Grain Gathering (formerly known as the Kneading Conference West) took place last week on the gorgeous grounds of Washington State University Agriculture Research Center in Mount Vernon, Washington. It was the fourth of these events and as we now live in California (I had sent in my registration long before I knew our move would be a done deal by the time mid-August came around), I truly thought, before flying up, that this one would probably be the last one for me.
Bread Lab) puts it: "Nobody kneads anymore." Plus bakers are not the only ones interested in grain: farmers, millers, breeders, brewers, etc. flock to Mount Vernon as well. In fact, more than anything, the "gathering" dimension is what will keep me coming. I love the energy and dynamics of encounters with participants from all over (twenty American States, three Canadian Provinces, the United Kingdom and South Africa.) I love it that bread isn't the only focus, that classes, lectures and workshops on milling, malting, brewing, breeding, building earth ovens, transforming a stationary bike into a grain mill, etc... are all mobbed as well.
schedule. In an ideal world (where Time wouldn't exist or if it did, wouldn't be linear), I would have attended all classes, lectures, tours and workshops concurrently but as it is, I had to choose. So I forewent production baking (even though the workshop was run by two bakers I greatly admire, Mel Darbyshire from Grand Central Bakery in Seattle and Scott Mangold from Breadfarm in nearby Bow-Edison), the roundtable on the farmers' perspective, the one on milling and nutrition, the tour of the orchards and gardens, the visit to the wheat, barley and buckwheat fields, the talk on the science of bread, and many more that I won't even mention because I feel bad for missing them all over again, but if you check out the program, you'll have a good idea of what I am talking about.
Naomi Duguid and Dawn Woodward's instructive and stimulating demos on the use of whole grain in everyday baking and cooking. I watched Richard Miscovich score proofed loaves before loading them in a wood-fired oven (Richard is an extraordinary baker and instructor and seeing him work is both a teaching moment and an experience you are not likely to forget.) I only caught the tail-end of Jeffrey Hamelman's pretzel workshop but still, I arrived at the wood-fired oven in time to see him score the pretzels (or not as he said it was a matter of personal preference) and hear most of his account of the tough love teaching methods of his German baking instructor.
Debra Wink and hooking up again with Andrew Ross, professor of crop and soil science and food science at Oregon State University. I spent time with beloved friends, connected with other bloggers, met bakers, writers and Facebook friends I had never seen in person before, I took part in the Bread Lab's tasting of four different wheat varieties, all grown in the Skagit Valley, and I ate my way through three days of the most seductive event food imaginable.