Not Store Bought

Self-control is strength. Calmness is mastery. You have to get to a point where your mood doesn’t shift based on the insignificant actions of someone else. Don’t allow others to control the direction of your life. Don’t allow emotions to overpower your intelligence. –James Allen

So what is trending these days? Opinions appear to swirl with the latest and coolest flavors of the week. Why are we so easily seduced by “that next shiny thing” or swayed by the empty distractions of our consumerist society? “Don’t allow emotions to overpower your intelligence.”

While packaging bread for Ruth’s Harvest, one of our volunteers (I will call her Mary) shared a touching “bread story” from her youth. Mary’s story illustrates how the color of bread becomes a marker of socio-economic status. White bread became a fashionable expression and symbol of modernity for industrial progress. In short time, the science of white flour (along with refined white sugar) stubbornly inserted itself into the American diet and helped to fuel the Green Revolution of the 1950s. An anomaly from an earlier era, Sylvester Graham was a staunch advocate and evangelist for maintaining whole grains in the American diet. Milling technology continued to press forward (with hammer & roller mills), and allowed the miller to completely separate the bran and germ from the wheat berry. Ironically, the most nutritious by-products of the milling process (bran & germ) are labeled for animal consumption (hurray for the animals, but not so for us humans!).

Food production on Mary’s Fairfield family farm played a more benign role for the chores that were assigned each day of the week, the month and throughout the seasons. Baking bread was one of the chores labeled, “weekly” which supplied the entire family with fresh, homemade, yeasted bread. Little did Mary know that when she pulled her sandwich from her lunch box, that snickers and sly remarks would fill the cafeteria. Mary reddened, and quickly slipped her sandwich onto her lap under her desk. School children occasionally can be cruel. It’s usually from ignorance; adult exemplars or plain old just don’t know any better. “You have to get to a point where your mood doesn’t shift based on the insignificant actions of someone else.”

Mary went on to explain that in her day, “Baker’s Bread” was a popular brand that made its way into many households. Mary’s farm bread was fresh, coarser in texture and darker in color and appeared homemade rather than store bought. It begins to sound a bit racist–a sandwich bread that looks different, browner, darker and not white. Really? Perhaps this is less so since people are beginning to experience the benefits of a whole grain diet. Little did Mary and her family imagined that today her lunchtime sandwich would be considered in the vanguard of nutritional coolness! At the time, it was what you did to feed your family–local ingredients, locally crafted from a traditional Pennsylvania farm. “Don’t allow others to control the direction of your life.” As a baker, I’d like to believe that eating whole grains is more than a market trend or the latest coolest flavor, and more of a sincere expression of progressive restoration. Hmm… “Not Store Bought” does have a nice ring to it!

We invite you to take a moment and jot down your favorite “bread story” or recipe and submit it to Bakewell Farm. If we get enough submissions, we will host a “Story Bake-Off” that will showcase your baked and (hopefully a few) half-baked stories!

Marc Jalbert, Founding Director of Bakewell Farm, a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to promote “bread-centric” educational programs for building community while engaged in the practice of public service. Please visit us at: www.bakewellfarm.org

Bread. Start from Scratch.

“So take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” –Frank Sinatra

The expression “from scratch” comes from the practice of scratching a line on the ground to mark the starting point of a race. So it means to start from the beginning or to make a correction. You would start from scratch to improve the quality of your work. Should we decline when someone offers a shortcut or a “turnkey solution” to a problem? Remember the bread machine craze? As disparaging as I could be about this home appliance, at least it got people baking fresh homemade bread. This is a part of Bakewell Farm’s mission–to encourage baking bread at home. The difference when baking from scratch is not necessarily the machine, but your hands. 

For me, starting from scratch suggests that you also begin with your hands. Hands are the most sensitive and responsive tools for making bread. I would venture to say that the dough itself enjoys being made by hand. Physical contact with dough provides the most sensible grasp of the entire process from mixing and fermenting, to the final touch of a finger that signals the optimal time for placing loaves in the oven. To bake bread by hand, and from scratch, embodies the knowledge not just of making, but also of being. Be the

Starting from scratch challenges your relationship with time, which I like to call bread time. When you are on bread time, fermentation dictates the pace. It slows things down. When you discover the virtue of slowness, a sensible pace defines your sense of place. The tendencies found in making bread bring you in contact with the present moment. Even the bubbly culture that bakers maintain for making sourdough, in baker’s parlance, is called, “a starter.” A sourdough starter reminds me of the phrase, “Never stop starting” because it embodies the idea of continuation. The only way to perpetuate a starter (sourdough culture) is to feed it fresh flour and water on a regular basis. Like any living thing, a starter needs food and a comfortable environment to thrive.

Consider starting from scratch: be kind; offer the gift of your time; show resilience; remain open and share your thoughts; maintain a sense of humor; formulate a vision with passion; listen attentively; own it; and be moved by love and imagination.

Marc Jalbert, Founding Director, Bakewell Farm. Bakewell Farm is a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to offer “bread-centric” experiences that promote healthy food choices and civic responsibility through educating, sharing, and building community in Adams County. Please visit us at: www.bakewellfarm.org

A Whitman Blueprint

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.” –Walt Whitman

 

This is one of my favorite Whitman quotes that I revisit often. I find that his words speak volumes on how we might behave when we step out to greet the day. It reads like a blueprint or the coordinates for our moral compass–a straightforward plan with clear directions.

 

As Bakewell Farm prepares to collaborate in 2019 with the Youth Coalition and the Center for Youth and Community Development, we were asked to develop four themes around a series of hands-on baking experiences. One of the themes is moral courage. Again, Whitman asks us to, “Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others.” This is where the moral rubber hits the courageous road! Whitman’s contemporary, Mark Twain once wrote, “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” What then does courage look like when you “take off your hat to nothing known or unknown” and do so without fanfare? Even Thoreau’s edict for the wise to live an extemporaneous life demands some degree of courage or self-reliance.

I ask myself whether there are any examples of moral courage in making bread? Perhaps it can be found in the self-reliant qualities of making sourdough bread. (I’m thinking specifically about the many steps required to maintain a healthy sourdough culture) No more reaching for the instant yeast! Or is it about the two days required to: build a fire in the brick oven, refresh your sourdough culture, mix a large batch dough by hand, rake out the ashes, allow the oven temperature to settle to the proper baking temperature, load with proofed loaves of dough, and pull out fully baked loaves from the oven to cool? Is practicing this archaic craft process itself a form of moral courage? I’m still pondering the ambiguities. All I know is happiness is found through time well spent. Consider giving the simple gift of time this season. “Time, as the poet Nick Laird wrote, is how you spend your love.” Or as Philip Larkin says, “Of each other be kind/While there is still time.” Have a safe and Happy New Year!

 

Marc Jalbert, Founding Director of Bakewell Farm, a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to promote “bread-centric” educational programs for building community while engaged in the practice of public service. Please visit us at: www.bakewellfarm.org

 

Heritage Festival, a priori

Heritage Festival, a priori

I’ve found it increasingly important to take baking out of bakeries and put in back in the hands of those who wish to smell the sweet aroma of nutty wheat in their own kitchens, schools, community centers and homesteads… Bread making should be woven into the fabric of a well-rounded day so our afternoons will be spent engaging with nature or weaving and our evenings will be tempered with porch sitting…

–Tara Jensen, Smoke Signals Bakery

Ideas permeate the air in much the same way the aromas of freshly baked bread do. Baker, Tara Jensen has been singing the praises for getting bread baking back into the hands of those who wish to smell the sweet aroma of nutty wheat in their own kitchens. Her manifesto is at the heart of Bakewell Farm’s own mission. It was a sad moment to report, that our much-anticipated participation in this year’s Heritage Festival, was cancelled due to relentless rains and stormy weather predictions. The Festival was our opportunity to connect with the community and begin the process of building a common ground among regional bakers.

Until we have the opportunity to stage the event again next year, here are some of my imaginings of how it might have unfolded. It’s my a priori attempt to take you through Bakewell Farm’s experience at the 27th Annual Heritage Festival on Sunday, September 16th.

The action stations are situated to deliver the theme of “Bread for Each Other.” The aroma of the hands-on flatbread station fills the air, while over to the other side of the room in the Sterner Building, a tabletop electric mill is a-buzz grinding whole wheat berries into fresh flour. Children are encouraged to squeeze the moist warm flour in their fists to learn “first hand” how fresh flour should feel and smell. Camille Horton presentation on how to incorporate more whole grains into one’s diet is another topic that grabs the attention of a young couple with their toddler in tow. Monique Washirapunya of Gateau Monique is measuring the ingredients to make a delicious and simple-to-make power bar. A few people gather to watch how simple it is to make; others grab the free samples and recipe cards as they move along to the next demo.

Kevin and Melinda McGrath of McGrath’s Bakehouse are addressing a handful of people gathered around a lovely display of their naturally leavened organic breads. With warmth and a quiet passion for baking, they describe the many steps and nuances for how they balance their professional lives as bakers and as parents of two young children. Bakewell Farm’s massive 4-ton mobile bread oven sits like an armored vehicle, just outside the double-doors of the Sterner Building. Gettysburg High School physics teacher, Eric Withers and I are talking to a group of his high school physics students about thermal mass and conduction and how these qualities provide just the right amount of energy to transform dough into a nutritious loaf of bread.

During the last hour of the event, all the presenters become an ad hoc discussion panel. A conversation begins with someone asking the question, “How should bread making be woven into the fabric of a well-rounded day?” We can only speculate a priori since we never got the chance to pose the question or to have folks offer their own answers. To that end, Bakewell Farm invites anyone interested in having a real conversation to come out and visit. We bake bread every week and we have begun providing a wholesome bread & butter snack for Ruth’s Harvest backpacks, where we are always in need of volunteers to help with packaging and deliveries. As the saying goes, “many hands make light work.” It’s also a great way to talk about our mission and how we can become “bread for each other.”

Marc Jalbert, Founding Director of Bakewell Farm, a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to promote “bread-centric” educational programs for building community while engaged in the practice of public service. Please visit us at: www.bakewellfarm.org or better yet, become Facebook friends of Bakewell Farm.

Bakewell Farm at the Heritage Festival

Show hospitality to each other without complaint. Use whatever gift you’ve received for the good of one another so that you can show yourselves to be good stewards of God’s grace in all its varieties. — 1 Peter 4:9-10

“Small is Beautiful” author E.F. Schumacher takes the above quotation and applies it to a threefold conception of work as follows: “First, to provide necessary and useful goods and service. Second, to enable every one of us to use and thereby perfect our gifts like good stewards. Third, to do so in service to, and in cooperation with, others so as to liberate ourselves from our inborn egocentricity.”

We are very excited about Bakewell Farm’s participation in this year’s 27th Annual Heritage Festival, September 16th from Noon to 4:00 pm at the Gettysburg Area Recreation Park, 545 Long Lane, Gettysburg. The folks at the Interfaith Center for Peace and Justice and the YWCA Gettysburg & Adams County have given us the green light to include our presentation and theme with this year’s Heritage Festival. “Bread for Each Other” is an afternoon of “action stations” and table talk discussions about the craft of bread making, good nutrition, and how the act of baking bread can become a form of social action. Bakewell Farm has reached out to local and regional bakers and bakeries to share their knowledge and skills, as well as growers and health professionals from our community. Bakewell Farm is very excited about being part of this year’s Heritage Festival. Festival Chair, Bill Collinge, and members of the Festival committee, along with Wellspan President, Jane Hyde and the YWCA Gettysburg & Adams County have been generous with their support for including this event at the Heritage Festival.

Here’s a sneak preview of the topics and activities that will be on display in and around the Park’s Sterner Building:  The WHOLE GRAIN TRUTH explores the nutritional value of using whole grains by Camille Horton; MILLING ABOUT offers a stone ground flour demonstration with a table top mill and grain flaker; KNEAD TO KNOW is a hands-on demo for anyone wanting to try their hand at hand-kneading and shaping; TALKING OVEN is a first hand look at the construction and operation of Bakewell Farm’s mobile wood fired oven with Gettysburg High School science teacher, Eric Withers; BRICK by BRICK tells the story of McGrath’s Bakehouse as told by owners and bakers Kevin & Melinda McGrath; JUST A TASTE features a tasting table with samples of regional baked goods from: Gettysburg Baking Co., McGrath’s Bakeshop, Bakewell Farm, and Gateau Monique; The WORLD of FLATBREADS is a hands-on demonstration for making flat breads. Children and parents learn that in many regions throughout the world, and in many cultures, breads are flat! All activities above will be staged in and around the Sterner Building from Noon to 4:00 pm.

Bakewell Farm’s dear friend and major contributor, Trale Broudy, will help to moderate a table discussion about Bakewell Farm’s mission to “Bake Bread Build Community.” Our objective is to engage in a conversation about the organizing efforts of Bakewell Farm. How does the act of making bread meet the need for community and what is involved in becoming a community bread baker?

An insert with the activities and a timetable will be included in the Heritage Festival event flyer that is available at the. We are grateful to have the generous support, faith and guidance for participation in this year’s Heritage Festival from Wellspan Health, Gettysburg, the YWCA Gettysburg & Adams County and The Interfaith Center for Social Justice. Hope to see you all there!

Marc Jalbert, Founding Director of Bakewell Farm, a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to apply “bread-centric” educational programs for building community while engaged in the practice of public service. Please visit us at: www.bakewellfarm.org

Amateurism

“…each of us has an intuitive picture of the world and the way we ourselves were made for that world, an intuitive grasp of our place in things, which we can reestablish each morning and which can make us more available, more courageous, more generous.” —David Whyte

As I’m peddling along on a tandem bicycle, there’s a moment when I think that my friend is doing all the work of peddling. Of course, this silent query has simultaneously entered the mind of my peddling partner. The conversation becomes, “Hey, are you doing all the peddling?” “No, are you?” “No, not me.” “Well who is?” This is one of the elusive qualities of doing good work. There’s a conveyance, a flow when you are mindfully engaged with one another, whether it is part of your work, play or most notably, when it is both.

Our attempts and actions are the more significant artifacts that aggregate and shape our personal histories. Sometimes we honor only the outstanding accomplishments and forget that, at some moment they most likely began with someone, somewhere, taking action. Simple curiosity is the only permission we really need to be an agent of change. Activities in the form of amateurism help to dispel our apprehensions to move forward and engage. I believe that it is “an intuitive picture of the world” that provides the most promise. You could say that the Buddhist concept of “beginner’s mind” embraces this notion of amateurism to become action with humble curiosity.

For me, I only need to look as far as the bread making process to illustrate what I am attempting to explore above. The microbiological activities within the dough are the peddling partners in the enterprise of making a loaf of bread. After all, who is doing all the peddling? Amylase, protease, phytase, lactobacilli, yeast, they are but a few of the co-conspirators that come to mind. The bicycle-built-for-two metaphor encourages us to think relationally while taking the position of amateur and gives us permission to proceed without the concern for choosing an “either” or an “or.” There is no single way of doing something “correctly.” It’s nearly impossible to gather “all the data” to proceed with any single plan of action. All of “which can make us more available, more courageous, more generous.”

Bakewell Farm is looking for some courageous and generous “amateurs” to help us bake bread while building community. Please consider becoming a peddling partner and help us build the road as we travel.

Marc Jalbert, Founding Director of Bakewell Farm, a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to apply “bread-centric” educational programs for building community while engaged in the practice of public service. Please visit us at: www.bakewellfarm.org

Looking Deeply, Part 2

“To practice does not mean to imitate the form. To practice means to use our intelligence and our skill to make nourishment and transformation possible in our self, engendering nourishment and transformation in the people around us.” Thich Nhat Hanh

As I move along my narrative about looking deeply, I imagine that the wheat has been grown and harvested in Adams County. With silos brimming, grain is much like having money in the bank; the grain is brought to market where it can be sold. More value is added by milling the grain into flour. The mill transforms grain into flour. Maybe in this case the mill is powered by water collected by a millpond from a creek nearby. A millpond is a form of potential energy that is stored for later use. Next, a mountain comes to mind, and I see veins of pink granite being quarried and fashioned into millstones. These stones, from eons ago, are now heard gently turning and creaking in a restored 19th century millhouse. With slow rotations, the stones remain cool and help preserve the nutritional integrity of the grain; so with fresh flour in hand the process of making bread begins.

Steps are taken for making a sourdough culture, which requires several stages of attention before vibrant dough can be made. When all conditions are present: flour, water, salt, sourdough leaven, fermentation, oven temperature, timing, and perhaps an offering to Ceres or Fornax (or both just to make sure!), the results are good bread. Real bread not some modern version of a cereal product that’s been extruded with machines from some dubious source. The craft of baking will generally yield more than the sum of its parts. Something that you can literally sink your teeth into!

If we look back in time “deeply,” we may reclaim some qualities that have been lost. So I say, Festina lente–make haste slowly. I’m not suggesting a nostalgic return to Luddite shenanigans, but it does beg the question, “Why are we so easily distracted from the qualities that embrace simple goodness?” Maybe it’s just easier to be mischievous or recklessly modern. It’s always the proverbial slippery slope that gives us pause to those temporal thrills we subconsciously crave. As the Dakota say, “Take care of your goodness.”

The meditation of looking deeply brings the word telos to mind; a Greek word for aim or purpose, and I would add the qualities; goodness, and simplicity. Looking deeply engages the mind of a reflective practitioner. “To practice means to use our intelligence and our skill.” It is how practice becomes praxis. Socrates said very succinctly, “Now speak to a craftsman–he’ll tell you to do the job better.” As you practice work with others, a deeper social connection is encouraged while “engendering nourishment and transformation in the people around us.”

Marc Jalbert, Founding Director of Bakewell Farm, a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to promote “bread-centric” educational programs for building community while engaged in the practice of public service. Please visit us at: www.bakewellfarm.org

Be Surprised

Be surprised!

“Creative people are constantly surprised. They don’t assume that they understand what is happening around them, and they don’t assume that anybody else does either. They question the obvious—not out of contrariness but because they see the shortcomings of accepted explanations before the rest of us do. They sense problems before they are generally perceived and are able to define what they are.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention

It’s another chilly morning, as I prepare to pull loaves from Bakewell Farm’s mobile wood fired oven. The oven doors swing open and the sweet, moist and fragrant air bellows out a steamy yawn. Aromatic clouds are backlit by the pale morning light–giving the front of the oven an otherworldly appearance. I tap the bottom of the first few loaves peeled out to make sure they are properly baked. I listen for that characteristic hollow “thud” for an affirming nod. The extra hour of firing the evening before has paid off with a display of a bein cuit deeply colored crust. The loaves exhibit a handsome range of colors from amber to dark chocolate–making for some winsome loaves and a happy baker.

While I transfer hot loaves onto the metal wire rack, I can hear them sing! The crackling crust spins me back in time to when my parents listened to Old Italian arias on their scratchy 78-rpm record player (have you guessed my age yet?). Loaves can sing and sometimes they even kiss. When loaves are placed too close together on the hearth, (a baker’s effort to get a comfortably full oven to generate adequate steam) they attract each other dans une baisure or kissing crust. (You must pardon the bakers who are hopeless romantics–not a bad quality to have when you consider the long dark work hours) So when I open the doors to my oven, I never know whether I will, like some doting parent, intrude on some steamy love fest! C’est la vie! 

Baking bread animates my life in many surprising and delightful ways. Surprises sustain me. Without surprise there is no joy and without joy there is no love. For me, baking with love and imagination has become a guiding principle. This principle can animate any type of work. Get out there and be surprised!

Marc Jalbert, Founding Director of Bakewell Farm, a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to promote “bread-centric” educational programs for building community while engaged in the practice of public service. Please visit us at: www.bakewellfarm.org

 

Happy and Playful 2018

“…pick a moment to stop asking questions, recognize that it is an arbitrary moment, and then make a ‘gut’ decision. We can then work on making the decision right rather than obsess about making the right decision.” –Mindfulness, Ellen J. Langer

It’s one thing to know what you are doing. It’s another thing to know what your dough is doing! After practicing the requisite “ten thousand hours,” you would think that you’ve become an expert and that you have sufficient data to tackle any vexing baking problem. But, let’s face it, when you rub against the infinite, there’s never enough data. As I write this, I’m 16 hours from moving into the year 2018, and perhaps, as many of you, I am thinking about making resolutions. My resolution is broken down into parts: stay put, trust my gut, deliberate less, exercise mindfulness, and play more.

Does the Internet provide me with sufficient data to operate more deeply on a local level? Looking deeply is about calibrating our senses, to begin to trust our gut in the moment as a manifestation of both the past and the future. Wendell Berry speaks of the “wisdom of a place” and espouses the radical idea of staying put. After all, the definition of radical is “to form a root.” So in our “rootedness” we’re doing something radical! Therefore, my resolution is to stay put and do the work of baking bread and building community with Bakewell Farm. This is how I wish to apply the core principles of what I have garnered over the years as a bread baker. It’s about imagining the “other” becoming “we.”

Another part of my New Year’s resolution is to deliberate less. I want to “work on making the decision right rather than obsess about making the right decision.” Is it possible to develop 20/20 vision in the moment rather than only through looking back? There are many conditions and variables to consider when making bread. For example, you look back and maybe the dough needed to be mixed warmer or left to ferment longer. Or that by leaving the loaves in the oven another five minutes it would have given you the color and doneness you were shooting for. This brings me to the third part of my resolution: exercise mindfulness. I know, I know, it’s trending so much in the popular press; however, this practice has been around for a very long time, and well, deserves our “mindful” attention.

Lastly, is to play more: play more music, play more with bread dough, play more with live fire cooking, and play more with friends and family. To play becomes a tremendous gift to yourself and touches everyone around you. So have yourselves a very happy and playful 2018!

Marc Jalbert, Founding Director of Bakewell Farm, a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to apply “bread-centric” educational programs for building community while engaged in the practice of public service. Please visit us at: www.bakewellfarm.org