22 December 2015
“Anything worth learning, I can only teach myself.”
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.
Blog Posts: Graison posts 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. We recently reorganized our blog posts and they can be found here, all 16 of them: https://bellegardebakery.wordpress.com/blog/
Here is an excerpt from an essay about the continually desperate state of FOOD in the Greater New Orleans area, written four months ago:
Our love of food is our hubris. Our gluttony has sowed the seeds of a food desert. We have nowhere to buy fresh food, public or wholesale. We have more Taco Bells in New Orleans than organic farms in Louisiana. Dining options are incessantly popping-up, but food is not staying put. Chain stores and city-sanctioned food courts are being built, subsidized, and buoyed by local government. But where is our culinary affirmative action? Where is the municipal support for healthy food that our unhealthy city needs? Our farmers markets are waltzing ever closer to a spectacular plateau; corporate food stores (and chain stores which sell food) are opening with greater frequency; what diamonds we have are de-centralized, short-term stitches in a long-term quilt. All the while, we citizens are receiving more of what we don’t want and less of what we need.
New Orleans’ cuisine—nonpareil at its worst, life-changing at its best—was created by proximity and precedence. This intersection of cultures engendered an architecture of singular exceptionality; it was as if the Tower of Babel had a restaurant on its ground floor. Everything was predicated on what was local, that is, on hand. Ingredients, equipment, recipes, and artisans annealed an identity exceptional, and isolated. This spleen of America was the confluence of culture—music, fashion, language, customs, rhetoric—and that is nowhere more apparent that in our food.
Today, it is not the past which is threatened, but the future. We are dedicated to the preservation of the past because we are unprepared for the future: nowhere is this fear more manifest than on our plates. While the availability of prepared food (dining) is at an apex, real food—the kind we eat everyday—is in a ditch. We have nothing to eat at home, so we go out. We are hypnotized by the trends, the names, the choices: drunk with the perceived democracy of it all. But the helium is making us all dizzy, and gravity will hurt when the bubble pops: we are fed the sizzle and not the steak.
Simply put, healthy and sustainable food is not being created (or encouraged) in New Orleans or Louisiana. All our sugar, grits, rice, and flour are still lily white; our eggs, meat, and dairy are imported; Southeast Asian shrimp and crawfish lurk in too many restaurant kitchens and on grocery shelves: homogenous and pasteurized calories are grown thousands of miles away, then sent here to be consumed in a transaction. It’s like a constant Christmas with so much packaging: are we unpacking lunch or presents?
We have spent so much time clutching our forks and stirring our drinks that we have disregarded the menu’s menu. We don’t ask where or how, only what and when, because not enough chefs, grocers, or bakers do. We know the trivial hiccups of every short-tooth celebrity chef, but we don’t know any farmers. Or millers. Or ranchers. Or bee-keepers. We don’t know our food because we don’t know the people who make it, or the soil that grows it. And that relationship can never be bought, or shopped for.
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.