Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution

Image of Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution
Release Date: 
April 20, 2021
W. W. Norton & Company
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“Besides recipes, Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution is full of information about the history, cultural significance, and global relevance of each grain, which makes it a very valuable resource for home cooks.”

Grain selection should be given the same attention as wine selection, according to author Roxana Jullapat, an unashamed grain advocate. She has made this choice much easier for home cooks with her recent cookbook Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution.

This handy book takes all the guesswork out of how to use ancient grains in daily cooking and baking. The book highlights eight grains (barley, buckwheat, corn, oats, rice, rye, sorghum, and wheat) and these were chosen by the author because they are easily available, among other reasons. American farmers excel at growing these grains and supporting local grain industry means reducing the need to import foreign goods. Supporting local farmers in turn means reducing the eco footprint.

“While reflecting on my lifelong relationship with flour and baking, I was struck by the fact that our conventional, global flour supply reflects only a handful of wheat varieties. This is especially shocking considering the diversity of flavorful, nutritious grains found in nature.”

Jullapat is serious about her advocacy, “By discussing ancient grains (including more recent heirloom varieties), discovering delicious ways to prepare them, and mentoring a new school for bakers to appreciate their many virtues, we can promote diversity across the industry.”

Jullapat has a section devoted to the principles of working with ancient grains, which include selection (based on flavor and what the flour will be used for) to the provenance of the grain (where it came from), freshness (learning to recognize stale or rancid flour), storage (using flour within three months of purchase), and finally using your own judgement in choosing the best product.

Besides recipes, the book is full of information about the history, cultural significance, and global relevance of each grain, which makes it a very valuable resource for home cooks.

Cooks will have more success in the kitchen if they read and pay heed to Jullapat’s personal baking philosophy. She has listed 20 of them and they are of commonsense and practical value. For example, don’t be tempted to add a variety of flavors. Exercise restraint and add a small amount to make a big impact.

Or this insight: Never use room temperature eggs (prevents foodborne illness) or toast your seeds and nuts for extra flavor. She also recommends baking on the dark side, and this means a properly baked bread or pastry will be moist in the middle with a fully caramelized exterior. Burning things, she writes, is part of the learning process.

But above all, Jullapat wants the home cook to value whimsy and imperfection in their cooking.

The recipes in the book are conveniently divided by the type of grain. Looking for a recipe featuring corn? How about Blueberry Blue Cornmeal Scones? There are numerous recipes, some of them time-consuming, but others are fairly easy and quick to prepare. Choose from a variety of recipes from Rye Muesli, Sorghum Molasses Cookies, Cardamom Buns, Persian-Style Rice Fritters, and Savory Chickpea Pancake with Bitter Green Salad and Cumin Yogurt.

There are plenty of savory recipes such as pizza and dishes featuring freekeh (similar to bulgur wheat), farro, and kamut.

The book is packed with educational information. Readers will learn the difference between ancient, heirloom, artisan, alternative, whole, and landrace grains. The author hopes the explanation will eventually help home cooks make informed decisions. A bag of flour is not just a bag of flour, it is a culmination of history and innovation, farming and milling techniques, and is meant to be savored and enjoyed.