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One of my favorite events of the year is coming up in just a couple days in Skowhegan, Maine – bakers, grain growers, and a whole bunch of other folks intensely passionate about all things dough related will gather at the 8th annual Kneading Conference. There will be classic Italian Semolina bread, artisan doughnuts, wood-fired pizza, buckwheat pancakes, and absolutely no factory-sliced bread. Oh, and I’ll be moderating a panel on culinary diplomacy with some seriously cool people…but we’ll get to that in a minute.
If you are interested in attending pre-registration is required and the fee is $300 (but that includes all meals from Thursday breakfast through Friday lunch). Check out the Maine Grain Alliance site if you want to register or just more information: kneadingconference.com/registration-information
Can’t make it during the week, check out the Artisan Bread Fair on Saturday – oh and it’s free. There will be vendors, pizza baked in a wood-fired oven (I just can’t get enough of that), and demonstrations. It’s a great way to check out what the conference/scene is all about. More info: kneadingconference.com/about-the-artisan-bread-fair
What I’m looking forward to on Friday:
The workshop “Ployes – Buckwheat Pancakes – the Acadian Flatbread” with Fr. Paul Dumais, a founding member of the Fraternity of St. Philip Neri.
Here’s an abbreviated version of the conference’s description of the workshop: The culture of the French Acadians, who settled in Northern Maine along the St. John River Valley in the 1780s, finds expression in a sub regional food known to the locals as “des ployes”. Come discover for yourself the goodness of buckwheat pancakes comprised of buckwheat flour, white flour, salt and leaven. Cooked on one side on a hot griddle this versatile Acadian shortbread is customarily served with stew or beans more so than for breakfast. Join me in this hands on presentation and sampling of “ployes” mix varieties including my family’s recipe developed by my great uncle.
Followed by the workshop “Organic Grains Research in the Northeast” with Elizabeth Dyck, founder and coordinator of the Organic Growers’ Research and Information-Sharing Network (OGRIN).
Here’s an abbreviated version of the conference’s description of the workshop: The session will present research results from the Value-Added Grains for Local and Regional Food Systems Project, funded through USDA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Education Initiative. A focus will be on specialty wheats—both heritage varieties and the ancient grains—including information on high-performing varieties/landraces, their management and marketing, and for the hulled wheats, dehulling options for small and medium-scale growers. The session will also include tasting of heritage and ancient grains and their products.
Lunch! Hello, it’s a conference with a lot of farmers and bakers!
And, finally…the panel I helped organize and am moderating “Culinary Diplomacy: Culture Defined Around the Table” with Bob Garver (owner of Bard Coffee and super cool dude who spends a lot of time with coffee farmers in Central America), Thomas Pisha-Duffy (you might know him via the delicious often Indonesian themed pop-up dinners he creates), Dr. Myron M. Beasley (a scholar, curator, performance artist…I’m borderline obsessed with his ethnographic research in Haiti), and John Brittell (founder, Capitol Food Ventures…oh and he just happened to direct an organic demonstration farm in Uganda among other things).
Here’s the gist of our workshop: Food can communicate a country’s culture and heritage to the world. From Iraqi date rolls to Eritrean spicy chicken to Congolese Mfumbwa, countries are increasingly using gastrodiplomacy (also known as culinary diplomacy) to make statements about national identity.
Growing up my father traveled a lot to Southeast Asia and the Middle East. He brought his love of the dishes he tried home. Living just outside Washington, D.C. I grew up dining in the city’s culturally diverse Adams Morgan neighborhood, where I learned to use chopsticks around the same time as a fork and spoon. I have always been aware of the beauty of other cultures, primarily because of food. Recently I began spending time in the Democratic Republic of Congo, getting to know the people, history, and geography through food.
If you are interested in origin travel in the coffee world, Turkey’s modern campaign to promote coffee as part of their culture, Indonesian culinary rituals, Thai and Ugandan cuisines, and the underground food economies in Haiti…well, then this is for you.
I hope to see you there!