Notes from Windward: #68
Grain to Bread
making bread starting with wheat kernels
One of the many impacts of the corporate food system is that many people don't know where their food comes from. We open a packaged candy bar and eat the contents without being able to identify half of the listed ingredients. One of the joys of working toward sustainability is being able to work directly with the materials that make up food, clothing, and shelter. This is more time-intensive, but also deeply satisfying.
Windward is located in a large grain-producing region. A lot of this ends up being shipped overseas to China, but the grain we buy is grown and used locally. We look to eventually grow wheat and other grains on site since part of our land is appropriate for rotating winter wheat with alfalfa.
Yesterday, for the first time, I used our grinder to make my own flour. It looks a bit like a food processor. Grain is poured in the top, there are some dials to adjust the fineness of the grind, and flour comes out beneath. The machine can handle wheat, rye, corn, rice, and even soy beans. The wheat germ in fresh whole wheat flour can spoil in just a few days, so the "whole wheat" flour that is available in stores is a misnomer and doing it yourself is healthier.
I used hard red wheat to make my first batch. Then I used the flour to make pasta and bread. The pasta was especially fun because it consisted only of freshly ground flour, well water, and freshly collected eggs from the chickens that I feed every day. The bread included purchased yeast and sugar, but was still exciting. It feels different to eat something knowing the origin of all the ingredients and having put them together yourself.
Modern food systems provide food quickly and easily. However, its shortcomings are visible both in personal nutrition and in the larger society. I think that this fundamental separation between people and the food that they eat is one of the causes of obesity because it limits awareness and satisfaction.
Food traveling long distances requires preservatives and produces pollution. Large-scale farming requires unprecedented dependence on fertilizers and pesticides. Also, nation-wide food systems present a threat to our national security by providing an easy and devastating target for terrorists. A year and a half ago, people all over the country got sick from a batch of (unintentionally) contaminated spinach. It then became apparent that only a handful of companies control the vast majority of our food systems. One need only look at the devastation and confusion after Hurricane Katrina to see how dependant we all are on these systems continuing to work smoothly.
The bread was delicious, hot out of the oven, served with some home-made apple butter.
I just found this entertaining and informative online article by Michael Pollan- the author of a number of food-related books. Check it out. No Bar Code.
Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 68