10 December 2015
“We really just build on what other cultures figured out over thousands of years, when peasants farmed the land and what it could produce dictated what people ate. Location used to be everything; now it’s just another ingredient.”
Our emails, once a week, will keep New Orleanians informed about the State of Grain in our city and our region. As you know, Bellegarde is the only bakery in between Asheville and Arizona that stone-mills its own flour. We strive to source organic grains that we mill fresh and bake into healthy and delicious whole grain breads. We are convinced that the health issues which plague our city—obesity, violence, mis-education, ecological and cultural erosion—are bound to the lack of fresh food. Food access is a systemic Policy issue: everyday that we bake whole grain bread with freshly milled flour, we tweak one more nerve in the System. Each nerve pinch is our desire to re-establish our region as a self-efficient food economy and re-create the cuisine of New Orleans with fresh ingredients…a revolutionary Gordian knot.
We all speak the language of food and we all seek the pleasure of flavor. What more perfect medium to communicate change than with bread? Pandering to demand in a regional food system is not as important as nurturing supply: quality will dictate quantity. Help us democratize that staff of life.
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Dispatch: We have spent this week, last week, and the coming week inviting chefs to see our new mill. (And if you haven’t seen it, please schedule a visit with us). We cannot underscore enough the importance of fresh whole grains for the community: they are the fundamental architecture of any/all cuisines. Think about it: wheat in Europe, corn in Central and South America, rice in Asia and the Sub-Continent, sorghum in Africa. And there is not one single company in New Orleans doing what we do—no coffee company sourcing, importing, storing, and roasting single origin beans; no brewery working with farmers; no chefs making a splash with organic permaculture. We’ve spent the past six years researching, investigating, calling (and being hung up on), making mistakes, investing in re-establishing this system, this grain hub. It’s not sexy, it’s not rock and roll, it’s not worthy of (current New Orleans’) “journalists”: it is delicate, undervalued, time-consuming, expensive, and necessary. (History will remember the architect, but never the mason). This is where we’re coming from, but not where we’re going. With each visit (Alon from Shaya, Taylor from Lilette, Melissa from Curious Oyster, Dave from Emeril’s, Chris from Merchant, Megan from Gracious Bakery, Jess from Paladar) we attempt to re-purpose people’s perspective. Flour is not just flour; it is a substance as alive as our blood. And it is the blood of a cuisine’s body; until we begin to substitute and eventually eliminate dead white flour from our diets and cuisine, we are reneging on the contract between flavor and nutrition: we will be failing our children, our ecology, and ourselves. Watching people’s positive experience of eating whole grains (our ciabatta, our country bread, our grits) has carbonated the evangelizing. But more than that, the critical mass will be achieved when healthy food with local integrity is not demanded, but expected. Tell your favorite restaurant that, today, now, this weekend. When faced with change, people are inhibited by the fear of moving forward, or the comfort of staying put. I look forward to the day when our city will be recognized for its content, not its celebrities—when the tomatoes we grow and the oysters we harvest will, once again, be heralded above the chef from Tribeca who opened a gastro-tipi on St. Claude. With too many people being encouraged to think outside the box, everyone has forgotten the basics. Let’s start there. Food doesn’t begin on a plate; it begins with the people and the soil that grow it everyday.
Our New Stone Mill: Our mill is officially in New Orleans. Please visit our website to see pictures: https://bellegardebakery.wordpress.com/the-mill/ There is a short essay about our mill, and its importance to us. A tremendous amount of gratitude, awe, and respect go out to Andrew Wren of Elmore Mountain Bread in Vermont who built the mill from scratch. Andrew is a fish out of water in these times; no words or gestures can explain our thanks.
New Grain: Here is some info on a wheat that we’re milling, exclusively with our Kansas White Wheat, to provide for ourselves (and area restaurant’s including Kenton’s) in the bakery.
baking date: Fall and Winter 2015
variety: Joaquin de Oro
origin: Ponoma, California
seed type: modern, circa 1950s
harvest: Summer 2014
growing conditions: dry, rich soil. irrigated and certified organic.
flavors: buttery, heavy tannic, nutty, muted sweetness.
identity preserved: yes, single farmer, single origin. not blended or mixed.
milling quality: low moisture, small berry size, low starch content.
aromas: pungent floral, earthy, very forward freshness.
Blog Posts: I currently post a blog essay once a month; if you or anyone you know may be interested in learning more about our process and our projects, please stay aspired. Our newest blog is available now: https://bellegardebakery.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/a-murder-of-crows/