The snack cake is my favorite. It’s the simplest of pastries—flour, butter, sugar, egg—and easily adapted to the changing seasons. Right now we’re making it with cornmeal, a bit of last winter’s preserved lemon, and summer berries. Blueberry, raspberry, and gooseberry this week. If the coming week is hot, next weekend we’ll have blackberries. And then it will be time for figs with fig leaf extract. And then plums with buckwheat and bitter almond (apricot, perhaps, or cherry stone). And pears with earthy black currant or warm, spicy cardamom. And finally, as the days darken, apple, oat, and cinnamon. All these lovely flavors and fruits in a single, simple cake!
I decided last week to calculate how much of the bakery's food is Washington grown. It took some time—my spreadsheet skills stop somewhere between pivot tables and SUMIFS, and well before the mastery I’d need to build an interconnected database of sales, ingredients, and recipes—but eventually I pulled the right data together from my many workbooks. My goal with the bakery has always been to make food that’s good both for you, the eater, and also the workers and lands that produced it. It’s an impossible ambition, of course. The food system is too complex and too broken to feed us without harm. The best I can do, the best I know to do, is to find the shortest and most transparent supply chains, to buy directly from producers I know whenever I can, and to rely on third party certifications when I can’t. For our tropical foods—spices, chocolate, sugar—that means buying Organic and Fair Trade certified ingredients from processors who contract directly with small farmers or farmer coops. Our Organic seeds and oils come from an Oregon distributor who shares our values. We buy our Organic flours from two Skagit mills, both of whom contract their wheat and rye with Washington farmers, and our eggs, dairy (with the glaring exception of the Organic, cultured butter), honey, nuts, and produce directly from Whatcom and Skagit farmers. So far this year, 75% of the bakery’s ingredients by weight were grown in Washington.
I was surprised by the number, and gratified. Sourcing ingredients well is expensive and time consuming and I’m always falling frustratingly short of my own standards. 75% is pretty damn good. Better than I would have guessed. But here’s the thing: Raven Bakery is too small for our purchasing decisions to impact even the smallest of our local farmers. At this scale, where our food comes from and how it’s made is really only useful as a story. I know how to tell the story in this long and rambling format—thank you for reading this far!—but how do I tell it at a glance? How do I tell it through branding or marketing or in a few words to a new customer? How do I tell it simply when the story of our food system is so complex?
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