Friday Bread Basket 7/22/21

Bentobox edition

This week’s bread basket is presented in descending order of seriousness:

The megadrought and the price of bread

From reporter Alexandra Jones at The Counter, a recent story about how our pandemic-induced flour shortages are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg:

This year, there’s new trouble. Historic drought conditions have already destroyed or damaged crops in the West, Northern Plains, and Southwest, key U.S. growing regions for certain types of wheat. According to a July 6 report from the USDA, approximately 98 percent of the country’s spring wheat production is in an area experiencing drought conditions. 

Thanks to carryover inventory from 2020, there’s still plenty of wheat to go around. But the drought is just one of many factors playing havoc with the prices mills pay for wheat: Rising costs across supply chains, as well as volatile commodity grain markets exacerbated by drought conditions elsewhere in the world, are making flour more costly to produce. You may not see more expensive flour at the supermarket (though it’s possible). But you’ll likely pay more for loaves, pastries, and sweets at your favorite bakery. 

It’s all pretty bleak, but the story does end on a hopeful note, with a conversation with California farmer Mai Nguyen, who is working to develop drought-hardy strains of wheat that might just allow us to keep baking into the future.

Nobody needs this (but I still WANT one)

There is a company in Japan that makes beautiful bent cedar bento boxes that just created a box to store a half-dozen slices worth of shokupan (aka Japanese milk bread). While it’s a niche product, maybe a touch twee, and definitely a luxury at $80US, there is some science behind it:

Fresh bread loaves in Japan are perfectly square, and are made with high-quality flour with no preservatives. Unless one keeps it in the fridge, usually by Day 3, mold would be visible. With the bread box, I have been enjoying bread for extended time without having to put fluffy fresh bread into the fridge!

I might just need to buy one, you know, for science.

For the dogs

Dennis Lee, self-described “worst food writer ever” and me-described among the “funniest food writers ever”, has published yet another masterpiece of recipe tomfoolery, this one an account of making and serving a pizza topped with Pupperoni, a pepperoni-flavored meat stick meant for dogs.

I don’t have a dog, so picking up dog treats was a fun experience.

I got to pretend briefly, that I had a dog. I considered saying to the cashier, “Hi, look at these dog treats! These are for my dog!” 

But then I realized, knowing me, I would more likely have blurted out, “Hi, look at these dog treats! I’m going to put them on a pizza later!” Then I couldn’t return to that pet store ever again. Trailblazing is a lonely profession.

I’ll leave the rest for you to unearth yourself, including whether or not his houseguest appreciated getting to participate in the experiment.

That’s it for this week’s bread basket. I hope you all have a peaceful weekend, see you next week.