Cracking wheat

Bakers love to write about their bread singing as the loaf cools. Steam whistles through the crust, the crust crackles as it shifts. It sounds poetic. It is poetic.

I was born reasonably deaf. I cannot hear my bread sing, but I do not miss what I never knew, no more than you miss the colors a honeybee sees that humans cannot.

A loaf just out of the oven is dead. The yeast have been cooked after doing the work, reason enough to pray as you slide your dough into the oven.

Wheat berries are alive. If you plant one, it will grow into a wheat plant.

If you split one open (easier said than done) you can see a tiny wheat embryo waiting to be bathed in water, to activate its enzymes, to awaken from its slumber and become a thriving, multicellular organism.

When I grind the wheat berries to make fresh flour, I can hear the cracking of the hulls. I doubt (but do not know for sure) that wheat berries are unaware of their end, but still remind myself that the grains going into the hopper are alive, and the dust we collect and call flour is not.

We know something, but not a lot, about life, but we know this much—everything alive here and now comes from countless generations of life over billions of years, life begetting life begetting life, a connected strand that once broken cannot be put back together again.

We are not so different from plants as we might believe—we share DNA, we share mitochondria, we share critical enzymes, we share a thread of life drawn from a common ancestor.

If a cooling loaf of bread sings, the cracking bodies of wheat berries reflects the cracking of bones, of life. The wheat is not aware, of course, but it is dead just the same, as unaware as I will be when I am dead.

The quick, the yeast, and the dead

Every damn time I throw dough in the oven or clams on the stove I pray to the Holy Whatever (for who knows the agony of heat besides the heretics, the saints, the damned, and the unlucky).

Consciousness is as overrated as life is underrated.

Yeast are alive. I know they breathe (or else we’d have no crumb), and I know they convert wheat and water into alcohol–I can smell it.

Before I cast the yeast into a hot oven they are eating, fooking, budding, breathing, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. They know other yeast are nearby.

You are not special–you will die, too.

So live a yeasty life, while you can.

Apple vs. wheat: an economic parable

(Photo of wheat grown by a student in my classroom.)

The market rate for wheat today is $9.08 per bushel. A bushel of wheat weighs 60 pounds. That’s just over 15 cents a pound.

Where did the “stuff” of the wheat come from? Water, mostly rainfall, and carbon dioxide, which well, we have more than plenty to spare. Water molecules are split, the oxygen drifts off, and the remaining pieces are knit with carbon dioxide to form the stuff that keeps all of us alive.

Truly miraculous.

A pair of AirPod Pros weighs 0.19 ounces, and checks in at $249, a bit over $20,000 per pound, and it won’t do any good to water it. 

For the price  of a pair of earbuds, you can get 3/4 tons of wheat.

The “miracle of the five loaves and two fish” is, of course, a parable, the only miracle story found in all four Gospels, and most folks in these parts know more about the story of Apple than the story of wheat. Farmers do the work of Jesus every fookin’ day.

I get about 50 loaves of bread for every bushel of wheat I buy. One AirPod Pro gets you enough wheat for 80,000 loaves of bread.

There’s a parable there somewhere.