12 November 2015
“Politically I only what that the children have bright eyes, the river be clean, food and sex be available, and nobody be pushed around.”
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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We had an incredible turnout for our open house last Sunday. Everyone at BELLEGARDE sincerely thanks all those who attended; friends and family all. Not too many chefs came, but I suppose the old clergy never likes the new church anyway. It truly means a lot when we are able to share what we love. By tossing open the doors of the bakery for the first time in nearly three years, we were overwhelmed with sheer pleasure from sharing our space, our work, our tools, and our breads with our community. Baking is a grueling craft performed in solitude; to have so many curious and attentive people come pay their respects, so to speak, vindicated all the early mornings and late nights in heat and cold, on our feet. Don’t forget that someone is always at the bakery, mixing dough and keeping the process moving: from Christmas to Easter to Mardi Gras and birthdays, there is no reprieve to commitment. We never resent the covenant, but we do want people to understand the compulsion, the waltz. Cause you can’t dance alone…
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 Grains: We are currently sourcing some incredible grains in the bakery. All of these grains are Identity Preserved (IP). IP is term which denotes that an agricultural product has retained its integrity from sowing to harvesting. Instead of milk from four corners of the country coming to Brown’s “dairy” in Central City, to be pasteurized and homogenized, IP products are vertically integrated: the producer and the consumer are the only participants in its creation and consumption. We received our 8000# of white wheat from Kansas this week; white wheat has traditionally held a smaller stage than typical red wheat. But it possesses all the health benefits and baking qualities of red wheat, minus the tannic (bitter) flavor. It has gained popularity in the past two decades because people eat with their eyes; someone, supposedly, would be more apt to eat whole grain products if the color approximated white flour. Our white wheat is grown 1,100 miles from our bakery from farmers marketing directly; no middlemen, managers, or distributors. Kicking rungs out of the unnecessary supply ladders and re-establishing the integrity of flavor. It will go into every loaf of our bread, along with our organic IP wheat from Pomona, CA: the Joaquin de Oro.
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. Here’s our newest one: https://bellegardebakery.wordpress.com/2015/11/01/all-saints/ Food is about sharing; but being holed away in Broadmoor at 5am doesn’t always allow us to share everything we’d like to about our craft, our passion, and our bread. So we found a nice closet for it on the Internet.
Why Whole Grains Matter:
1. Health: Stone-milled whole grains provide essential nutrients and vitamins to the human body. Commercially grown and milled flours, processed into French Bread, pasta, white rice, cookies (i.e. pure starch) are culpable for Louisiana’s staggering rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
2. Ecosystem: Irrigated grain bred for flavor and performance—not yields, nor animal feed—is best for our land. New Orleans is the spleen of America; culturally, we posses the best elements from the River. But, Louisiana receives all the toxic runoff of America; like a barium test, corporate poison slinks through the capillaries (Illinois River) and veins (Arkansas and Ohio Rivers) and arteries (Missouri River) of our Mississippi. Dredging for oil has ruined our wetlands and dredging for high yields has ruined our soils. Regional, organic grain systems require less toxic inputs and produce better results for everybody: the farmer, the miller, the banker, the baker, and the folks downstream.
3. Artisans: A regional grain economy will encourage the re-establishment of craftsmanship in the disciplines of milling, baking, retailing, and their attendant professions. Clean, fresh whole grains will create numerous institutional, financial, and cultural roles as the relationship to our food is re-structured and re-surfaced—lost trades, disciplines, vocations, and traditions will enjoy a Renaissance. Permaculture and stewardship will be invigorated as empiricism and empowerment are brought back to life because of organic/traditional farming methods. We seek to put the culture back in agriculture.
4. Energy, security: We eat oil as often as we eat food. Regional grain will sustain a transfer from fossil foods to real calories. Without artificial price supports (federal ‘farm’ subsidies), the real cost of food will shift the demand away from ethanol. Producers always receive premium prices for their products when it is bought in direct markets. This will stabilize the stomach of the artificial commodities market: (remember the rising cost of bread when wheat made a run on the market in 2008? Despite record harvests, the financial markets artificially inflated the price of grain due to speculation, cornering, and other nebulous massages-points. I eat bread, not five-year bond notes).
5. Supply/demand: Food consumption in New Orleans rests on lopsided shoulders, and its giving Atlas scoliosis. Catering only to demand isolates and stifles supply. (You can see that reflected in the dearth of famous products with “local” flavor and cultural terroir. Tabasco makes sauce with peppers from Central America; Cajun Boudin is made with pork from Canada; restaurant grits are made with corn from Iowa; Louisiana cane sugar is bleached and packaged in Yonkers; gumbo is served with Arkansas or Texas rice; Chinese Crawfish are in too many freezers). Regional, organic grain will cement a relationship between producers and consumers because it draws the knots closer to the laces. It will shift the paradigm from tenuous, distant origins to a traceable and transparent source. By compressing the physical and emotional distance in which our food is grown, a relationship that fosters the fibers between suppliers and demanders will engender a healthier environment for all.
6. Integrity and Ingredients=Flavor: Fresh food, made with fresh ingredients, tastes better. Grains selected for their flavor and nutrition, as well as their milling and baking qualities, provide the precedent for such considerations.