Going with the Grain

By: Ryder Bell

At the heart of every cuisine is a complaisant grain. The bed of jasmine rice under Massaman curry, the milled spelt flour in your favorite sourdough, the velvety oat porridge topped with candied peaches - grains happily act as vessels for your favorite flavors, tending to defer to more self-important ingredients. 

Over the past few years, there has been a resurgence in reverence for grains. Heirloom rice, ancient wheat like einkorn and emmer, unique barley varieties and indigenous corn have been creeping into the vernacular of everyday consumers. Concurrently with the rise of local and regional food, grains and grain farmers have been shedding the facelessness of mass production. 

In celebration of grains - their indispensability, variety and the reclamation of their rightful place in the spotlight - we want to share our favorite HRN episodes about them. From the general history of grains to rice bread and rye whiskey, here is your primer on all things grain. 


Modernist BreadCrumbs Episode 2: The Great Civilizations of Grain: This is Episode Two of Modernist BreadCrumbs: “The Great Civilizations of Grain,” on grains, flour, and milling. In this episode, we look inside with a kernel of knowledge, sprout ancient grains, and take a journey through wheat’s history. We could go on for flours.

Modernist BreadCrumbs is a special collaborative podcast series with Heritage Radio Network and Modernist Cuisine, that takes a fresh look at one of the oldest staples of the human diet—bread. Although it may seem simple, bread is much more complex than you think. From the microbes that power fermentation to the economics of growing grain, there’s a story behind every loaf. Each episode will reveal those stories and more, beginning with bread’s surprising and often complicated past, from the perspective of people who are passionate about bread, and shaping its future.


HRN On Tour Episode 70: In Praise of Ancient Grains at Slow Food Nations 2017: The gluten intolerance of our stomachs has given rise to innumerable chemical replacements for commodity wheat. Can this demand also generate interest in heritage staple grains, like millet, teff and buckwheat? In Praise of Ancient Grains chats with panel Glenn Roberts, Chris Bianco, Chad Robertson, and Steve Jones to educate us on the thousands of varieties of ancient grains and how we can not only reincorporate these forgotten foods back into the American diet, but also conduct more research on these highly nutritious grains within the fields of science and nutrition.


Modernist BreadCrumbs Episode 10: The Grain Revolution: Industrialization, and the semi-dwarf wheat developed during the Green Revolution, created a disconnect between farming and flour. But now, consumers are rejecting these commodities and rediscovering the foods, flavors, and farmers around us. This episode is about the growing movement to bring back heritage grains and strengthen local and regional food systems. In direct opposition of the Green Revolution, we’re going to the front lines of the “Grain Revolution." We'll hear from author William Alexander, baker Ellen King of Hewn, Henry Blair of the Greenmarket Regional Grains Project, "The Grain Lady" Mona Esposito, miller Jennifer Lapidus of Carolina Ground, and, of course, co-authors of "Modernist Bread," Nathan Myhrvold and Francsico Migoya.


Jupiter's Almanac Episode 10: Rice Bread and Regional Grains This episode dives into regional bread and grains. The show was inspired by a listener question about whether there is a history of salt rising bread in Gullah Geechee culture. The closest thing Matthew knows of is rice bread, calling it salt rising bread’s “country cousin.” He shares culinary variations on rice bread and talks about the history of rice in the region and the reason Confederate soldiers relied on rice bread during the Civil War. Matthew is inspired by the taste of a place and shares tips for finding local grains near you and experimenting with them when making any bread recipe.


Cooking in Mexican from A to Z Episode 2: The Mexican Corn Kitchen: In this episode Aarón and Zarela welcome their first guest: Zack Wangeman of Sobre Masa. Zack was born and raised in Oaxaca and interned with Aarón when he was only a teenager! Together they discuss the ins-and-outs of Mexican heirloom corn, including how it’s been farmed and used throughout history and why it’s different from corn grown in the United States. They also talk about how to make masa and much more!


Fresh Pickings Episode 1: Old Fashioned Oats: In the series premiere of Fresh Pickings, host Kat Johnson takes a closer look at oats –  a simple ingredient that has been used to brew beer, thicken soups, soothe skin conditions, treat osteoporosis, and even reduce the risk of heart disease. The humble oat is one of the most remarkable foods in the modern world!

This episode features an interview with Kat's mom about a favorite family recipe, Oatmeal Drop Cookies. While they're no-bake, they can prove tricky to get just right. Then, Mary Izett, co-host of Fuhmentaboudit! shares some of the history and background of rolled (or Old-Fashioned) oats and recommends some new craft beers being brewed with oats. To wrap things up, Cathy Erway, host of Eat Your Words, shares some very clever ways to use toasted oats as a crunchy salad or dessert topping. Scroll on to see her recipe for Peachy Salad with Savory Toasted Oats, so you can put this technique to the test at home!


The Farm Report Episode 348: Grain by Grain: Bob Quinn was born into a family of farmers who grew wheat and raised cattle in Montana. After he left home to get a PhD, he returned to take over the farm and started doing things differently. He transitioned the farm to organic production and began milling his own grain whole in the 1980s. He also began growing an ancient variety of wheat that is now sold around the world as KAMUT. His book, "Grain by Grain: A Quest to Revive Ancient Wheat, Rural Jobs, and Healthy Food," comes out in March. Host Lisa Held sits down with Quinn to talk about the book, what he’s learned over decades of growing organic grain, why he chose to bring back ancient khorasan wheat, and more.


Eat Your Words Episode 239: Einkorn: The only wheat in existence that has never been hybridized or modified, einkorn grew thousands of years ago in the Fertile Crescent. Carla Bartolucci came across it when searching for an alternative grain for her daughter Giulia, who was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity in 2008. This week on Eat Your Words, host Cathy Erway gets Carla on the line to explain how Einkorn has remained unaltered for thousands of years and allows many, including Giulia—who suffered from mood swings, asthma, and digestive problems—to eat wheat without symptoms. Amazed by her daughter’s health transformation, Carla became a champion of this little-known, nutrient-packed grain. Tune in to hear how her book, "Einkorn," shares 100 delicious recipes for working with the grain and its flour in a wide variety of flavorful dishes. "Einkorn" is sure to introduce home cooks to a delicious ancient grain that can transform the way they eat for the better by adding more nutrition and flavor to the foods they love. 


Beer Sessions Radio (TM) Episode 409: NY State Grains & Rye: It's a big show this week on Beer Sessions Radio, and we’ve got some special guests joining us to talk about New York State rye, including farmer Thor Oeschner, author Amy Halloran, June Russell from Grow NYC, distiller Chris Williams from Coppersea Distilling, Chris Murillo from NY Distilling, Daric Schlesselman from Van Brunt Stillhouse, and Steven Baird from Cardiff Giant.


Beer Sessions Radio (TM) Episode 564: Name That Grain: Excelsior Gold Malting Barley: This week on Beer Sessions Radio, Jimmy is highlighting a new variety of New York state barley, following it from development at Cornell University to utilization in breweries across NY. On the show this week, Jimmy welcomes Paul Leone from the NY State Brewers Association in Rochester NY; Jason Havens and Dave Johnson from Rusty Nickel Brewing Company in West Seneca, NY; and Daniel Sweeney, a PhD student at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

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