When our very good friends, Jim and Diane (they have allowed me to use their first names) arrived at our home for Easter dinner, they presented us with a four litre ice cream bucket of flour freshly ground from their own wheat. I, like the kid I sometimes am, clapped my hands and received the bucket with glee. If that seems strange, then perhaps I am alone in my excitement over locally grown food, but really, it is the best. So fresh, so delicious and I know exactly where and how it was grown, which makes me happy to the core.
I realize that the prairie provinces - 'The Bread Basket' - Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, not British Columbia, are the traditional farming territory for wheat and other grains in Canada, but our friend Jim is one of a handful of farmers proving that grains can be successfully grown in the mountainous regions of our fair country, or rather, in the valleys of the mountainous regions, and he is doing it organically as well. He grows winter wheat, spring wheat, oats and, I believe, triticale, which is a hybrid of wheat and rye. Jim also raises Angus beef cattle and chickens and Diane is a superior veggie gardener (as well as my daughter's grade three teacher). They live on a beautiful farm, which was bought by Jim's parents in the early 1970's and we love to go and visit as often as we can.
Last year, the Food Network put out a six episode television series called 'The Hundred Mile Diet'. The series was based on a book by the same title that has been making waves all over the world with its somewhat radical concept of challenging people to rethink the sources of their food, and the global impact therein. In the series a variety of families took on a hundred day challenge to eat only what they could access within a hundred miles of their homes in Mission, BC. Each episode featured various local farmers such as beekeepers, hazelnut growers, a vineyard, a garden on Vancouver Island where the gardener has managed to grow citrus fruits, a field-to-table cheesemaker, etc. Jim and Diane and their two children were featured in one of the later episodes as a source of locally grown wheat, which the 'contestants' on the show were finding it very hard to live without. Jim and Diane don't have cable television so asked us to tape the episodes for them to watch, and we were glad to oblige. It certainly was interesting to follow the families as they learned to live without coffee, cane sugar, baking powder, salt (which one family actually took a day to aquire after cooking off the salt sea water), oils, and refined wheat flour, not to mention the beer and hard liquor. Some of the participants did well, especially the creative gourmet cook, and some, like the well-fed, well-sauced politician and his wife barely made it, even with some cheating along the way. Boooo!
Watching the show with my husband and kids was a fun exercise. Each week's episode led to lively discussions among us and they all thought, if challenged, we might possibly survive on The Hundred Mile Diet. After all, with access to Jim and Diane's grains, beef, and eggs, local berries, apples, pears, and veggies, dairy products, honey, as well as our own herbs and tomatoes, we do quite well already - this is farm country after all. There is a part of me, however, that feels a connection to other parts of the globe through my Sri Lankan tea (Fair Trade), my South American coffee (organic and Fair Trade), my Carribean sugar (organic but I'm not sure how it's traded), and my Irish Guinness, and I'm not sure I'd like to give that up completely, but it's a relatively small part. Of course, I also use salt, cane sugar, baking powder, canned pineapple, tuna, etc; I don't think the concept of the Hundred Mile Diet is to go without the foods that make us happy and fill in the gaps in our diets, but more to enlighten and encourage us to consider the social ethics and environmental impact of the global food economy, and to support our home-grown food sources.
Jim called me and left a message the other day: he was out on the fields, on his tractor planting, and had taken a break to eat his picnic lunch, which included the last slices from a loaf of bread I had made in my bread machine and given him and Diane (I had been raving about the wonderful bread I had been making in my bread machine with their wheat flour, and had given them a loaf to try). He said he thought it was great that here he was, planting his hard red spring wheat and enjoying my bread made from last year's good crop with some cheese and an apple, and he said "You should put that recipe on your blog". So I will.
Bread Machine 'Fraser Valley Hundred-ish Mile Diet' Whole Grain Wheat Bread. Makes 1 loaf
Put into your bread machine in the following order:
11 ounces of water
2 Tablespoons milk powder
2 teaspoons salt (from your nearest salt mine or sea water)
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon molasses (or another of honey, if I prefer to be a 100 mile purist)
2 Tablespoons butter
3 1/4 cups of whole grain wheat flour1 1/2 teaspoons granular yeast
Set to 'grain' setting on your machine, and 1.5 lb loaf size (if you have that setting) and wait...then enjoy!
The photo is of Jim, on his tractor, pulling the elementary school children's float in our annual fall fair parade.