15 Jan, 2016 Newsletter

15 January 2016

“Between thought and expression lies a lifetime
situations arise because of the weather
and no kinds of love
are better than others”

Lou Reed

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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Not too much news in the bread world this week. I do want to mention that anyone with a keen interest in baking should indulge themselves to the Bread Bakers Guild. It is decades-old group that foster the business end of the “artisan” baking industry in North America. They sponsor great classes, workshops, and gatherings domestically. Unfortunately, they don’t do any work in our region, even though there is a swelling interest in baking here. Megan of Gracious Bakery and I are members of the Guild, and we are both actively seeking a venue to hold public and private workshops in this New Year. Suggestions? Let us know. Everyone at Bellegarde, myself included, has a strong desire to share less ourselves and more of what we do. Food is a relationship—a constant conversation—and it’s quiet tucked away on Toledano.

Due to the fact that I’ll be traveling, Bellegarde will not be at the farmers market this Saturday morning. Also, the fact that management won’t buy portable heaters for the vendors makes the decision cold and easy. It’s always warm in the bakery. Do your best to support the vendors—at Hollygrove or at CCFM—despite how difficult and inconvenient accessing local food in New Orleans can be. We are attempting to make access to local/regional food more realistic and practical. Buying local food anywhere else in America is not nearly as opaque and convoluted: why so here? Is it supply, or demand? I’m doing my best to answer that, and I think the structure of response is steeled into the supply side of the simple equation. We don’t need more places to buy or consume—we need more people to grow and catch and bake and make. And not some micro-economy of Lilliputian tinkers; we need the encouragement of elephants, not ants. We must dike the tide against chemicals, corporations, and the appropriation of our most inalienable human right: access to healthy food. According to Dan Barber, 1% of American feeds the other 99%. This drastic, dystopian statistic is even more conflated in New Orleans and its demesne. Potential citrus growers from Braithwaite work for the refinery or naval center; Laffite’n fisherman retired rods for oil jobs and pipe-fitting. Making food can only be as lucrative and viable as the value we place on it. Your choice of perception dictates your consumption of experience. In turn, your experience determines you. And you are what you eat.

I don’t speak of this often, but with all the rhetoric and demagoguery transpiring around the presidential election, I think it’s imperative to clear throat of bearing witness. We are stricken with an affliction if America of agency: we have all the freedom and will, the liberty and horizon, to accomplish as much or as little as possible. (“Liberty is dangerous, as hard to live with as it is elating.” Camus). Within that shadow cast by agency, we see splayed upon the wall our leaders. There is a relentless mistake of tethering agency to height; we think that what cannot be solved by us can be from above. We tend to graft meaning to meaningless events; we scapegoat the innocent; we hold double standards against rich / poor; we ascribe spiritual worth to material objects and pursuits; we believe that competition is success; we sleep in the Church of Commerce. In other words, we see out instead of looking in. This is a mere cognitive transgression, a trifle of perception that can be altered in the same way a lace is re-tied. But sewing hopes to the tail of the donkey (or elephant) of leadership is the most fatal fault of all. No structure or person has ever been built from the ceiling down. Buildings, societies, people do not grow like Benjamin Button. Mitosis begins with one, as does change. As does life, so too death.

All of my mother’s family was involved in the Resistance during World War II. Half of them were immigrants; yet of the multiplicity of nationalities present in that elbow of Belgium (Czech, Polish, Flemish, Walloon, Dutch, German, Yugoslav, Hungarian, Italian, Greek), they found a common ground of critical mass to resist what was evil, what was wrong. They were made completely vulnerable for the rest of their lives because of their sacrifice: most all came home from the war, but the war never came home from them. My great grandfather was in Buchenwald for three years and emotionally he stayed there the rest of his life. He let the bottle drink him through that prism, and that was his mitosis. His beginning into someone less. My great uncles fought against Nazism, were sent to various forms of concentration camps and prisons and foreign theatres without tickets or clapping. The Gestapo and SS were in the family home, on multiple occasions. Pilots from England and America were saved, ferried and hid in between cellars and false walls, in dry wells, between the corn and rye. Bikes were ghost ridden across country lanes, guns were smuggled, messages sent: violence used to resist violence, yes. But they were on the right side of history, and I think their willingness to sacrifice vindicates totally. If you’ve done something for someone else, how can you be guilty? There existed an ineffable shrug of morality, an almost sloppy, unarticulated commitment to protect, to cooperate, to liberate, to resist. Their lives were never necessarily threatened until they stood up, until they said no to an implicit question. But some compulsion—deep, shallow—impelled them to motion.  In times of vitriol, callousness, division, it takes more courage and humanity to say no than to say yes. It’s harder to make a hand than a fist; but our hearts beg peace. I hold such family as a coin and wear them as a caul against anger, violence, belligerence.

Trump, Sanders, Clinton, Obama, Cruz: these are the all the same shoes for different feet. People will not change the system which engenders them: that’s patricide, ask Oedipus. And we leap into the same spiritual glue that inspires conflict when we do so. Because trusting a leader to suture what is personal or immediate is a surrender of agency. Capability, dexterity, creativity, will—all 46 chromosomes tossed out with the bath water when the ballot box usurps self-improvement, hard work, and honesty. Representative democracy is a beautiful thing, but only when there are people to represent. Not reprehend.

This city and country have tremendous resources. The political allocation by the mandarins of that wealth is a well-played pantomime. It’s meant to inspire distrust, division, resentment, violence: harmony and its pursuit are not profitable to politicians or execs. Each murder in this city, according to the CDC, cost us $2,000,000. Yet Jazz Fest balloons, tourism expands, and life lingers on undisturbed for us local fauna, as we boil water while swerving over potholes and paying parking meters a la Manhattan. (Thanks to the new! airport expansion, I can fly to work and avoid Napoleon Ave).  We all seek the same values: security, shelter, food, family, leisure. But anything achieved at the expense of another is theft, is violence, is a bad bargain. Ask Faust, or Robert Johnson. When we blame immigrants, refugees, children, students, Muslims, or farmers we blame the victim. And that pathology has put our country and our city in the situation it is in now. I see it through the lens of food, but it’s manifest in everything, everywhere, everyone. It’s expedient to divorce and compartmentalize. The Romans called it divide and conquer. But when one embraces the fact that there are no trees, only forests…we may then comprehend the connection between Confederate monuments and local food, election cycles and recessions, status quo vs. status no. One spoke may be out of place, and the balance of living is always to help it back into its socket. But when the wheel denatures into something not round, voices must be lifted.

News: From the wide world of bread. I was fortunate enough to attend this conference in August, and in exchange my co-participants were forced to eat 900 cookies I baked at 5am on a Saturday morning. The power of forgiveness is redemptive; at least the cookies were sweet. Great article regardless: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/01/magazine/bread-is-broken.html?_r=0

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 of Elmore Mountain Bread in Vermont who built the mill, like his breads, from scratch. Andrew is a fish out of water in these times; no words or gestures can explain our thanks. If you’d ever like to visit our mill, please call 827 0008 to schedule a visit.

Soul Food: From Luke 6:37.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure– pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”