Regina Connell over at Handful of Salt spent some time with Community Grains owner, Bob Klein, and found out a whole lot about flour, milling, grains, the importance of small scale local grain economies, and the self-proclaimed “cogitator” at the center of it all:
Flour: so basic, so ubiquitous, so boring. Even if you’re a dedicated foodie, we bet it’s just one of those few ingredients you haven’t chosen to obsess over yet. After all, there’s so much else to fixate on: coffee, chocolate, cheese, meat, butter, etc.
Or, if being a committed locavore is your thing, we bet that locally sourced grain isn’t on your top ten list of must-haves.
But why not? If ingredients make the food, then something as fundamental as flour should be part of the equation.
Here’s why: because you haven’t had much choice in the matter. And why is that? Because it’s damned hard, damned complicated.
No one relishes a damned complicated problem more than Bob Klein, who’s on a mission to take flour back from being an exclusively industrially-produced product. He’s creating a “local grain economy” built around artisanal whole grains and whole grain flours.
This former TV producer/executive, owner of Oakland-based restaurant Oliveto (long-committed to serving and working with artisanal producers), and all-around force of nature, is one of those rare people who thoroughly revels in complication and complexity. (So enamored is he of complication that Oliveto’s food lecture series is called, “It’s Complicated.”) He smiles. “I’m a cogitator, a marinator.”
Predictably, there’s no easy answer for why it’s worthwhile to create a local grain economy and more choice in flour.