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The real hazard of freshly baked bread

MIA AIGOTTI/ FOR PIONEER PRESS Wilmette 06/12/08 Chef Charie MacDonald presents her romantic themed picnic basket which includes french bread

MIA AIGOTTI/ FOR PIONEER PRESS, Wilmette 06/12/08 Chef Charie MacDonald presents her romantic themed picnic basket, which includes french bread and brie chese, srawberries and champagna, Thursday at her Wilmette home.

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Updated: October 6, 2012 6:03AM

Nick Gambino runs Oak Park’s Cucina Paradiso. Last month, I’d just commenced to swooshing crusty Italian bread through olive oil when Gambino came by to say hi. He and I are both Italian-Americans; unsurprisingly, we share a passion for pasta and bread.

“Every morning when the bread arrives,” confessed Gambino, “I cut myself a six-inch piece.” That’s all he allows himself.

Fresh bread is universally beloved, though for waistline reasons, guys like me have to limit our intake.

But potentially hazardous!?

The story goes, there are health hazards associated with fresh-from-the-oven bread. We’re not talking about gluten, which for those with celiac disease can cause big problems. Rather, it’s said that fresh bread can lead to gastro-distress.

This fear is nothing new. Food historian Peter Engler uncovered a statement about the “health hazards” of fresh bread in Report on Vienna Bread, published in 1875 by the US Government Printing Office:

“It is well known that thin slices of toast may be digested in a sensitive stomach without producing the distress occasioned by flatulency…which [in] fresh warm yeast-bread is … due to fermentation.”

Dr. Mary Hutton, a Chicagoland family practice physician, said, “Fresh bread should not give you a stomachache. The yeast is completely dead and shouldn’t ferment at all in your stomach.”

But what if some yeast lives?

At Rush Medical Center, pediatrics specialist Dr. Kenneth Boyer found the idea of dangerous yeast very difficult to er, stomach. “When I was a boy, my parents were followers of Adele Davis. I used to eat raw, unsterilized Brewer’s Yeast all the time. It never bothered my stomach.”

The genesis of this fear of fresh bread was perhaps best explained on, the Chicago-based culinary chat site, where MariaTheresa posted, “I was told many times in Germany — by a variety of different people — that eating very fresh bread would be bad for my stomach. After reading about the subject, I discovered that this is based on the fact that fresh bread differs in an important way from day-old bread: it is more delicious.

Thus it is eaten more quickly, often in larger bites, and for that reason may lead to a stomachache.”

David Hammond is an Oak Park writer and contributor to WBEZ (91.5 FM) and E-mail

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