My grandfather lived next to two wheat farmers. I secretly wished my grandfather was a wheat farmer. I would bicycle along the edge of their fields, picking stalks that the combine harvesters missed. “Ooh, the farmers will be after you,” Grandma teased when I brought them to her. She gathered them in a bouquet in a vase in her kitchen.
There is a picture of me and my sister and brother in a wheat field. I am ten. I am wearing my favorite dress: it came from Mexico but I bought it in a thrift shop. My arm is curled protectively around my little brother. The wheat comes up to our shoulders. We are squinting a little into the sun.
My hometown was in the middle of thousands of acres of wheat farms. The land is fertile because of volcanic ash. It’s good soil: and it rains often enough, but not too often. The farmers raise other crops, but my favorite of theirs is wheat. It is beautiful. The way it flows and moves in the wind, the way it shines gold in the sun.
I cook mostly with whole-wheat flour now. The first year using it was the worst. A cup of whole wheat flour doesn’t work the same as a cup of of white flour does. It made my bread tough and short. It had a nutty taste that bled through — even in breads with strong flavors like rosemary and molasses. Gradually I learned the balance.
My sister doesn’t eat wheat. On her daughter’s birthday I made cake and cookies for everyone. Pink icing covered everything: two year olds are very easy to please. For her, I made gluten (and dairy) free cupcakes. She seemed to enjoy them. I won’t say what I think of vegan, gluten-free cupcakes here — but the pizza she eats is, I’ll admit, very good.
My favorite ever sandwich was made with my Aunt’s special bread, cream cheese and soft, sharp white cheese. I saw my Aunt slap the dough into her counter the night before. It was a bread designed to sit in your stomach all day: wheat, germ, nuts, and raisins. I ate the sandwich sitting down on a log in an unfamiliar forest. It lasted me through the forest, to the lake, and all the way back home.
Emily’s favorite joke of the moment is — Q: “What did Adele say when she crossed the road? A: Hello from the other side!”