I tend to stalk people who intrigued me. Most of these people are intrigued with flour. Two of my favorite flour people are going to be teaching together soon. If you like flour at all, you will love this.
I met Katie Lebo first in her zine. I was at Elliott Bay Bookstore in Seattle, looking at local titles, and found a little cardboard booklet with prose poems about pie. They were really stunning. A kind of zodiac where people are described by their pies, or pies describe people. The arrangement of words, and baked goods, made me jealous. Instead of pouting, however, I emailed her, hoping she would be around during the dead zone between Christmas and New Year’s.
Did I ask her to bake with me? I don’t think so. That would be to forward, right? Almost like asking a stranger to make out with you before you’ve met them. Maybe that’s what goes on in online dating. I’m too old to know.
At any rate, Kate responded to my inquiry with an invite for coffee at her house. Lucky, lucky me. The best place to meet a baker is in her element. We talked fast and hard, filling a morning with words about writing, baking, and everything in between.
After I saw her, I visited Camas Country Mill, and had some pastry flour I wanted to give her. Our second date, so to speak, was making pie crust. We didn’t have time to make a whole pie, but that was fine. I just wanted to watch her put together flour and fat. She used her fingers! I had always thought my hands would be too warm for the butter, but she said no. If you start to smell the butter, she said, you should stop put the bowl in the fridge for a bit.
Her method baffled me, and still does. But I really shouldn’t doubt. Kate’s pies are much and deservedly loved, and so is her teaching. At this workshop you’ll get a whole afternoon with her and pie. The evening promises whiskey and poetry, which should be another blast entirely.
I met Richard Miscovich on the recommendation of another excellent baker and baking teacher, Stefan Senders of Wide Awake Bakery. The first class I saw Richard teach was about sprouted flours. This was at the Kneading Conference – an unbeatable immersion in bread that happens the last weekend in July.
Stefan didn’t steer me wrong in aiming me to Richard. He was smart, engaging, and super willing to meet questions and find the right answer. I love how he looked for a better answer than he could give, asking a more seasoned baker in the audience to weigh in on the subject. What the question was I don’t remember. But that openness and inquiry, which is not unique to Richard, only wonderfully exemplified in, stuck with me.
What he did was characteristic of the sharing that exists in the artisan bread and craft brewing movements. When I first started meeting bakers and brewers, the sharing surprised me. Writing is a relatively isolated endeavor, and writers can be somewhat guarded about certain mechanics of the process. This might just be the nature of writing, which has to happen inside one head, but it feels a little competitive when I compare it to what I see in these two professions.
That sense of sharing and communal learning is all over Richard’s book, From the Woodfired Oven. I’ve stalked Richard, meeting him at baking classes and events, trying to glean some of his facility with flour and doughs. My understanding of bread is coming along, but I’m kind of resistant to knowing it, partially because I’m so glued to pancakes and the griddle. Having his book is like having an extended class with him on your shelf. (If you can see him live, there is a sourdough class online at Craftsy.)
I wouldn’t miss the chance to spend another morning with Richard and flour, except my family’s long planned vacation falls on the same weekend. So I ask you to go in my stead, and say hello to Kate and Richard. And then come to my house and make me some pie and bread.
Editor’s note: More information on A Fiery Weekend of Bread, Potions, and Pie and information on how to register can be found at One Big Table