4 Feb, 2016 Newsletter

4 February 2016

“Pilgrim, the road is made by walking.”

Antonio Machado

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.

Retail Bread: Please send me an email at bellegardebakery@gmail.com if you’d be interested in picking up bread from the bakery; we currently bake our country bread Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; we’ve also begun to bake a beautiful whole-grain RYE BREAD on Wednesdays and want to gauge the interest of folks coming to the bakery on a pre-order basis for these breads.

Bread Classes: I am very happy to announce that BELLEGARDE will be hosting bread classes once a month beginning this April. Classes will be on Sundays at the Bakery, from noon to 6pm, and everything will be provided: lunch, breads to take home, equipment, and flour. The purpose of the classes will be to democratize bread. That means we’ll only use equipment found in typical home kitchens and no tool will be digital: we want the pleasure of our craft to be opened and appreciated by everyone willing to take a patient crack. No kitchen aids, no mystique, no gimmicks or cookbooks. We’ll mill flour in house and the classes will be conducted by Graison and another Bellegarde baker. Classes are reserved to 12 spaces and tickets are $120 each, completely inclusive. Food industry folks and culinary students (NOCCA, Delgado) will receive 30% off in order to encourage the beauty of continuing education. More details to follow.

Travel: I was in Sweden for two weeks, in the penumbra of Sebastien Boudet. Came back Monday and had an incredible time. 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.

I don’t have children, dearly though I desire them, but baking gives me the gravity children would. Nick Flynn believes that he came into focus, in other people’s eyes, when he had a daughter. Shared blood bore the gift of weight, of displacement of the water we float on. I am mesmerized each time, everywhere I go, to bear weight, to be distinguished between background and foreground, because I am a baker. I am, without children, still a provider, and many people appreciate that, value and embrace it. It’s coin, it’s a passport, and it can be a Virgil.

Hurt people hurt. Healed people heal.  This trip was my waltz with Neal Cassidy, Sal Paradise, Ken Kesey. A Benzedrine trip across the spleen of the revolution. Two astronauts on the cancer of the world, two doctors seeking to cure, not treat. I had my own cabin in the Finland Station, and I met Lenin. I whispered in his ear, I touched his palm, I ate his bread. There was a power, a magic, a transubstantiation. I am changed, I was changed. I have resolve, courage; vindication, mostly. Darius pulled me atop the barricades and told me that it was not wrong to be there. Most of my life, until I met Sebastien, I was wary, leery. Of my honesty, of solitude, of strength and its isolation; I was afraid of potential, of the liberty I knew so much about but have never practiced. I stalked liberation like a cold shadow, and knew its path well. Yet, I kept myself hid, distant; I wanted to share everything but myself. I wanted the osmosis, but never the liquid; the sun but not the heat. The vulnerability, but not the truth.

And then it was exposed. Someone once said that people do not change; we are merely revealed. The road I was walking was the road I made by walking. The journey was the pilgrimage, the secular destination. We travel to distant places only to find ourselves at home; we travel so that the distance of space will reveal us more gently. Time is a soft skin and it holds most what we press firmly. Now is the time for healing.

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: Nikolai Berdyaev

Bread for myself is a material question. Bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one.