I dream of Ginkgo…

Imagine walking into a space where you are filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread, the sound of silence (or maybe some great, chill tune), smiling and kind people welcoming you, and the opportunity to feel your best in both body and spirit.

That is my dream for you at Ginkgo.

I dreamt Ginkgo up about a year ago and am slowly watching her come to fruition. I wanted a place where I could do the three things I love the most: bake bread, practice eastern medicine, and welcome community. For many years, Bread Culture was separate from my Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine practice. I would do farmer’s markets and then see patients separately throughout the week. When I got pregnant with Theo and during his first few months earth-bound, I quickly realized that I could not sustain my health, Theo’s health, nor the sanity of my family if I kept baking 50 loaves of bread in our home oven every Saturday morning and then went and sold it at the market. I would also teach off-site once or twice a month as well. In its time, it was wonderful, but I knew I had to make a change. Our bodies give us little clues, you know?

So I started asking the universe “how can I combine these two businesses that I love and spend more time with my boys at home?” And that’s when Ginkgo was born. Or I should say, the seed was planted. I want to create a space for the community to gather and break bread and other nutritious treats, but also bring Theo along and have a space for him and his toddling friends to feel comfortable.

I don’t know when we will open. My friend Andrea is on board with me. She is an Acupuncturist/Baker too. An incredibly good one. She infuses herbs into her whole grain baked goods and pastries, and does not use any refined sugars. She is an artist in the kitchen and a healing one at that. I am so happy she wants to be a part of it all.

Food is Medicine. Hippocrates was first to say this, or inspirit this belief. I try to live this way too. For so many years I struggled, not knowing why I wasn’t feeling right. Was it the gluten? Was it just that a bad digestion ran in my family? Was it stress? Or celiac or another auto-immune disease?

The list went on…

Once I began to understand that I could use food as a source for healing, everything just started opening up. I started adding different herbs to my home-cooked meals. I stopped eating any food that’s ingredient list had one-word or more that I did not understand on it. I started baking bread and experimenting with other fermented foods. I started eating a ‘plant-rich’ diet, and the little meat I did eat lived a healthy life. When I started feeling better, I wanted to start helping other people feel better too. That’s when Bread Culture started.

Ginkgo will take it a few steps further, by providing an integrative approach to food and its powerful capabilities to heal through nutritional programs, Acupuncture, herbs, and classes.

I look forward to breaking bread with you there.

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A Little Bit of Press!

Hi Friends, I am happy to report that Amy Halloran included my name in her most recent article in the LA Times titled “Love Good Bread? Check Out Recommended Baking Books and Bread-Making Classes from LA Bakers.” Amy is an amazing writer and whole grain activist. We connected years ago when she was writing her last book, “The New Bread Basket: How the New Crop of Grain Growers, Plant Breeders, Millers, Maltsters, Bakers, Brewers, and Local Food Activists Are Redefining Our Daily Loaf.” We ended up interviewing eachother by phone, and it was an instant connection. She included my story in one of the chapters of her book. She talked about my Acupuncture practice, and how I found solace in the fermented, whole grain bread that I baked, since it was ultimately what helped heal my digestive issues, and ultimately many other people’s from there on.

I am so grateful to Amy for continuing to boast my efforts by including me in such an incredible lineup of Bread Sages (really, LA is full of Bread Wisdom!). I have been teaching people how to bake bread now for nearly 3 years now, and I feel like I learn more about a deeper message in the grain every time I teach it. I am purely self-taught, having baked thousands of loaves in my home oven, and out of *pure* unadulterated obsession(!), I find it necessary to help my friends and neighbors do the same! It is our right to feed our families and friends wholesome, good, nutritious food.

Really, it is our birthright.

If you would like to read the article, please click here. If you want to find out more about Amy Halloran or purchase her wonderful book, click here. 

Thank You for your support, Everyone! Happy Baking!

Big Love,

Mary

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What I think about when I think about BREAD…Happy New Year and other things.

Hi Friends, that first part of the title is a Haruki Murakami reference. Have you guys read his book: “What I Talk About when I Talk About Running”? Ahh, so good. Go to your local library and take it out. I promise, you won’t regret it.

Ok, bread. This is me free-stylin’ a little bit. I haven’t written in far too long. So hear me out. Thanks for your patience.

Each week I seem to go back and forth between three worlds. On one hand, there is a world of “yes, I can.” This world tends to be purely optimistic and encouraging, but often ehhh, pretty short-lived. I may say something like “wow, I actually baked this myself. Holy crap. That’s amazing.” Ultimately I may not remember how I actually achieved that bake, but nevertheless.

And then the next bake/next world I fail in some way, usually with over or underproofing, where I curse and am annoyed, and full of blah. After hemming and hawing for a few, I am back to square one again. Luckily enough for me, I am normally a fairly optimistic person, so my time in this world is pretty brief.

Thirdly, there is this really cool zen-like world when I get so into the zone that I forget about judging myself or the situation and I just breathe the dough.

Beeeeeeeeee the doughhhh.

No seriously, though. That is the best feeling in the world. I think this is why I keep baking. Even when I have to pause and take a break for a few months, it still lures me back. And then I feel that dough on my hands and it’s like hugging an old friend.

There you are…Some weeks I feel like crap, others like I don’t have a clue, and then sometimes I actually realize how much fun it is and how much joy it brings me, and I get to sit in that space for a little while. Do you know what I mean? No matter what world I am in, I have made 1,000 plus loaves of bread in my home oven! That’s wild!

But — perhaps, most importantly, when all is said and done…the reality is, it is not about me. If there is anything that 2017 has taught me, it is this:

It is about us. Moving forward. It is about us. It’s about teaching one another, building eachother up, breaking bread with one another. Really looking at one another. Putting our phones down. Having a conversation in present time. Loving one another. And this bread that I make? In the end it is really about being of service to the community.

In the quiet moments, in that rare in-between Zen place, I come to realize: is that not why we are all here? Not to get all existential on ya’ll, but really. Is it not?

Happy New Year, friends. What are you planning on baking more of this year? I for one am going to focus on this “service” aspect of Bread Culture. I hope to combine my holistic practice of Eastern Medicine and herbal medicine with my love for teaching bread workshops. So stay tuned. I cannot promise more writing, especially with a 16 month old (LOVE) and a busy practice. Although I will try.

What about you? Please tell me. I love to hear what you are up to! Big love to you, my bread family!!

xox,

Mary

ps. this image was a free image I found online. It is not my bread. It is not my hands. I think that’s why I like it so much. It speaks volumes to me about sharing circular loaves of nourishment with eachother, with strangers.

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Babies Come With a Loaf of Bread

That’s what Greg said. A dear friend of my husband Kevin’s. Thank God for him. It was a challenge getting my hubby to agree to starting a family. I was just finishing grad school, we were newly married, artists, independent contractors. He is always the more practical one: fiscally responsible. A beautiful and respectable trait. His yang to my yin. My spirit is more carefree, perhaps whimsically irresponsible. I definitely just made that up. Being the responsible one he was concerned for us. He wanted to have babies but how would we do it?

But Greg’s phrase always meant a lot to us. Especially me being a bread baker, of course. So when it came time to try, we tucked that phrase in our proverbial positivity pockets and started trying.

I got pregnant right away. Trust me, I didn’t think that would happen. After years of Chinese Medical school where “advanced maternal age” was thrown around daily and a year into a practice where I focused on helping couples who could not get pregnant with Acupuncture and herbs, I figured it would take some time. But low and behold, my little boule baby was ready and waiting to be born.

So you all probably wondered what happened to me. Why did I stop baking? Why write one blog post announcing your pregnancy and then drop off the face of the earth? Let’s just say I didn’t have the easiest pregnancy. I was sick throughout most of it, so sick in fact that I had to stop baking for a while. That was by far the hardest part. But I knew at some point I would get back to it. After all, it is part of my mission in life. Spreading the word that Bread can actually be healthy for us, that gluten is not an enemy, and that baking bread one loaf at a time may just be the answer to many issues in our country. Even an answer to world peace, from my perspective. It forces us to slow down, to reflect, to share. Baking with whole grains brings us closer to recognizing the process by which bread is made, from Farmer to Miller to Baker to Consumer. I capitalize them all to emphasize their importance in my life. It is a magical process that I hope to continue teaching people about.

And more about my baby boule. Theodore James Parr. Theo for short, “God’s gift.” He was born at 37 weeks. I had to be induced because of complications, so you can imagine how stressed Kevin and I were. How can I love someone so much already? Theo was 8 lbs. 15 oz. at birth. Lord knows if I had gone to term I may have been looking at a 10 pounder or more. I laugh just thinking about that now.

I have spent most of my adult life wanting to be a mother. But in my wildest dreams, nothing could have prepared me for this. For this love. It is as if time has stopped and each moment is so filled with every joy-filled yet worry-inducing emotion that breathing often becomes secondary. That sounds so dramatic, re-reading it, but it really isn’t far from the truth. What else becomes secondary? Bathing, brushing ones teeth, cleaning house, the lot. Some days this love is buried under layers of spit up and crusted hair. But trust me, it is there like nothing I have ever experienced. A buried treasure that brings tears to my eyes on a daily basis.

I am mixing my first loaves in months as I type this. Teaching my boy Theo how to measure the water, the importance of grams vs cups, the smell of whole grain flour and why it is imperative to use it. Sure, he is asleep in his Ergo carrier on my chest, but it is getting in there, no doubt. Settling deep into his subconscious, where it will make the most impact.

It feels so good to be back. And with even greater purpose — With the love of a mother for her son. To share this newfound archetype with the greater community. To start teaching again. Wow. I forgot how good my hands feel; mixing the flour with water, then starter, and salt. So much to be Thankful for. Especially now with Thanksgiving around the corner and a difficult/jarring election bringing out all kinds of emotion in people. Look towards the light. Do what you love. Bring people together that way. Find your center that way. It will always lead to love. And boules of prosperity.

Say YES to Gluten!

Hello Friends and Fellow Bakers! I have been lucky enough to teach several bread classes this month, for both little kids and big kids alike. And one comment that a student said keeps playing over and over in my head. She is 14 years old, super bright, and very astute. She totally took me by surprise when she asked me: “Well, Mary, if there are all of these books out there that talk about why gluten is so terrible for us, and why we should avoid it, where is your book countering the argument?”

Huh? Sigh… Blurp…

girl-confused

She nailed it. For over a year now I have been talking and teaching and talking some more about why I think that fermented breads are actually healthy for you. Why after years of swearing I would never touch gluten again, I am praising it now, eating it everyday, and all the more healthy because of it. And let me just add: I am not eating commercial breads. I still get a belly ache when I do so. I am eating breads that have been fermented for nearly 24 hours, that are made with freshly milled, organic grain. So basically my 14 year old student brings up a good point. 

Why should one eat gluten or grains when it feels like every doctor, lawyer, neighbor, friend of a friend, mentor, and stranger says to avoid it? 

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Well, huh. That is a very good question. I wanted to know the answer to this myself. So what did I do? Well, let’s just say I used myself as a guinea pig. I started mixing dough, taking little bites of bread, waited, scared for the stomach pain to start…but with my bread — it never did. I took one or two classes, stayed up all hours of the night watching “how-to” videos on youtube, and asked tons of questions. I also started writing this blog to help me uncover some answers. I have spent over 18 months getting to the bottom of the gluten conundrum. And the challenge keeps me on my toes, to say the least. 

There felt like so many sides to the story. The Paleo-folk steer clear of any and all grains; professors of mine in grad school claimed that eating bread (and grains) would amplify any inflammation in arthritic patients. Others claim that Alzheimer’s Disease can be link to overconsumption of wheat products.  And the list didn’t stop there. Millions of Americans were going “gluten-free,” because of “gluten-fear.”

I was curious about all the books swirling around on the subject. It seemed like every person I met or patient I saw in the clinic was reading them. Here’s a few quotes:

Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution: “This new modern wheat may look like wheat, but it is different in three important ways that all drive obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia and more. It contains a super starch, amylopectin A, that is super fattening, a form of super gluten that is super inflammatory, and [acts like] a super drug that is super addictive and makes you crave and eat more”.

Neurologist Dr. David Permutter, author of Grain Brain: “The problem with gluten is far more serious than anyone ever imagined. Modern…structurally modified, hybridized grains contain gluten that’s less tolerable than the gluten that was found in grains cultivated just a few decades ago”.

Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly: “This thing being sold to us called wheat is this stocky little high-yield plant, a distant relative of the wheat our mothers used to bake muffins, biochemically light-years removed from the wheat of just 40 years ago.”

But what kept popping back up for me, and as you can obviously read, was the fact that none of these writers were saying that the wheat that was eaten thousands of years ago, nor even decades ago before the industrial revolution was actually bad for you. Quite the opposite. They all reiterated the notion that modern wheat was the culprit for so many disorders and disease.

Agriculture_(Plowing)

So many people took this information and just stopped eating wheat or gluten entirely. They turned a cheek towards any and all grains. But what about the good ones? I know I did the same as so many other folks did. I turned the other cheek from bread for years. I ate rice, because it was gluten free. I ate gluten free bread, because it meant I could still have “toast” in the morning. But the reality is that gluten free breads really have no nutritional content. Ziltch. They are made with rice meal, which is basically the scraps from the rice grain. And I wondered why I had no energy. Why my hair was falling out. Why all my clothes were falling off. 

Because the food I was eating was lacking the proper amount of vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates that my body needed to be healthy.

Please don’t get me wrong. Some people prefer not to eat grains or wheat, and I respect that. Two percent of the American population has Celiac Disease, and as a physician, I realize the severity of the auto-immune disease. But if the general public is following a gluten-free diet for the sake of believing that grains on the whole are “bad for you,” well then I have news for you.

Cue Dancing Wheat Berry! This is soooo not true! And I know this because of how much better I feel after eating them this past year. How much stronger my digestion is. How much more energy I have, stamina, heck, even my memory is stronger. And many of my patients who swore off grains buy my bread every week, and have no problems digesting it. They do not get abdominal pain from it. Nor does their skin break out in a rash, or do they get a headache. Why several of my patients with hypothyroidism feel distinctively better when eating my bread each week. Many of them claim that they can actually see a difference in the way they feel if they skip a week off of my bread for one reason or another. 

So — if there is all of these reputable writers and doctors claiming that gluten and wheat are problematic, why aren’t more people recognizing that it has to do more succinctly with the PROCESS by which the wheat is made into bread. And the TYPE of grain that is being used to make commercial breads. Why why why?!?

Many of you are probably wondering why my bread is so different? What makes my bread a supposed “healthy” and “healing” one, whilst other breads that claim to be whole grain do not have the same effect?

It’s all in the process. Real bread takes time. The breads we see on commercial shelves were made with modern wheat that is unrecognizable to our digestive tracts. So when we ingest this fake bread, our bodies do not recognize it, thus igniting an immune response. That is when many of us get sick or feel horrible because of it. Contrary to what most people think, modern wheat is not genetically modified (yet), but it is heavily sprayed with glyphosate (and other herbicides) as a drying agent, and the cows that graze on many of these farms are fed with genetically modified corn and soybeans; therefore we are ultimately ingesting a small portion of gmo’s when we eat this wheat as well. Herbicides also inhibit our endocrine systems, thus preventing normal hormone distribution in the body. By using organic grains, we can keep our bodies healthier. Fermented grains also have a lower glycemic index, reducing the normal blood sugar spikes that commercial breads deliver.

More and more research on all of this information is occurring today. I hope to stage some of my own research studies in the near future.

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Bread is the staff of life. Is this really okay to be feeding our families, our children, that which we call “bread” in this country? No, it certainly is not. This is why I am on a mission. A bread mission. One that is filled with love and not animosity. One that is filled with vital information, but it is also filled with my own personal healing and triumph. Nothing makes me happier than to teach someone about the importance of breaking healthy bread with one another. People deserve to know where their food is coming from, and what methods it underwent to get to the table where it is being served.

Many people call gluten-free a fad diet. But I ask you to thoroughly evaluate the nutritional breakdown of that diet and see if you and your family may be missing any valuable nutrients. 1. Whole wheat, spelt, rye, teff, einkorn….All of these grains are incredibly nutrient dense, and offer many b vitamins, insoluble fiber, iron, and calcium. Each and every grain here, if left in its intact form has enough energy in it to feed all of us, if given the proper time it needs to be freshly mixed, fermented, and proved. The nutrition is inherent in the grains themselves; not because they have been fortified with synthetic vitamins. 2. It also needs to be made with wild yeast, not commercial yeast. The reason being that wild yeast in its natural form is full of lactobacillus, and many other pro-biotic bacteria. As human beings, we are made up of billions of bacteria, and we need to replenish our digestive tract every day with healthy bacteria. This is what makes a happy and healthy digestion! Trust me, I know this from experience. As a child, I took at least 15 antibiotics before the age of 16, and one of them being tetracycline for acne for one whole year. No wonder my intestinal tract was not thrilled years later. Antibiotics, although very helpful and necessary in many situations can do a number on your gut flora. 

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The bread I make and digest every week has healed me. No joke. I feel like I could put on a gown and preach it or go and sing it from the mountains! If I skip a week, I can feel it. I’m not saying that I’m 100% better. I still cannot and knowingly will not eat commercial breads. If I do, I don’t feel well. But I certainly do not have the bloating, pain, and diarrhea (sorry, TMI) that I used to. Thanks to the freshly milled, whole grain, organic, wild-yeasted bread that I make, I can enjoy life more fully than I used to.

Should not you and your family have the same chance at wellness?  Shouldn’t you be able to sit across the dining room table from one another, and break bread that is healing and sustaining, rich with nutrition?

  wheat stalks

Aunt Mary: FACE YOUR FEAR!

When my niece Lily was about 5 years old, she had a favorite phrase: “Face Your Fear.” No one knew where it came from, but she would repeat it over and over again, as 5 year-olds do, and we would all just burst into laughter, hugging her and smiling. At the time no one really stopped to realize just how incredibly wise she was.

I’ve been thinking about Lily and her phrase lately. She is 17, and applying for college, both an exciting and often fear-provoking task. And I am in the midst of starting two businesses at the same time: 1. my Eastern Medicine and Acupuncture Practice, and 2. Bread Culture as an LLC and full operating bread-teaching service. We both are at the forefront of change.

I am coming clean and being totally honest with you folks — I have a lot of fear surrounding both. All the what-if’s seem to be upfront and center, blocking my view of potential greatness sometimes. Dozens of
questions come up each day, how will I… But then I remember Lily at such an innocent and adorable age, reminding us grown-ups to go for our dreams, to trust the process, and to be vulnerable and courageous in the face of fear. Talk about wisdom!

My missions are strong. They are both rooted in helping others, so I know in my heart that they will inevitably succeed, but putting all fears aside is challenging. I’ve been listening to/reading all kinds of business media stuff lately: bread-talks, entrepreneur podcasts, business documentaries, and they all seem to have one common theme: their greater mission far surpassed all obstacles and “failures” along the way. And sure, they failed. We all do. It just makes us one step closer to realizing success. They were determined like it was nobody’s business. They didn’t take no for an answer, and they surrounded themselves with people who supported them and believed in them.

I think I can…I think I can…I think I can…

My dreams for Bread Culture are huge. I am fully determined to help all of us who want better food in this country, to take matters into our own hands (literally), and start baking! I have visions of a massive bread class in Times Square. It is filled with thousands of cambro containers, dough wands, and bread scrapers. People are elbow deep in dough, and they are smiling and sharing words with their neighbors. They are mixing whole grains in that container. Whole-organic-grains that have just been milled very recently into flour. They are sharing life stories with their neighbor, and that night they will go to their homes, place the dough in their own refrigerator, and wake up the next morning to bake it — themselves. In their own oven. Then they will break it with someone they love.

We deserve the right to know where our food comes from. What the farm was sprayed with or not sprayed with. How many thousands of hours of work the farmer put in that soil, come rain or shine. How those bubbles were created in the wild yeast we used to help the dough get its proper rise. How many hours bread needs to develop. I mean, heck, we all need time to rise, no? Poke a hole in me and I’m not ready at 6am!

So I invite you all to do the same. What is it that drives you? That one thing that keeps popping back into your head when you least expect it, hounding you (in a good way). I challenge you to go out and do it. To face your fear. After all, as Nelson Mandela put it so eloquently:

“There is no passion to be found playing small — in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

I think Mr. Mandela and Lily would have been friends.

lily bread pic