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There Will Be Bread: The Newest Development in Food Culture Is Also the Oldest 

Wednesday, Nov 27 2013

Page 5 of 5

The result of the community-building efforts of Klein, Mosel, and people like Monica Spiller — a vociferous advocate for local grains who owns a seed bank in Mountain View — is that farmers, millers, and bakers have the necessary momentum to rebuild the grain ecosystem. Many participate in a lively Google Group called the North Coast Grain Growers, where wheat geeks can troubleshoot problems, share successes, argue over the proper fineness of flour, and get everyone excited about a new kind of Spanish bearded spelt they just tried.

Preston, of Preston Vineyards, sees a corollary to the experiments in winemaking in Napa and Sonoma 35 years ago that put those regions on the map. "You know, we didn't know a lot. ... It was really learning by doing. So here we are all over again," he says.

If you talk to the local bakers, farmers, and millers pushing this movement forward, you'll realize that they each have their own intense, almost religious devotion to How Things Should Be Done, and their credos often contradict. So much of this stuff is still being figured out, and no one knows for sure what will happen when we start playing with these grains. You'll also realize the absurdity of this: that the flavor and nutrition we coax from new grains could fundamentally change the way we think about flour. So yes, it's a new frontier for bread.

Which is pretty mind-blowing, when you think about it. As one of the last major areas of the food pyramid to go local (legumes still have a way to go), whole grains are also one of the most foundational. Food has never been so globalized and the boundaries of edibility never so enthusiastically explored as right now (Korean tacos are so five years ago; the hip thing to eat right now is crickets and pigs' feet). And then, here's wheat, the most ordinary and basic of foods, which turns out to be one of the most exciting of all.

The one thing that everyone agrees on is that this movement isn't going away anytime soon. It's got too much going for it: the local food movement, the renewed interest in wheat and other grains, the likely shortage of water in the next century. As we talk about fixing our broken food ecosystem, local grains will have to be a part of the solution.

So yes, there will be a day when you feel as passionately about soft Sonoran and hard Red Fife wheat as you do about Honeycrisp and Pink Lady apples. You'll pay $10 for a bag of flour, and engage your local baker in ridiculous, detailed conversation about where his flour comes from. Artisanal grains are just one more piece of the ever-expanding food puzzle to worry about. But it's about time, since it was also the beginning of it all.

About The Author

Anna Roth

Anna Roth

Anna Roth is SF Weekly's former Food & Drink Editor and author of West Coast Road Eats: The Best Road Food From San Diego to the Canadian Border.


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