Remember coffee before the 90s?
Think back to those good old days for a just a minute. Nearly everyone bought their coffee at the grocery store, pre-ground and ready to use. There were a handful of big brands: Folgers, Maxwell House, Melita. Just like your detergent, you had your coffee brand. Sometimes you bought something else on sale. And that was it. It was ubiquitous, homogenous and cheap. Maybe the stuff at Betty’s Diner was a little watered down, or the stuff at the Mario’s Deli seemed a little strong—but really, how different could it be? Coffee was coffee.
How was it grown? Not sure. Where did it come from? Columbia maybe? Did it matter? Not really. Beyond a small group of coffee aficionados, the major personal choice was regular or decaf. And that was coffee.
Then came the coffee revolution
Now we have espresso, dark roast, lattes, french-pressed Hawaiian blend, slow-dripped Ethiopian, single-estate, organic, fair trade. Most homes that have a coffee drinker have a counter-top bean grinder. There are hundreds of specialty roasters, often with direct connections to coffee farmers. Some cafes even roast their own blends to please their palates and search for better, exciting flavours.
Now we DO care about how it’s grown, where it’s grown and how it’s processed—because we can TASTE the difference. We have seen how much better coffee can get, and we will never go back.
Let’s start a flour revolution
Coffee before the 90’s is where flour is still. It’s ubiquitous, homogenous and cheap. And frankly, it’s crap.
Beyond a small group of “hippie bakers”, the only real personal choice people make is: "white or whole wheat”? What’s it made from? Don’t know. How is it grown? How is it processed? Don’t really care. It’s telling that many large manufacturers don’t even print the word WHEAT on the front of “ALL PURPOSE WHITE FLOUR” anymore. That’s how disconnected we are.
Modern flour has no taste to speak of. In fact, to bakers, it’s not even really thought of as food, as much as just a "material" to bind everything together and create a crumb. When was the last time you saw muffin that was just wheat, with nothing in it? No blueberries, no banana, no raisins, no chocolate chips. How would you describe it? Plain. Bland. No taste.
Real wheat DOES have flavor. And different varieties have different flavour profiles. Khorasan is buttery and sweet. Red Fife is nutty with a hint of spice. Rye is dark and robust. And, not surprisingly, flavours are even better when it’s freshly-ground! Sound familiar?
Imagine a flour revolution like coffee? Counter-top grain mills in every home. Chef’s coveting this season's crop of Marquis wheat or the sweetness of Ontario oats. Bakeries milling their own fresh flour every day, designing signature blends and having direct relationships with grain farmers. Sprouted, fermented, malted, stone-ground! We would have regional specialties based on climate and soils. The Maritimes grow the best Acadia wheat. In the southwest—White Sonora.
Not only would it be more delicious, it would be a lot healthier too. This is flour after all. You know, BREAD? The staff of life? Our biggest food staple. But in it’s current form, it’s making us sick and fat, and has been for decades. Better, fresher, more diverse flours would mean better, more nutritious and more diverse diets. And that means better health—for people and nature.
It might sound far-fetched right now. Sure, you say, maybe in Europe. But back in the 70s, a coffee revolution sounded equally crazy. In 1985, who would have anticipated where the coffee revolution would take us 30 years later? Vive la Revolution!