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.

Ginkgo Pic 1

Advertisements

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

LA TIMES IMAGE

What if…?? A Kind Compliment and Something to Think About.

A wonderful patient of mine came in today and asked me a question. “What if I told you that you could eat bread everyday of your life and not gain weight or get sick?”

I just looked at her and smiled. She then added, “You can! That is your Bread, Mary! I do it every day!” First of all, it was a humbling exchange. I thanked her and definitely blushed.

 

 

 

But then I realized it was a lot more. It was a reason to get on this site and write more about why she and me and many others feel this way about fermented, sourdough bread. I mean, I’ve been eating it for years and therefore know this, but for those of us who are gluten free and haven’t touched it, that idea feels some sort of dream.

The reality is that you can eat bread again.

You can eat bread that was made with grain that was grown organically, harvested consciously, milled fresh with its entirety intact (whole grain!).

You can eat bread that was then made with loving hands, that was naturally leavenened, and given the proper time it needed to ferment.

You can eat it and feel satiated, and not feel bloated, nor foggy brained, nor have rashes, nor migraines, nor have crazy stomach pain (like I used to have).

I have written a lot about gluten in the past. And sure, that’s a big part of it ~ reducing gluten protein during the bulk fermentation is a big part of what I stand for. It makes the bread more easily digested.

But what about the bulk being the time when the phytic acid that’s naturally present in all grains transforms into lactic acid during the fermentation process, through the assistance of the lactobaccilus and other healthy bacteria in the starter? Thereby making the natural vitamins and minerals present in the whole grains shine forth, presenting an easier way for the body to digest and assimilate these vitamins and minerals, and in addition reducing the amount of gluten in the bread?

This, in turn, Giving the body vital energy via complex carbohydrates that through fermentation yield a lower glycemic index, bioavailable soluble and insoluble fiber (a welcoming digestive aid), keeping the body full and energized for hours.

MIND-BLOWN? I know, me too.

Let me add that I am not a scientist. I cannot prove the theory on this with a three-tiered study. But I can admit that I have used myself as a case study for many years and the proof is in the sourdough. Many people who have taken my Bread class or another similar one and have “gluten intolerance” or a “wheat allergy” report that they are able to digest sourdough without an inflammatory response. I should add that those with celiac or a severe allergy is another story, and I understand that.

That aside, show some respect for the grain and where it comes from — take a 3 hour class on how to learn an easy sourdough method that you can do in the comfort of your own home, and be present with each bite. It will fill you up, it will satiate you, and no it will not make you sick.

You too can eat this bread everyday! Just like my wonderful patient said! Have you found your favorite fermented spot yet? Have you found your class? I’m proud to say that I’ve been included in a recent LA Times article written by a friend of mine, Amy Halloran. And then subsequently, a few days later The NY Times wrote a great article highlighting more LA Restaurants and Bakers who are putting the “G” back in “GLUTEN,” if you know what I mean! Please check out the articles here and here. And please join me for a Bread class. I don’t think anything brings me more joy than to teach people how to bake a loaf of bread. Ahh, it’s just the best. Being of service and getting to talk ad nauseum about my favorite thing in the world!

If you get, give. If you learn, teach.”

We can always rely on Maya Angelou for jems like that one. So true, right?

Big Love!!

Mary

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.

pexels-photo-745988.jpeg

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.

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

BREAD Talk: Michael O’Malley and MOMO

almost done

I asked a great baker turned teacher of mine if I might interview him for my blog. I am simply fascinated with the work he is doing.  I took a few classes with him in the last few months and he taught me a ton about the bread-baking basics; which were desperately needed. He is an artist, a sculptor, a baker, and a pretty wonderful teacher.  I learned more from him in a two hour class than I have reading three books on sourdough bread.

I have high hopes to start conversations with people like him who are trying to change the world through baking bread, even though they themselves may not be aware of just how great their impact is and will be for people in the future.  Humility goes a long way in my book.

His name is Michael O’Malley and to those of you in the baking community out here in Southern California, you may have already heard of him.  He built a mobile bread oven, which he calls “MOMO,” short for Michael O’Malley’s Mobile Oven. To me it incorporates everything I want to pursue in baking bread: combining community with functionality, making fresh 4-ingredient bread accessible to every person, regardless of who they are or where they come from.  His oven reminds me of something theatrical; like stage plays on wagons during the medieval times, traveling town to town just to make people smile. I can remember learning about it in my college dramaturgy classes.  Back then, everyone in the town would gather to witness some comedy or tragedy brought forth for them. People looked forward to them as a way to be a bigger part of their community, to meet new people, to share an experience.  MOMO has a similar function.  But it certainly has a few more advantages: it’s hip, modern, sustainable, and it can feed a big hungry crowd with freshly baked bread.  Can’t get much better than that, folks!

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

How did it all begin?  This bread baking hobby/passion/obsession of your’s?  And how did it stick?

My bread making began many years ago when I was living in Wiscasset, Maine. I was there living and making art at Watershed center for Ceramic Art. A cute little store in Wiscasset called Treats began carrying this bread from Waldoboro called Bodacious bread – later Borealis. It was an amazing bread and my favorite was a cardamom raisin, naturally leavened. I vowed to learn how to bake like this one day. And though many opportunities came along, I deferred taking the plunge…some things you just know are endless rabbit holes. Ten years later and on the other coast, in Pasadena, I got fed up with the horrible bread I was finding. This frustration combined with a trip to Barcelona to do research on Antoni Gaudi…A place on the ground level advertised wood fired pizza. I am sure I was famished but the pizza was gorgeous…it was about bread and a few fresh ingredients…That was it…I was all in.

So when I came back to Pasadena, I began building an oven in my back yard. Then I read as many books as I could and began by making a sour dough culture. I baked twice a day that first month and talked non stop about bread. Like watching someone in love, my friends were equally amused and annoyed by my affection for bread.

As an artist, I am always pursuing something I want to see. First an idea, then a drawing culminating in an object and of course the thing fails or pushes back at what you want … so you go again. Baking is the same way. And every once in a while you hit that sweet spot…but then you eat it so you are back to, once again. I love the process that baking is: a constant choreography of materials and time and temperature, and that this is a practice – then “judged” by the senses… the baked loaf for me is more akin to the residue of a process /performance – That ‘residue’ of course activates all your senses as this beautiful thing you share with your friends

What do you find is the most important ingredient or crucial step that a great bread baker should never miss (or go without)?

I don’t consider myself a great baker but a committed one with a fair amount of experience….With that caveat…I am not so sure one step or particular ingredient makes a great baker… Baking is a practice. While the results of which can be these truly liminal, life affirming moments … …there really is not an end point just more and more little rabbit holes of curiosity to run down…and while there are many moments along the way the very ephemerality of bread makes it more like live music…mastery may be real but its also fleeting…tomorrow new variables and the dough will also put out new questions or challenges.. Practice of being aware and conscious is really important, being open to all of the little “tells” that come through from the senses…noting them…and understanding how one thing pushes on another – how one variable makes a different game…

Any tips for a new bread baker?

Bake. Bake. Bake. And find out what you like. It’s the only way to learn. Baking is an embodied knowledge/practice. (This is why bakers are free with information and recipes…at best the recipe gets you half way there. Only by baking and getting all of that sensory experience lined up with a deep analytical/conceptual understanding of what is going on in the dough, the starter, the flour, the salt will you become a good baker.

What inspires you as far as baking is concerned?  Or, in general, if you are so inclined…

Baking serves as a kind of literal metaphor for me… It’s the thing and not the thing…As a practice it always reveals the person and what they value: process, money, the loaf, community etc… As a narrative baking speaks to how we relate to the earth, resources, stewardship and each other. As an object it can be an incisive, sensory experience that critiques and proposes in the same gesture. Baking declares in this sensory and poetic way, “This is the kind of world I want to live in.” All of my work as an artist deals with that question, “Why does the built environment (and all its objects) look like that?” Can we make a built environment that speaks to our poetic, relational, 7th generation selves that want to see narratives of beauty and generosity and empathy and connection? If design had empathy at its core rather than make it fast, cheap and disposable, the world would look really different.

Is the nutritional component of baking with whole grains important to you at this stage in your baking?

Becoming more so. I think that the visual aesthetics of what a loaf looked like directed many of my earlier choices. When you start eating bread from grain that comes from a place and a context suddenly the visual aesthetics become one factor… And for many the available flour has had a limited range of qualities. When you start using grain that is whole grain –it is just a different thing.
A few years ago I realized that I did not know much about flour so I did what I seem to always do – I do something that pushes me to learn.. in this case I purchased a 1963 Allis Chalmers All Crop Harvester – aka AC-72.. This multi-grain/seed combine needed just a bit of work and after of few weeks of climbing over it; I also understood how it worked. A friend and organic vegetable farmer, Richard Giles of Lucky Dog Farm, who had said he wanted to get into grain knew I was serious when he saw the purchase of the combine. So we planted 10 acres in October of 2011 and the next summer had an amazing harvest.

So now I have grain and realize that I need to learn how to mill and use whole grain.

Who are your go-to bakers that have inspired you throughout the years?

Jeffery Hammelman early on for the conceptual framework and later Chad Robertson for the aesthetic impulse and dough development. I finally took a couple of workshops this past year after almost 10 years of baking with Craig Ponsford and Dave Miller. They both are amazing bakers and I learned a lot from them.

Tell me about MOMO and why you decided to build it?  What do you hope to accomplish with it?  Was it a personal goal or were you thinking more about the community at large? Is the social conscious component of “breaking bread” something that you wish to be a part of? 

I see MOMO as a sculptural, relational, gesture that combines the nomadic, “missionary” zeal of a Johnny Appleseed with the once civic relevance of public, community ovens. It shifts between being a theatrical performance centered around baking bread and promoting new narratives of living, to a mobile kitchen/classroom, to a local community oven. Along the way the piece engages multiple audiences from art communities, bakers, to the under-served.

My intellectual interest in the terms and forces by which the built environment gets decided upon and built do not have a kind of pop culture cache or an immediate accessibility. Bread does. And it took many years to figure out how to frame this as part of my practice. One day I realized that the baking was doing what I wanted my practice as an artist to do. Be a beautiful object, that embodies this really specific poetic stance to the design directives and be something that while being shared could serve as a stage to talk about the world. Basically, I have come to view bread as a cipher of my artistic practice. It engages the real world. It has history and tradition. It disappears. It connects to both the personal and the local. It’s made by hand, has a low environmental impact and is always unique. It connects me to my community and always remains a practice.

I am of the feeling that we cannot escape being political or historical or social participants… we implicitly or explicitly endorse the way the things are. I like that MOMO has an ability to reach out to many different communities /audiences. It’s a thing that gathers meaning and narrative from the context that it engages – rather than coming as a self-contained plop on the audience. Bakers, artists, kids that do not know where food comes from or are not aware that this is their world…

Where do you see MOMO in 5 years? 10 years?

MOMO will morph. It is a piece and so will have a life. I will move on from this iteration…and likely it will become a fixed oven somewhere…MOMO has already inspired the next iteration which will be to build community ovens around the country so that people from really different contexts have experience and conversation with each other. Objects that bring people together and offer experience rather than confer status.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

There you have it, folks.  Incredibly interesting stuff, right? Take a look at his website for more info.  Who knows, maybe MOMO will be coming to your town sometime in the near future!

http://momalley.org/

Image

 

Image