My grandmother was a remarkable woman. She lived in this house, by herself, for eight years after my grandfather passed away, living a lifestyle that has become increasingly rare. She was an energetic and industrious householder, harvesting and canning produce every year; her pantry was filled with peaches, applesauce, apricots, tomatoes, dried apples and green beans, as well as dried pinto beans, black-eyed peas, millet and wheat. Grandma milled her own wheat (locally grown, of course) to make flour from which she made the wonderful bread that left a profound and lasting impact on me as a child. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to spend much time with her as a kid, I have fond and vivid memories of her in the kitchen, kneading dough for bread or crackers, rolling out a pie crust, spooning cookie dough onto a baking sheet. Her cookies and pies set the gold standard I still strive for when I bake, and her breads were wholesome, nourishing and still as delicious and coveted as any cake. I still remember my disbelief when my mother confessed that as a child she’d wanted store bought bread, like the other kids.
Living in the house my grandparents built helps me to feel connected to them. Their presence is all around me, in the massive CD collection that my grandfather cherished (he made a careful mark on the inside of his CD cases each time he listened to an album), in the lovingly preserved food my grandmother left, in their books and knickknacks, in the gorgeous view of the mountains from the many windows in the living room.
A while ago I dusted off my grandmother’s grain mill to make flour.
It was an amazing experience to turn whole grains of hard winter wheat into course-ground flour in my own kitchen! I’ve been making bread with the flour I ground for the past few weeks; the flour is flavorful and pleasantly gritty.