I should refrain from poking at controversial ideas at this hour of the morning, in public, before I’m quite ready to be politic or polite. I should, I know. But oh, I am contrary as a cat, and do so enjoy swatting at the curtains.
So, here it is: I am dumbfounded, disturbed, distraught by the pervasiveness of scientific illiteracy. I’m reminded of it weekly at the farmers market by the dietary lectures I receive from customers and passers by. No, I say calmly, wheat is not toxic. Actually, I cut in, rye and barley also have gluten. Yes, I’m serious. So do the ancient wheats like emmer, spelt, and einkorn. Well, I reply, smiling with all my teeth, mutation drives evolution, as well as plant breeding, so no, I don’t think it’s "unnatural." And no, plant breeding that induces mutation with radiation does not produce “bad” food. (And dammit, stop trying to hide your fears behind pseudoscience! I refrain from adding, because I do have some small sense of self-preservation).
But while swallowing the snake oil of quacks like Dr. William Davis and Dr. David Perlmutter may cause harm to people’s pocketbooks, and, more troublingly, to their food traditions, it’s no skin off my nose. Eat whatever makes you feel healthy, or safe, or morally superior.
The problem is, scientific illiteracy doesn’t stop with the eager embrace of the latest dietary prophet cloaking their food religion in scientific terms. Respectable, mainstream media outlets consistently confuse hypothesis with theory, ignoring the complexity and contradiction of real science in favor of the easy story. Environmental and political activists (including those I respect and with whom I agree) often so abuse statistics as to undermine their credibility (and the maddening thing is, the science is there! There’s no need to cherry pick data on climate change or the public health consequences of economic inequality).
The reason all this matters, the reason I get worried when a customer proselytizes their Google-searched diet, or when I read yet another article twisting a single study into Scientific Truth, is that such a fundamental misunderstanding of the scientific method and inability to distinguish science from pseudoscience leaves people vulnerable to truly dangerous anti-science campaigns like climate change denial and the anti-vax movement. The re-emergence of preventable diseases like rubella and diphtheria, and the lack of political will to reduce fossil fuel consumption even as we hurtle towards the apocalypse, are the inevitable consequence of such ignorance.
Approach the world with curiosity and a critical eye. Ask questions. Challenge the orthodoxy of common wisdom. But oh, do so as an informed skeptic, and not as a dupe!
All right. That’s enough damage done for one morning. If I’ve offended you, I hope you’ll challenge me rather than walking away. I don’t have time to debate with you at the farmers market, but send me an email, or invite me to coffee, and I’ll gladly engage!
Red & White, Mountain Rye, Vollkornbrot, Country Rye
Bittersweet Chocolate and Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies
Black Sesame and Fennel Palmier
Garden Pesto Twist
Hazelnut Cake with Strawberries & Cream
Brown Butter Shortbread
Rosemary Sea Salt
See you soon!
Owner | Baker
I read an article in The New Yorker the other day about the Gig Economy. This is the world of techno-driven piecework born of rideshare apps and online freelance marketplaces. Though not directly analogous to the entrepreneurial community I inhabit—populated by farmers, artists, and craftspeople—the thesis of the article still applies: there is "a painful distance between the chipper narratives surrounding labor and success in America and the lived experience of workers."
We often talk, in a tone halfway between jest and brag, about about the impossible and uncompensated hours we work, as if our scrambling, stumbling path through the maze of capitalism were a badge of honor. As if living inside an economic system that idolizes the bootstrapping entrepreneur but prioritizes price over quality, externalized costs over sustainability, GDP over equality and quality of life, has convinced us that hard and thoughtful work need not result in a living wage. Most of us accept, quietly, what compensation we can get, all the while thinking that if we just worked a little harder, a little smarter, we might reach that American promise of meritocratic success. "At the root of this [economic ideal] is the American obsession with self-reliance, which makes it more acceptable to applaud an individual for working himself to death than to argue that an individual working himself to death is evidence of a flawed economic system."
I am immensely grateful to all of you who support my work. That gratitude is not lessened by my understanding that it is improbable that I will ever achieve true economic security through a business that strives to internalize every cost, to give fair compensation down the supply chain, to produce whole and healthy food. As long as ethical production is considered a luxury for the so-called Liberal Elite, as long as the Free Market and the Farm Bill bracket our food system, as long as we live in a plutocracy, the gap between the stories we tell and the lives we live will persist.
I want to end this dark turn of mind with some spark of hope, some nice, manageable action that you might take without disturbing the pattern of your days. You know, the way mainstream articles about climate change often end with a cute band aid, like, "the world is ending and it's our fault, but separate your recycling and we'll all be ok!" But I am neither smart enough nor naive enough to slap on some easy solution. Our economic system is huge and complicated and hurtful, and I have no idea what we do to make it better, except to vote with our ballots and dollars and feet, even when it feels like we're waving in the dark.
With worry and improbable hope,
The Spring Bread Subscription starts this Wednesday. You can still sign up, if it's somehow slipped your mind despite my many reminders, until tomorrow. You can also place individual orders on the website, as per usual, for Wednesday pickup. This week it's Red & White, Mountain Rye, Oats & Honey, and of course, Bittersweet Chocolate Cookies.
The weekly Bellingham Farmers Market starts up again next Saturday, April 1. Come on down to the Market Depot between ten and three to celebrate the beginning of the market's 25th year!
I stopped by the library last night after work and walked into light and noise. The whole front room was full of children in face paint and glitter, dancing to "The Cape." The surprise and sweetness of the scene made my throat ache. "What is this?" I asked the librarian. "We wanted to make a place for people to come together," she answered, and that, too, was an ache after a day spent skimming the surface of internet news and despair.
My bread for the farmers' market today are stenciled with my solidarity with the Womxn's March I'll be missing while standing behind my booth. I hesitated for a moment over the political stencils. I don't like making people uncomfortable, and the thought of alienating customers worried me. Being bold would be easier, I thought, if I had a regular job with a real paycheck that couldn't be threatened by my politics. But I was immediately embarrassed by my cowardice. It's true that the living I earn through this little bakery is marginal at best, and that losing customers would have real consequences for my bottom line, but this is Bellingham. Who's really going to care? And, more importantly, what does it matter if I take a tiny step outside the lines when my race, age, health, family, education, and savings account cast a wide net to catch me should I stumble? If someone as privileged as I hesitates to speak, who can I expect to step up? So I got out the matte knife and started cutting. (1)
I'm especially fond of the vulva stencils (I haven't yet gotten around to taking a picture so you'll just have to come see for yourself). They're an answer to the new president's pussy grabbing and to the dominance of cat euphemisms in a feminist community that shouldn't be afraid of female genitalia. And they're a finger to my own discomfort with confrontation. Today, of all days, I will not be embarrassed by my body or by any other female body. We must all learn to live proudly in our skins as they come increasingly under threat. We fight hardest for what we love.
Besides the Red & White vulva loaves and the Red, White, & Blue Corn bread of solidarity, I have Mountain Rye, and Smoky Vollkornbrot. There are also Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies, Bittersweet Chocolate Cookies, Brown Butter Shortbread, Plum & Anise Torte, and Seriously Gingerbread to fuel your morning's march or to pick you up at the end.
Next Wednesday's offerings are Red & White, Mountain Rye, and Rosemary Sea Salt breads. You can order a loaf HERE.
See you soon. Or a little later after the march.
Owner | Baker | Feminist
(1) I realize that this is a tiny decision. When friends and strangers are being pepper sprayed at protests and arrested during direct actions, when people live every day under threat of violence and arrest because they are perceived to be Other, worrying about political bread stencils is self-indulgent. But I'm also unlikely to ever be a full-time activist, lawyer, lobbyist, or politician. I am a full time baker. If I can weave greater social consciousness through the environmentalism that already defines my work every day, maybe eventually all those days of small decisions will add up to bravery.