For centuries, man has suffered under the unyielding tyranny of the automated mill and its proponents, who have consigned him to flavorless, unethical, and possibly poisonous baked goods. At last salvation is at hand, though, through the good offices of the artisanal food movement!
Such, anyway, is the story as the proprietors of Chicago's Baker Miller have it in the pages of the Chicago Reader this week, and if this doesn't reach quite the surreality of switchel enthusiasts touting vinegar beverages as part of a hardscrabble rural lifestyle that involves using the subway, the internet, etc., it's still up there.
Megan and Dave Miller, you see, are bakers here in Chicago whose interest in "reproducing the taste of preindustrial food" has led them to become, uh, millers, and they not only have artisanally-ground flour to sell you (that costs five times as much as even the perfectly OK flour you get at the hippie co-op), but reasons why you should buy it. While fellow artisanal flour enthusiast Jared Van Camp makes the convincing claim that the stuff just tastes better—"It's like peppercorns that are preground that you buy at the supermarket versus peppercorns that you buy whole and then toast and grind at home," he tells the Reader—to the Millers, it's about, well, ethics in pastry-making.
"We wanted to make more ethical, tasty pastry," [Dave] Miller says.
"The practices of flour are insane. All the bran and germ are taken out. You need bran and germ to process gluten. Why the hell is no one talking about that?"
Maybe no one is talking about that because 99 percent of people process gluten just fine, but it could be that something else is going on here. Maybe people are happy living in bondage under Big Automated Mill because they just fucking hate germ and bran; maybe they're unnerved by their millwright bragging about how his products are, "like charcuterie," potentially lethal; maybe they're not talking about it because they're setting up giant stone wheels to produce their own heritage flours. Who knows? What seems likeliest is that people don't really think regular old King Arthur is all that unethical or likely to make them suffer from a disease they don't actually have, and they may even suspect that fairly few of the benefits of a peasant agrarian lifestyle can actually be bought by the pound on Western Avenue.
Look, obviously there's nothing wrong with fancy flour! Better ingredients make for better pastries, and while I'm poking a little fun at Baker Miller, I'll also be dropping by some time to get, say, a Plowman's Lunch, and not just because I want to see if any actual plowmen eat there (and, if so, what they make of pickled kale). I'll drop by because the people there pretty obviously care about the food they're making, and that makes for good food, which is hard to find, if not so hard as pastries and coffees and chocolates and other artisanally-crafted foods that actually make you a better, more virtuous person, and cure the various ills of modernity.
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