Industrial Harvest


What happened to the flour, part 4: holiday edition by sarah kavage

So far this has been the first handwritten bit of documentation that I’ve received.  It came earlier this week and I’ve been saving it up for a Christmas day post.  It came from an unfamiliar name and address in Chicago.

First off, because I’m the sort who thinks a Christmas card with a sorta-cross-eyed kitten on it is way cute, I had to stop and think:  do I know the person who sent this?


And then, surprise!  When we coordinated the donations to St. Columbanus, although we labeled the flour using the standard label I made up – that has my name, email and mailing address on it – the food bank clients received the flour without any sort of explanation or context.  So I hadn’t really expected to hear from any of them.  Getting a bag of flour that instructs you to correspond with its maker is slightly random.   Perhaps I, also, made some assumptions that people who were getting food from a food bank were not the types to care about an art project, or were not inclined to want to document the act of trying to keep food on the table.  Having these assumptions be made apparent through a single note is humbling.

At the same time, it gave me immense satisfaction to hear that the flour was appreciated by somebody out there.  Mom (who trained me from a young age to write thank-you letters, something I’m not always so good about now) was right:  it just feels good to be acknowledged for a gift.  It put me in the holiday spirit like I have not been in many years.

However you celebrate the winter holiday season, hope it is filled with love and friendship.



What happened to the flour, part 3: blogroll by sarah kavage

Today’s snippets all come from the so-called blogosphere.  I have been amazed at the profusion of cooking / eating / food-related blogs that exist,  and tracked down quite a few posts that detail baking adventures with Industrial Harvest flour.  Bonus:  food bloggers, if I may generalize so crudely, appear to be quite dedicated.  They take lots of pictures.  They provide lots of loving background detail and backstories.  They also often include recipes!

Some of these have made it to the Industrial Harvest facebook page already, so excuse the repeats if you’ve seen them already.  But let that be a reminder to you:  if you’re on facebook, said page is a great way to let me know what you’ve done with the flour.  Another option:  post photos to our still-underutilized flickr group!

Moving right along:  this blogger made whole wheat biscotti using Alice Waters’ recipe

ECO, a cooperative household in Pilsen, runs a CSA and a co-op.  They did all kinds of stuff with the flour and took wheat berries to plant a cover crop on their rooftop garden.

Last year around this time, I was wrapping up a residency at InCUBATE, which may have been the tipping point at which this project became a reality.  InCUBATE (and I, as resident) shared their Congress Theater storefront with the Chicago Underground Library, and that was how I met Thuy.  Thuy is a pretty serious baker, and turned me on to the magic of pure wheat gluten (if you’ve never tried it, it is a miracle cure for too-dense, heavy bread).  So I knew Thuy would do something awesome with the flour and was thrilled to re-connect with her this fall.  Her beautifully written post is not to be missed.

The Cuentos Foundation had a fundraiser / bake sale in October to raise money for Oaxaca mudslide victims at Danny’s, a classic Chicago watering hole.

My buddies Gina and Jerry in Seattle have been all wrapped up with opening what will surely be a super-delicious, authentic and unpretentious Italian restaurant.  But they still took the time to adopt 50 pounds of flour and bake a huge batch of bread for the local food bank…in their backyard brick oven that they built themselves.

And then there’s this.  Your mouth will water looking at these pictures (click “next post” all the way at the bottom of the page for the finished product).



What happened to the flour, Part 2 by sarah kavage

Continuing the report-back from the flour giveaways, here’s three more.  There is no real theme for them other than they pleased me:  one because it had to do with beer, one because of the connection to my Washington state home, and one because it’s just super sweet.  Actually, they are all super sweet and in different ways exemplify the sharing I hoped would come out of this process.  Hopefully it’s not too annoying to read these email threads; I like presenting the reports the way they actually came to me (I have made minor edits to correct for typos and such).

The first is from N. who bravely took home several pounds of wheat berries to use to make a wheat beer.  She is, so far, the only person who committed to using the wheat in the brewing process, although I haven’t heard a final report from her on how the beer turned out.  I recently started brewing up my very first batch of homebrew so finally understand how it all works.  The flour N. took ended up feeding the annual Brew Not Bombs fundraiser in Chicago this past September:

From: N –
To: sarah
Date: Thu, September 30, 2010 9:19:26 PM
Subject: Re: industrial harvest update & upcoming events

Hey Sarah
So….You gave me flour and whole wheat berries. I haven’t yet used the berries but I plan to roast them and then make beer. With the flour, I made a huge batch of caraway almond biscuits for Brew Not Bombs and they were devoured by ravenous anarchists and beer lovers. My friend also used some of the flour to bake loaves of sourdough bread which was also DELICIOUS and served to kids at Brew Not Bombs to allow the beer drinking to continue late into the night.

Thanks so much…I also put little notes out at Brew Not Bombs about how the wheat came from Industrial Harvest.  I’ll keep you updated about the beer.
-N.

Next up, these notes from a couple who brought the flour on a trip to Washington state and shared it with their host:

From: E
To: sarah
Date: Tue, October 5, 2010 9:56:18 AM
Subject: Industrial harvest flour!

Hi, Sarah! This is E. My girlfriend contacted you earlier. We received some of your flour from Edible Alchemy in Chicago and used it to make this handsome apple pie while couch-surfing with T. in Walla Walla, WA.
Thanks so much for the flour and the fun!

From: F
To: sarah
Date: Tue, September 28, 2010 10:46:55 AM
Subject: Wheat tracking

Hi Sarah,
I think your wheat project is wonderful. I hope everyone who gets word of your project appreciates the nourishment as much as I do. My lover, E. and I got about 3 lbs of flour from your wheat from ECO and took it with us on our summer vacation which began in mid August and lasted for three weeks. During our trip, we visited Walla Walla, Washington for the first time. Also for the first time, we couch-surfed with a collage student there, T. It was a new experience for us and to show our appreciation to our host, we used a bunch of your flour to make a beautiful apple pie which we all shared. It was delicious. Thanks!
peace
– F.

to thine own self be true

Walla Walla apple pie

Walla Walla apple pie

And lastly, I talked to this woman at the Hull House and she, her father and her son were all dedicated bakers.  She was very excited to have three generations of her family participating in this project, and later forwarded me this sweet email from her father (note the awesome review of the flour’s performance!):

From: R –
To: sarah
Date: Mon, August 30, 2010 7:50:46 AM
Subject: Fwd: Pizza

Dear Sarah,
I saw your talk at the Lill Street Art Center and got some flour from you. I gave it to my dad, who is a retired chef, and has more time to bake than I do. He absolutely loved it. Thanks so much!
– R.
———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Sat, Aug 28, 2010 at 8:23 PM
Subject: Pizza
To: R-
Dear Daughter:
I thank you for giving me the experience of working with the best flour I’ve worked in my chef life for the last 12 years.
The natural gluten and the freshness of the flour gave me a perfect dough. I’m sorry you are not here to enjoy this wonderful Marguerite pizza.
Love,
Dad



What happened to the flour, part 1 by sarah kavage
December 21, 2010, 11:04 pm
Filed under: baking, project updates, where the flour went

Just the other day, Rob reminded me that I have yet to do much reporting back on the responses received from the Industrial Harvest flour recipients.  He told me (quite emphatically), “you need to get on it before people forget completely.”  Spoken like the archivist he is.  He’s so right, of course, and so should be properly credited with giving me the kick in the ass I needed.

So, without further ado, here’s a selection.  I’m going to try to make this a daily thing for the next few days, just to catch up and to get everybody in the holiday spirit of sharing and giving and stuff.  These first few emails are from the folks at WormFarm Institute in Wisconsin, a rural art and agriculture center.  They took several hundred pounds of flour when I came into town as part of the “Women In Grains” show this summer (and they may still be using it!).

From: K –
To: sarah@gogoweb.com;
Date: Tue, August 24, 2010 7:38:30 AM
Cc:
Subject: industrial harvest

hi Sarah,
Here are a couple of pictures of what we have been making with your flour back in the barn. We have been enjoying it immensely, and every time we make something new I am determined to remember to photograph it, but have only been successful these two times. But, we have made peach cobbler, apple crisp, bread (constantly), biscuits, english muffins, pancakes, pies, Pete made pasta from scratch, which I think he documented, I will get those images from him. Just wanted to let you know it has been nourishing us, and others on the farm.  I’ll send more pictures as I remember.
K –

English Muffins at Worm Farm

English Muffins at Worm Farm

totally pro-looking Worm Farm Bread

totally pro-looking Worm Farm Bread

From: K –
To: sarah kavage
Sent: Sat, August 28, 2010 10:29:25 AM
Subject: kolache

Hi Sarah,
Julia, our newest artist in residence made these kolaches for a communal dinner — filled with a date almond filling!

K –

Kolache at wormfarm

Kolache at wormfarm

On 9/1/10, sarah kavage wrote:

K –
thanks for sending this & the other reports on the flour! I’m so glad you all are able to use it – and the results look delicious.  My husband is Czech, and their kolaches are larger flat round 1-tier cakes with fruit mixed into the cake batter. This must be the Polish version?  Date
almond  filling – yum.

s
________________________________

From: K –
To: sarah kavage
Date: Wed, September 1, 2010 3:05:03 PM
Cc:
Subject: Re: kolache

Sarah,
Julia, one of our residents, who made it is actually half-czech. She said that two of her great grandmothers made two different kinds of
kolaches … so I guess there are multiple kinds. It was delicious! Just dropped off flour at the food pantry today.

K –

From: wormfarm
To: sarah kavage
Date: Thu, September 2, 2010 7:16:36 PM
Cc:
Subject: Fw: Amish Bread

Hi Sarah,
Below an attached is information and an image for Industrial Harvest. Kenneth Yoder’s family made 50 loaves of bread for one of the local food pantries. This is the second delivery.   Another sack will make pastries for a Catholic Rural Life conference I’ve gotten involved with (there’s a local food component). I’ll try to get some pix from that.

One of our CSA shareholders (3# bags) works at the Boys & Girls Club and showed kids how to make healthy cookies.  She said she would send you a note.
Great piece,
J –

—– Original Message —–
From: M –
To: wormfarm
Sent: Thursday, September 02, 2010 5:10 PM
Subject: Amish Bread

This is for J – I took this photo Wednesday morning of the Food Pantry officers with the 24 loaves of bread that the Amish made and donated to the Food Pantry.  They are from left to right:  JF, PN, MD and GJ.

We went out to the Amish farm on Tuesday late afternoon to pick it up.  Hope this is helpful.
Sincerely, M –

Amish-baked bread for the Reedsburg Food Pantry

Amish-baked bread for the Reedsburg Food Pantry

If you are were a recipient of flour, consider this inspiration and a reminder to send me pictures and emails of what you did with it.  You can also post to the Industrial Harvest Facebook page OR to the flickr group.  Thanks to the many folks who have already sent me their reports!  They make my day every time.



Ernie’s Apple Cake by sarah kavage

An addendum to yesterday’s post on Edgewater / Care For Real.  Ernie Constantino, who hooked me up with Care For Real, Tom Robb and Mary Ann Smith, was introduced to me at least in part due to his excellence at pie baking.  He lives in Edgewater, so he and his partner stopped by one chilly Saturday morning and took home 40 pounds of whole wheat pastry flour. Ernie has since become one of my most dedicated test bakers, sending me detailed reports on flour performance and recipes.  Here’s Ernie’s recipe for apple cake.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Ernie Constantino’s Apple Cake

Ernie’s report:  “the cake was well-received in spite of my feeling it was way too sweet! … so if you forward this recipe, please give them my notes that the sugar could be reduced by at least 1/2 cup (btw, I used Turbinado/Raw sugar) and also the amount of batter was too much for a standard bundt tube pan …. also it was very moist which is good taste-wise but it crumbled easily esp. with the amount of apples called for in middle of cake … nutrition-wise, I think with the unpeeled hand-picked apples and WWPF*, canola oil, OJ, walnuts and eggs, it’s a winner!”
*whole wheat pastry flour.  Ernie is not the first person to use this acronym, though I’ve avoided it.

This recipe is un-adjusted to reflect Ernie’s notes above.  You can decide about the sugar yourself.

instruction ingredients
Chop and combine 6 apples 

1 Tbl cinnamon

5 Tbl sugar

Mix in large bowl 2 ¾ cups whole wheat flour 

1 Tbl baking powder

1 tsp salt

Whisk and mix with above 1 cup vegetable oil 

¼ cup orange juice

2 cups sugar

2 ½ tsp vanilla

1 cup chopped nuts

Add 4 eggs

Pour half of batter into greased tube pan. Spread half of apple mixture on batter. Pour remaining batter then remaining apples on top.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 90 minutes.



Care for Real by sarah kavage
Been a few weeks, eh?  Beware – once you get back to the northwest time just starts slipping away again.  This post has been slow going. I’ve been consumed by trying to re-enter into Seattle life.  Work.  Friends, cat, husband.  So many birthdays (including mine).  A freezing cold apartment.  All compounded by the considerable motivational wallop that a northwest winter always brings.  I’ve been persisting, though and slowly, slowly working my way through a few last reports of my time in Chicago. 

So without further ado:  the final flour donation in Chicago was to Care For Real, a food pantry in Edgewater.  Edgewater was home base during my stay in Chicago, and it was good to me.  Well-treed, not too gentrified with a wide variety of buildings and residents (many of them immigrants or refugees), Edgewater is tucked away by the lake on Chicago’s far north side.  True, it’s less convenient to get to most other places in the city, but it’s also a refuge from the rest of the city.  I described it to husband Rob as “the Brooklyn of Chicago” and when he came to visit he agreed.

I wanted to give back to my home away from home, and it seemed appropriate that the donation to Care For Real was the last one.  I was introduced to Care For Real and its director Tom Robb by Ernie Constantino, who works for 48th ward Alder(wo)man Mary Ann Smith (for readers who are not from Chicago, the 48th ward includes Edgewater; an Alderman is similar to a city councilperson).  The pantry is run out of a tiny storefront in the 6000 block of North Broadway.  Care For Real, like all the food banks and pantries I have talked to, is bursting at the seams trying to serve the ever-growing numbers of clients in need.  When I asked Tom how much flour he wanted, he said, laughing, “I might freak out if it’s over 700 pounds.”  When I arrived, I understood his reply.  There was a front room where the clients signed in and picked up food; it contained a packed waiting area of about 20 chairs, a small school desk and several tables overflowing with food donations from the big grocery stores that are practically right across the street.  In back was a couple of offices and a maze of racks, cabinets and refrigerators all crammed into a space maybe 20 by 40 feet, maybe not even that much.  Here is what part of it looks like:

backstage at Care For Real

backstage at Care For Real

Mary Ann Smith also showed up for a little meet & greet and to pose for some photos on her way to another meeting.  Here we are “unloading the van” (which basically means that Nate and a few volunteers did most of the unloading and we all stood around and got in the way of everyone trying to do actual work and took pictures of it).

Unloading at Care For Real:  Sarah, Nate, Mary Ann 

Unloading at Care For Real: Sarah, Nate, Mary Ann

There was just barely room for the flour in the storage racks.  Fred, who volunteers weekly, was both strong and nimble enough to maneuver 14 bags of flour into place on the shelves.  I was a little worried about the lack of refrigerated space for the whole wheat pastry flour, but with the holidays coming up, the staff assured me that it would not sit for long.

Fred, stocking with a smile

Fred, stocking with a smile



Fraternite Notre Dame by sarah kavage

On Monday, I went to visit the Sisters at Fraternite Notre Dame, a convent in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s far west side.   FND was one of the first flour recipients – back in early July, they took a ton of all-purpose flour to use for their food pantry and kitchen.  Not only do they run a soup kitchen, they fund the soup kitchen by selling French pastries – tarts, croissants – at farmers’ markets around Chicago (The pastries turn up in the soup kitchen too).  I’d been wanting to see their operation all summer and finally, during my last week in Chicago, we were able to arrange a visit.

Having worked with nuns in the past, I am never quite sure what to think of them.  Put mildly, they’re a throwback to another time, and these nuns, not only nuns but French, seem especially out of place.  I hold pretty negative opinions about the Catholic church, but did want to acknowledge the strong commitment to service that these women have.  And all of this made me even more curious to check out what went on in their kitchen.

I arrived as the nuns were in the middle of serving up their daily lunch for the homeless and poor in the neighborhood.  Austin is a neighborhood with a long history – originally a (generally) working class white neighborhood that experienced a long, and especially infamous, transition into one that was (and still is) largely black.  I just began reading Amanda Seligman’s book Block by Block, which chronicles the history of racial transformation in Austin.  The author’s thesis is that systemic disinvestment in the neighborhood, lack of political influence, and neglect of the building stock go back long before the racial changes and white flight began.  The nuns (French, from a breakaway sect of the Catholic church) moved into this melieu about 10 years ago and see about 200 people a day come through their doors for lunch.  When I asked if they ever had to turn anyone away, Sister Marie replied “how can you say yes to one and no to another?”

In the kitchen at Fraternite Notre Dame

In the kitchen at Fraternite Notre Dame

FND, like most of the other agencies I’ve talked to and visited, have seen the number of people in their soup kitchen line grow and grow over the last few years.  The nuns start their day early in the morning with mass, then cooking in the soup kitchen, then serving and cleaning up (people line up for lunch starting at 10 am; lunch starts at 11 and goes till 1).  Once that’s done, they begin making pastries.  Sometimes they work till midnight, sometimes even later if there’s a market the next day,  because the pastries need to be fresh.  They  go through about 400 pounds of flour a week.

pastries to go

pastries to go

As part of my visit, Sister Marie brought me to an upstairs dining room where there was a table set with some juice and a platter of a dozen or so small pastries in white paper nests.  For me.  I was a little dumb-founded – charmed by the decidedly European-style over the top hospitality and the beautiful treats, foggy with a killer head cold, and feeling a little dash of guilt brought on by knowing that in the dining room just below me, people were eating what might be their only meal of the day.  It was a little uncomfortable to be treated like such an important visitor, but I do like pastries.  I did happen to be hungry.  And I didn’t want to be rude, so I wolfed down several  as I told the Sister more about the story of the flour and where it was all coming from and tried to emphasize that I’m not rich or anything.  Then the rest of the pastries were packed up in a little white box, and another white box appeared – this one with a whole, perfect berry tart – and was placed into my arms.  The nuns showed me politely to the door, and there I was, all sugared-up, back on the streets of Austin.



Leaving on my mind by sarah kavage

Well, as you may or may not have heard, I’m in the midst of my final week in Chicago.  That was fast, wasn’t it?  Just a couple weeks ago, I was wondering what on earth I was going to do with the 5 tons of flour that was still in the warehouse.  About a dozen people responded to my email query with their ideas and contacts, and whaddya know – it’s all been spoken for now.

Many months ago, back in Seattle, I was on the phone with Ben Walker and he mentioned that one of the things he was finding interesting about this project was that it seemed to embody the old adage “many hands make light work.”  With everyone doing just a little bit, whatever they can, the Industrial Harvest has been made possible.  People have been asking me whether this project has turned out to be what I’d envisioned.  And although it has, it’s also been so much more, mostly because of what others brought to the table.

So you should be very proud of yourselves!  Together, we’ve fed a lot of people.  Many of those  were people who were hungry.  Others may not have needed the food itself, but were perhaps in need of what the food represented – support, caring, appreciation, friendship.  I’m under no illusions that a bag of flour is going to keep someone from losing their job, or from being kicked out of their home.  It won’t address any of the numerous underlying problems in our society.  But, as a formerly-homeless friend told me long ago, with these small gestures we can keep people from feeling invisible, and make them feel like someone cares about them.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been riding the emotional roller-coaster – so happy to be returning home to Seattle, to my husband, our cat, and our extended Seattle family.  And so sad to be leaving Chicago, the Midwest, and the inspiring network of people I’ve gotten to know and love over the last few months.  I have been just overwhelmed by the welcome that y’all have given me – it’s made being here such a joy.

So although saying thank you doesn’t seem to capture the depth of my gratitude, you have my most sincere thanks.

 



Adaptation by sarah kavage

Back in August, I met N.,who came to the reception at Roots & Culture hoping to take some flour back to Jamaica to give away on an upcoming trip.  She thought it would be a provocative commentary in that island nation, as the recent increases in food prices had had severe impacts on the people there.  N. told me that the government just passes along price increases to the consumers, even though it has the power to do otherwise.  Like many Caribbean nations, Jamaica could easily be self-sufficient in terms of food, as it’s blessed with a year-round growing season and many native sources of nutrients.  But instead, it’s been sold down the river by corporations/governments focused on growing commodities (such as sugar cane) for export, undermining its food security – particularly in tough economic times like these.

So, together with the patient and flexible Mike Wolf, we arranged for N. to pick up a 50-lb bag from the Roots & Culture show and take it with her on the plane.  I hadn’t heard from her much since, but I caught up with her when she came to the commodities trading session at Mess Hall.  She broke the bad news to me:  “It didn’t make it.  I’ve got the day off on Thursday.  I’ll come by and tell you the whole story.”  Read what happened to her, in her own words, here – it’s a great lesson in creative adaptability under pressure.

Speaking of adaptability, check out the newly updated list of upcoming Industrial Harvest events.  Both Mess Hall sessions have now been rescheduled for Oct. 10 (this coming Sunday, 11 am – 1 pm) and Oct. 24 (another Sunday, 3 – 5 pm).  Join us!



Crunching the Numbers at Mess Hall by sarah kavage

I’ve been meaning to post more about my time at Mess Hall BEFORE my residency ended, but as things have been more hectic than expected the last couple of weeks, it just hasn’t happened until now.  I was thrilled to be asked to contribute to this anti-institution.  Mess Hall’s structure and spirit reflects much of my own philosophy about art, and the emphasis on non-monetary exchange makes it a perfect place to, you got it, give away flour for free.  For these two weeks, I wanted to focus on conclusions and solutions, and start to wrap up everything I’ve learned:  make some sense of all this movement of flour, money, markets and goodwill; draw some conclusions about all these intersecting systems and maybe, just maybe, start to think about how we might need to change them (with lots of help from people more knowledgeable than I).

This was not an insignificant task, as it meant getting serious about things like math, which I typically avoid.  I wish more of the programming had worked out.  Unfortunately this is the time of year when farmers are the most busy and their priority is harvesting and working around seemingly constant weather issues (like tornadoes, which threw a monkey wrench in the plans of the ASFC).  I hope that the annoyance of all the multiple date changes does not prohibit anyone from staying engaged in this discussion and attending the (dates to be determined) rescheduled sessions.  For those folks who came to the commodity trading 101 session, thanks for your thoughtful participation; a special thanks to guest trader Paul Maggio who created a open, congenial atmosphere in which we could start to pick apart this stuff.

Having a storefront was a blast.  People watching in Rogers Park is fruitful, and about 90 percent of passers-by would pick through the free box and clothes rack (about 1 in 20 would stop in for flour).  One woman came in, thrilled at her free box scores (and wanting to share, as the ladies do, the thrill of a good bargain), and then asked me for a bag, which of course we had.  About every other day when I arrived there would be a bag or two of clothes on the doorstep of Mess Hall, which would be incorporated into the free box and clothes rack.  I also took the liberty of adopting 4 boxes of records that someone brought in, which has made a couple people very happy (including myself) but may be pushing the free store thing too far for such a small space.

All in all, people took 261 pounds of flour.  Which is not bad for about 35 open hours, perhaps.  Most folks that came in did not look like they actually needed free flour, they were just ardent bakers or interested in the project.  But a few did look like having this gift was going to be of real value to them.  Two people came in and left with one of the bulk (50-lb) bags – one guy whose wife bakes for all their friends and neighbors, and a student at Loyola who helps out with Food Not Bombs Rogers Park.

The documentation and “research results” from the project are still at Mess Hall for the time being.  You can also see pictures here.