This Saturday (the 3rd), and next, and the following (the 10th & the 17th) is the 9th Annual Holiday Bazaar, taking place in the parking lot behind the Asheville Chamber of Commerce. Amongst the many vendors of local crafts and food, Farm & Sparrow Breads can be found, and alongside Farm & Sparrow's rustic breads and pastries, sharing their tent, will be Treska Lindsey selling her wonderful children's books. I mention this for a couple reasons. The first-- the most obvious-- is that Treska is donating a portion of the proceeds to our mill project. And the second-- also pretty obvious once you see the books-- is that these books are a wonderful find and a great gift. Also, there is a rich story that connects these books to our mill project...
The story began with a loaf of bread brought back to the States from Belgium. This was during the 1970's health food craze in this country that deemed yeasted brown bread as the healthy choice-- bread that both looked and tasted like cardboard. But a slice from this bread brought back from Belgium was handed to a Dr Hy Lerner.
Lerner was a medical doctor impressed by evidence that pointed to the overwhelming importance of proper nutrition in relation to mental and physical health. I imagine that within the jungle of brown bread touted as healthy, tasting this bread from Belgium must have been a revelatory moment. At the time Lerner was working as a researcher at Harvard, but he began spending all of his spare time trying to recreate that loaf without success. Finally he and his friend, Paul Petrofsky pooled their savings and headed to Belgium. The bread had come from Lima Bakery, and that is where these two landed. They secured an apprenticeship with Omer Gevaert of Lima Bakery. They learned all they could about desem, this traditional Flemish natually-leavened bread, and eventually returned to the states to open Baldwin Hill Bakery in Phillipston, Massachusetts. In 1979, the Saturday Evening Post published an article about Baldwin Hill written by Charlotte Turgeon, a colleague and friend of Julia Childs,
Hy Lerner and Paul Petrofsky, white-collar professionals turned bakers, who produce perhaps the best tasting bread this side of the Atlantic—or the other—a bread that preserves all the natural vitamins, minerals, and usable protein that nature put into wheat germ, sea salt, and pure water
Cookbook author, Laurel Robertson (Laurel's Kitchen) read that article and made a pilgrimage to Baldwin Hill to learn about this bread. And she later devoted an entire chapter in her Laurel's Bread Book to desem. Laurel happened to have been dear friends with the late oven builder and designer, Alan Scott. And it was Laurel's interest in this bread that got Alan to build his first oven, as this traditional bread which predates commercial baking yeast and conventional ovens-- this bread made with simply freshly milled flour, water, and sea salt-- deserved the ancient technology of the wood-fired brick oven. Alan began baking this bread as well, in the wood-fired brick oven he built in his own backyard. He also began selling bread, door-to-door.
Fast forward to the early 1990s. I read Laurel's chapter on desem and tried to recreate this bread without success. And so I secured an apprenticeship with Alan Scott. I eventually launched Natural Bridge Bakery and then, after over a decade of baking, at the point when I was ready to begin the transition out of baking, I reached out to Alan to see if he could find a young baker that may want to share my bakery space in order to launch his or her own bakery. Alan found Dave Bauer, who would become Farm and Sparrow Breads.
Now if you dig back to my original posts, you will read the story of how we acquired our mill. It was Alan's mill, and he passed away before he was able to launch his milling operation in Tasmania, Australia. But how does Treska come into this story? Well, her brother was Omer Gavaert. Treska now lives in Flat Rock, raising her extensive garden and goats and fruit trees, and writing these wonderful children's books. My favorite, of course, is How Batistine Made Bread. But come see for yourself...
From the ground up,
ps the images embedded in this post are a little preview of Treska's work.
pss The Bazaar is from 11am to 3pm, Dec 3, 10th, and 17th, in the parking lot behind the Asheville Chamber of Commerce.