across the growing diameter. The slices are so large, I cut one slice in half as a serving for a fabulous snack. Toast the whole slice and divide it. Spread soft cream cheese and apricot jam on one half, strawberry jam on the other half. The texture of the slice makes it suitable for brick cream cheese, it won’t tear apart even from cold dairy.

Old-fashion cinnamon toast provides satisfaction, too. Toasted bread generously buttered, rub a tsp of granulated sugar with a sprinkling of cinnamon into the toast all over.

Why not cut to the chase and put this so-far fabulous product to the most difficult tests of gluten-free analog breads? Bad analogs invariably fail the bread soaked in liquid and cooked test. The Gluten-free Chicano exercised Altadena Bread Co. bread in two impossible for conventional gf product recipes. 

6. French Toast.

Barbara and I enjoy a sweet start to our days. I’ll make waffles with Bob’s Red Mill Pancake mix, occasionally, pancakes with Krusteze mix. I can’t make gf French toast that’s good. La Brea’s French toast is crunchy, not the custardy smoothness my mouth craves. It’s bad enough I’m not serving champagne, then to have my food crunch at me. I’m still living down my 8th grade shop teacher’s assessment that “Sedano, you’d make a crunchy noise eating whipped cream!”

2 thin slices of Altadena Bread Company bread. Only.
2 eggs.
1/8 cup half-and-half
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
Powdered canela
Pie plate or shallow flat pan

Beat the eggs in a deep bowl with the dairy. Make them frothy. Splash in the vanilla and cinnamon. Froth up.

Cover the bottom of the pie dish with the egg-cream mix. Put the slices of bread into the liquid. Pour the remaining liquid across the bread.

Let the bread rest in the liquid half an hour or longer. This would totally ruin conventional gf analogs—they’d turn to mush. Turn the bread now and again to ensure deep soaking. 

With this, or any gf breadlike substance, a critical element is the soak and texture outcome. Ordinary gf crap sucks-in the water like a paper towel in a teevee commercial except it’s not strong. The breadlike substance becomes mush and fries up lousy. In the mouth, the slick pasty muck has a graininess that rakes across the tongue. Standard gf mixes use rice or potatoes that pulverize into minuscule cubes no matter how finely milled.

Not so Altadena Bread Co.’s amazing bread. Allow time for the bread slices to soak up really well. The masa's not hydrophobic but not eager to take up liquid. The brown bread round loaf is a tough-bodied bread like a sourdough or rye, but not elastic. The French toast soaked all the way through, browned wonderfully with splotches of color, and owing to the soak, offers a great tooth to the chew. 

Heat vegetable oil and a pat of butter to barely smoking. Lower the flame to lick the bottom of the pan like you'll soon lick your lips.

Slide the bread into the hot oil. Pour the remaining egg liquid slowly across the bread so it overflows and begins bubbling in the pan.

Fry the French toast for a minute or until the bottom is nicely browned. Flip it. Cook another minute or more to brown that side.

Present the French toast, one thin slice cut in half, with a couple slices crisp bacon, sweet stuff, peanut butter, knife and fork. 

7. Cheese strada / bread baked with cheese, tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes, zucchini rounds.

This is Depression-era food akin to fried canned string beans with egg. The ingredients are brick cheese, fresh or canned tomatoes, sliced bread, tomato sauce (unnecessary if canned tomatoes), zucchini or other squash.

The dish comes out triumphantly, like the cheese strada the cafeteria at school used to serve, with the deluxe addition of calabacitas. Rich cheesy flavor melded with acidic sweetness of tomato and the tooth of the liquid-soaked bread that has kept its structural integrity until served make this side a main course, too. We had leftovers for breakfast with an over-easy egg topping. Perfection.

So successful is the Cheese Strada (bread cooked in liquid) with Altadena Bread Company bread that The Gluten-free Chicano declares no need to continue the test, to include 8,9,10, a sandwich, croutons for Caesar salad with lots of anchovies, and a crumb coating for fried food.

The sandwich is going to be tough to the tooth. This bread in a sandwich is best served toasted or warm. That caveat in mouth, enjoy a celiac’s miracle, a real bread sandwich. 

Diamond Bakery, just down Fairfax from Canter's, used to sell a raisin bread, a rye loaf dense with more raisin than bread, the gluten was there just to hold the raisins together. This Altadena Bread Company recipe would make heavenly Diamond Bakery raisin bread!

A Monte Cristo sandwich lies in The Gluten-free Chicano’s future. That delight, a ham and cheese on French toast, served savory with a dusting of powdered sugar, will be perfect and heavy on the memories: a Monte Cristo was The Gluten-free Chicano's most special meal during his year in Korea.

Cheese Strada: Quick, Easy, Meatless

Non-stick spray the cooking vessel.
Pour tomato sauce on the bottom. Not necessary if using canned tomatoes. Use liquid from them here.
Shave 3 thin slices of cheese and lay them on the bottom.
Fit the bread to fill the bottom.
Pour more tomato sauce or cover with canned tomatoes.
Slice a tomato or two, layer across the top.
Shave eight slices of cheese or enough that generally covers the top.
Slice two small zukes, green and gold are pretty, and scatter rounds across the  cheese. This foto uses only half of each zuke.
Shave three slices of cheese and cover the top.

Preheat your oven to 350º or hotter.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Let baked dish sit for ten minutes to cool to eating temperature. 

This is a generous dish that serves four or six as a side. The Gluten-free Chicano served the sobras microwaved with an egg que-se-sale on top. The yolk melded with the cheesy bread custard into the best breakfast of the day in a long time.

Once you have bread crumbs, you can make a cheesy crispy crust for this and gather accolades from anyone you serve, no asco but lots of seconds.

That's why you cook, so people eat your food.

Rhetoric: Balderdash, or, The Art of Persuasion for Given People in a Pickle

There's a tiresome misuse of the word for the original form of verbal thinking, rhetoric. Rhetoric civilized the savages of the mediterranean. Socrates was a rhetorician. He was killed for teaching it.

Actually, Plato reports, Socrates was condemned in place of the Sophists, liars and manipulators who taught the youth of Athens to make the wrong reason appear the right and winning power over honest but less-trained advocates. Sophistry works. Civilizations decline owing to sophistry permeating a critical mass.

We're in a sophistic era of civilization right now, and journalists taking the easy route to dismiss "the rhetoric" of today's pendejx, aren't helping. Rhetoric is fluff and empty words, the assumption goes, and then merely count the lies.

Chaim Perelman, father of the violinist, wrote the entry on rhetoric for Encyclopedia Britannica. His offers the best contemporary counterpart to Aristotle's translated definition of rhetoric as the art of finding the available means of persuasion for a given audience.

Rhetoric, Perelman asserts, is situational. The availability of persuasion in a setting requires someone seeking to persuade, and someone open to being persuaded, provided the seeker is open to persuasion from the other. There's the rub today, que no? Both sides have to be persuadable by the other.

At its most essential expression, Lloyd Bitzer says, a rhetorical situation is marked by some exigence that can be mitigated by the right words. We know things are mucked up. It's complicated. Who can say what to whom?

Our United States of America finds itself at its most critical rhetorical situation. "the British are coming" "or give me death" "content of their character" "ask not what you can do for your country but what your country can do for you".

People in the streets, waiting to hear something to send them home,  make up today's exigence. The right words are not "I'm going to send troops to shoot you," the right words are not "unlawful assembly," nor are the right words "all lives matter."

Those wise old Latinos, Cicero and Quintillian, declared rhetoric scientia bene dicendi, the study of the good person speaking well. Crud, good people are in short supply. Sophists abound, and the worst are full of passionate intensity and getting their loot on. Wrong words. But they work, for that audience.

The most fundamental power of rhetoric lies in its personal agency. You are the persuader and persuadable. Talk with your gente who talk to their gente who talk to their gente. We'll find the right words, all of us, with one another.

el pueblo unido jamás será vencido

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