29 Jan, 2016 Newsletter

29 January 2016

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

James Baldwin

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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I am in Sweden for two weeks, in the penumbra of Sebastien Boudet. Sebastian is a nonpareil baker, father, mentor, friend, educator, and iconoclast. He was raised in Paris, in a bakery, and has been the forefront of bread’s Counter-Revolution in Sweden for the past 15 years: taking it out of the factory and large companies and putting back into the true fabric of life. He advocates for transparency, traceability, exclusivity, integrity, wholesomeness, and passion in our most sacred of foods. We are what we eat: the ingredients and methods which go into our food dictate who / how we are. The ways in which we value our food—its creation, its tradition, its stewards—reflect how we esteem ourselves, our communities, our families. It is tremendously humbling to be here and to see the incredible progress that’s been made in this country of 9 million. Louisiana has 5 million wonderful folks, so I figure it’ll only take about half the work.

We are spending the week at Eldrimner. This school, which is named after the perpetually nourishing food pot always on the Swedish stove, is situated in an Appalachia-like area. There is an extremely rich cultural and culinary patrimony that has been degraded by American Mono-Cuisine in Sweden. Eldrimner is so valuable because it has embraced this patrimony on multiple levels: socially, culturally, financially, and spiritually. Most importantly, the school and adjacent agriculture high school (which went organic in the early 1990s), has made everyone in the area PROUD of their heritage. Left, Right, Center: the sacredness of tradition has not be politicized. People in Europe, and particularly in Sweden and Holland, have begun to realize that the cost of remediating the damage that we’ve done with our food system—to others, to ourselves, to our grandparents, and too soon to our children—must be acknowledged and combated. The debate has not been poisoned by money; instead, communities have been made to realize that the cost is ubiquitous. It’s the payment which will come, now or later. And fixing the way we eat, which will change the way we live, will not be put on layaway, will not be done for us, and will not come from the very origin of its cancer. Religion is not found in the church, because that is not where God dwells. God—and your individual conception of that belief—is within us relentlessly: whether or not we believe in God, God believes in us. Secular or spiritual in your perspective, the loss of our wetlands, the gentrification of our city, and the state-sanctioned violence committed everyday in our streets is directly related to the way we eat. How we eat. Why we eat. When we eat. If we don’t nourish the food we grow, the food we eat, it will not nourish us and we will not nourish one another. And it’s so heartening to see that manifest in a place that’s without sun for two months of the year. Larger proportions of Europeans (in addition to Vermonters and Californians) have tacitly embraced the West African concept of Sankofa: you will never understand where you are going if you do not know where you are coming from. The preservation of our cultural resources—our food—is the definitive task of anyone wishing to withdraw more than they deposit. New Orleans is America’s living room, and it’s nice to have something to eat while drinking.

Blog: A new blog post is up: https://bellegardebakery.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/chergui/

It is a great honor to have been awarded an Artisan award from StarChefs.com: http://www.starchefs.com/cook/events/rising-stars/2016/new-orleans.  I am particularly honored to be on the stage with Michael Gulotta and Blake Abene; these two individuals have offered unyielding support and enthusiasm for everything we do at BELLEGARDE. If it weren’t for every single friend and coworker at the bakery—past and present—there’d be none of it. Standing on the shoulders of giants.

Our New Stone Mill: 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: The Talmud

no booksellers, no books
no books, no learning
no learning, no knowledge
no knowledge, no wisdom
no wisdom, no ethics
no ethics, no conscience
no conscience, no community
no community, no bread.