Grain Gathering 2017

“It’s summer camp for grain nerds.”

~Annie Moss, Seastar Bakery


Exactly! I’ve been gathering in the fields and classrooms of WSU Bread Lab for four years now and I’ve struggled to find the one-liner that describes what this annual pilgrimage is all about.


Thoughts/Lessons/Notes from the Grain Gathering 2017


~Always, always, always discuss any lecture you hear with at least three other women and at least one person of color. You need perspective in this wide world and you can only get it from talking about ideas, but especially—and I mean ESPECIALLY—from listening to other perspectives about the things you hear. At the Grain Gathering this year, my posse of lady-thinkers kept me on my toes. Thank you to so many for sharing viewpoints, and a special thank you to Annie and Meg for taking part in hours and hours of long car rides where we diced it all up and threw it in the pot to cook it down into something digestible.


~According to food ethnographer June Jo Lee, my kids belong to the Gen Z generation, born after 1998. She had many facts about this up-and-coming generation, but the one that most sticks with me is the fact that Gen Z’s carry with them less distinctions about the lines between media and reality. They’ve never lived in a world without ready access to…well, to access! I had to stop and think about this for a minute because for me the differences between media and reality are so distinct from one another. I grew up in a time when media was a hulking object in the middle of the living room and it kept going when you stepped away to play in the real world.


A few days after this concept was introduced, it actually played out before my eyes when I was visiting a friend who has a two-year-old. He was watching a show on an iPad and he was, lo and behond, interrupted by an invitation to facetime with his grandmother. I realized that—of course!—his version of reality has blurred lines about the distinctions between what is media and what is real. To him, his real-life grandmother shows up in his life sometimes as media. She arrives at his doorstep at times, but is available on his iPad most often.


How does this relate to food? I don’t know. I’m still mulling this one over, but I find this fact super interesting, regardless.


~Another interesting fact by way of June Jo Lee: There are two words in the Korean language that mean family. One refers to kinship, but the other, which is used more commonly, is shikgu, which translates as eat-mouth, or mouths to feed. I love the idea of a family being the group of people whose mouths are fed together. In today’s modern family, this seems a more accurate portrayal of what unites us. Plus, with busy family life, this term gives us a solid place to express our familial love.


~What will save our food system? It’s broken, to be sure, and there is a lot of quibbling about how to change it. The two main arguments hinge on making incremental changes in the industrial food complex OR huge changes in regional food? I tend towards the later, but June Jo Lee pointed out that it doesn’t have to be an either/or. We can engage in BOTH/AND. Wake up and eat locally grown peaches AND if you find yourself later that day needing a quick bite on the highway between Kentucky and Ohio, make your best possible choice (Chipotle). Vote with your wallet at the farmer’s market AND get involved in legislation for the upcoming Farm Bill even though it’s daunting and won’t solve all of agriculture’s problems. Teach people how to cook AND let them make their own food choices in what they do with that information.


~There is something called the FRESH FLOUR MOVEMENT and I’ve been part of it for years even thought I didn’t have a name for it. Fresh flour is that which has been milled shortly before use. It is often stone milled and retains more of the inherent nutrients in the grain (more on this coming soon.)


~I want to visit Elmore Mountain Bread in Vermont. And OMG, their custom-made stone mills! Gorgeous!


~I want to visit Bellegarde Bakery in Louisiana. Rumor has it that the head baker, Graison, has a thing for poetry.


~I want to taste these grits.


~Wheat is one of the most complex organisms on the planet.


~ Against the Grain by James C. Scott


~”Fear is a strange soil. It grows obedience like corn, which grow in straight lines to make weeding easier. But sometimes it grows the potatoes of defiance, which flourish underground.” Terry Pratchett


~The story of civilization is the story of domestication of fire, plants, and animals.


~There is evidence to suggest that we domesticated grains 4000 years before we settled into agricultural communities. In other words, we were domesticating grains while we were still primarily foragers/hunters. This leads to fascinating theories about why we settled down to agriculture at all.


~James C. Scott called our first agricultural communities “Neolithic Resettlement Camps”. That one made me chuckle under my breath for a while.


~The way we organize our food relationships is linked to how we socialize. We probably can’t even see this clearly in our own culture because we’re too linked into our part in it.