Flour was a staple of my childhood—huge bags of whole wheat organic bread flour were almost always in the center of the kitchen. It was vital, literally the base of our diet, but also invisible because it was so available and familiar. Unlike the seasonal apples or the labor–intensive black walnuts, flour was a given that required no work and was always there. I didn’t even think about it until well into college, when I had one obsessive vegan in my life, which meant that there were fewer titillating topics at 3 am other than flour + fake butter + tofu (organic & local) + peanut butter (organic) + maple syrup (local) = ethical anti-establishment cookies.
What establishment? you ask. Well, to begin with, the industrial food complex, the corporitization of food, agribusiness, consolidation, vertical/horizontal integration, transnational takeovers… To most localvore types, these phrases sound dangerous, cues that our food system has moved far from the place where it was 200, 100, and even 50 years ago. Some of the structural changes have benefited society. More have not. Today I offer a superficial look at a few structural issues seen through my ethical adventures in buying flour.