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Here is a flour postcard from Oregon, where I had a great time talking about flour and flatcakes at Cook’s Pots and Tabletops, a cooking store in Eugene. 15 people sat at a counter in front of me, including Sue Hunton and Stephanie Powers from Camas Country Mill, which I wrote about in the book. I passed around samples of flour, pancakes and crêpes, evangelizing about the great taste and nutrition of whole-grain flours. We had some extra time so I asked everyone what they wanted more of, and I invented a Red Fife cocoa crêpe for them on the spot. Funny I never thought of adding cocoa to the batter — worked really well.

Stephanie Powers with her flour recipe chart at Camas Country Mill.

Stephanie Powers with her flour recipe chart at Camas Country Mill.

Sue Hunton and Stephanie Powers were great to have in the class – I kept asking them to talk about the grains, and their perspectives added so much to mine. They are both retired schoolteachers, and have an easy and engaging way of delivering information. I admire how they bring their first careers into the life of the mill, taking kids field to flour with hands on lessons using simple tools to grind grains, and making muffins. Milling is so invisible in our lives and the tactile experiences they offer really plant the work in kids’ minds.

I also got to visit the mill, which is expanding, and I went to their new store and schoolhouse project. Mill owners Tom and Sue Hunton are restoring an old one-room schoolhouse to be their education center. The inside walls are signed by kids — in 1917 — who grew up to farm land that Tom and his son now farm – what a perfect place for Sue and Stephanie’s lessons!

Camas also works hard to get whole-grain flour into school meal programs. Stephanie experiments with formulas that fit within the nutrition guidelines and kitchens’ tool limits – a really tall order. How fun to see her in her lab! She made me tortillas from Edison flour, a white hard wheat with great taste. At home, I’ve been having a little wheat tortilla mania, playing with her recipe and all the flours I collect.

James Henderson of Hummingbird Wholesale smiles near wall of food he's helped grow.

James Henderson of Hummingbird Wholesale smiles near wall of food he’s helped grow.

In Eugene, I also got to visit James Henderson, Farm Liaison for Hummingbird Wholesale. James was a great resource to me as I wrote the Oregon chapter, helping me understand the seemingly glacial pace of change in farming. I really love the work that he and the company do, pioneering Distributor Supported Agriculture. This business model functions like a CSA, leveraging change on both the farming and marketing sides of the food chain.

My last Northwest event was an evening at Tabor Bread hosted by Slow Food Portland. I loved reading from the book at a place I profiled. Bakery owner Tissa Stein spoke about running a fresh milling bakery, and people got a tour, and saw the mill and woodfired oven up close. Again, it was wonderful to have people I wrote about speak for themselves. Some books are private retreats, but I want this book to be an ongoing public conversation. I want people to know the people I’ve met, and get curious about their work in grains.

Seastar Bakery and Handsome Pizza is a new spot in Portland very worth finding. Annie Moss worked at Tabor, and left to start this with friends. The bakery is investigating grains as the wildly flavorful ingredient they can be, and I’m so happy to know a place like this exists, drawing staple crops out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

I had two servings of toast that are strangling my imagination: a perfect piece of Red Fife with peanut butter and strawberries, and another made from a seeded rye bread with hazelnut butter, hazelnuts, honey and big flakes of salt.

I am not the kind of person to admire toast, because it is stiff competition for pancakes, and also because it is dangerously trendy. Yet I can't get that food out of my head.

I am not the kind of person to admire toast, because it is stiff competition for pancakes, and also because it is dangerously trendy. Yet I can’t get that food out of my head.

Flour Ambassador

My flour tour of the Pacific Northwest began at the Grain Gathering, a serious salute to the revival of regional grain production. The conference was at The Bread Lab, the ship wheat breeder Steve Jones steers to help develop local grain farming and use. There were workshops on baking, milling, and even making a mill. I got to meet people I talked to on the phone, like baker Dave Miller, and people I only knew from word-of-mouth, like Josey Baker. I met people I felt I’d known my whole life: Marie-Louise from Skaertoft Mill in Denmark, and Dick Scheuerman.

White Lammas in the field.

White Lammas in the field.

For three years, Dick has been growing out a sample of White Lammas wheat that was stored in 1916. This year, he finally had enough wheat to use, rather than saving just to grow again, and he asked me to make pancakes. I consulted cookbooks to see what English settlers might have eaten in the 1820s to 1840s. I settled on a crêpe batter, and the taste was really great.

I brought some of this flour with me and made it into crêpes at my flat cake classes. The first was at Book Larder, a cookbook store with a kitchen in Seattle. I also had some white Sonora from Grist & Toll, a mill in Pasadena, and I made these heritage varieties side-by-side for people to try.

I did a similar event at Seattle Tilth’s Rainier Farm.

9.Jonathan Milling

Jonathan Bethony milling the White Lammas.

I realized that my job is to be an ambassador for flour. Gluten is the latest target in the American diet drama, and I want to make people less afraid of eating grains. I’m not trying to convert anyone who has celiac disease or a true wheat allergy. But I do think that people should fall in love with flour, and I love showing them how.