Thursday, November 12, 2009

Loaf It Or Leave It

Sometimes it's funny to see how building local food systems and building community go hand in hand. Not only can you make new friends, but you can also take older acquaintances to a new level by connecting over food.

Take the Madcap Farmer, for example. I knew him vaguely over a decade ago as a student and had no reason to stay in touch with him. When he returned to the local scene as a farmer selling good produce at the farmers' market a couple of years ago, we reintroduced ourselves and settled into a friendly farmer-customer banter.

This year, though, he has also started a two-year visiting professor position at the College, teaching agricultural and environmental matters, and he has called on me a couple of times now -- thanks to my connection to Local Roots -- to help out with his classes. The first time, the fabulous Jen and I talked to his class about the development and marketing of Local Roots, and we found several enthusiastic student volunteers willing to help us out.

As our conversations deepened and our friendship grew (in baby steps, but still...), the Madcap Farmer learned of my love of baking and of my efforts to grow my own grain. Having just harvested a cover crop of rye, he willingly brought me a quart bag full of whole rye grains to enjoy in my bread recipes. In return, I offered to bake him a loaf of bread so that he could appreciate the fruits of his own labor.

This week, he called in that favor. In one of his classes, he wanted to show the different between a highly processed food and its local, homemade equivalent. Would I be willing to make a loaf of bread using the rye he grew? he asked.

But of course!

After the success of my homemade pumpernickel bread at the Farmgirl Wannabe's wedding, I thought I would repeat the recipe and offer the Madcap Farmer a couple of round loaves to share -- or to devour at his leisure.

I milled the grain Monday night, sifting out the flour and setting aside a portion of the bran, and then refrigerated it until I was ready to make and bake the loaves Tuesday evening. The texture turned out to be an improvement over what I had made for the wedding, and a taste test (strictly for quality control, of course) over breakfast Wednesday morning revealed that the flavor had improved, too.

He had intended to pick up the loaves for yesterday's class but ended up calling in sick, so it wasn't until this afternoon that he finally showed up. I hope to hear the verdict sometime tomorrow!

And I hope that his students will discover that they love homemade bread -- and leave behind the other stuff!

Since I milled about 40 ounces of grain and gave the loaves about 40 minutes in the oven, I think this doubly qualifies for the Forty Seeds Project, don't you?

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