The miller’s life
Story by Theresa Curry
Two or three times a year I dodge the barreling southbound trucks on Interstate 81 and travel towards Raphine, to cook with Georgie Young at Wade’s Mill. She and her husband, Jim, left fast-paced urban jobs to restore the old, water-powered mill and the miller’s home across the yard.
Jim oversees the grinding of yellow Virginia corn, wheat and rye, and Georgie gives cooking classes in her comfortable farmhouse kitchen.
On the opposite side of the mill store from the flours, meals and whole grains are shelves of French linens, knives as sharp as razors, non-stick baking pads and wonderful stoneware pots able to stand the heat of a gas flame. Georgie – who once led culinary tours of France – has collected a small but dazzling array of cook’s helpers and adornments, high-tech, low-tech and no-tech, tools distinguished by their practicality and durability, put to daily use in her own kitchen.
Georgie can talk haute cuisine with the best of them. Her humbler mission these days is creating wonderful dishes from the fruits of Augusta County grain fields and the miller’s art. Her cooking students work side by side with the teacher: we make a rustic loaf with crackling crust and pillowy interior; dark loaves bursting with flavor, dense and chewy; cakes and biscuits with cornmeal and wheat flour, Christmas puddings of crusty chunks of leftover bread soaked with fresh eggs and milk and studded with cranberries; all with flavor and nourishment from the grains preserved by the low-temperature milling. Whole grains fresh from the Virginia mill are quite different from meals and flours sold in the store as “whole grain,” Georgie says. Even the Wades Meal “white” flour is flecked with pieces of bran and germ.
Georgie talks about the importance of educating people to cook at home. “Economically, not being able to manage a kitchen is a disaster,” she said. “I can probably feed my family steak for less than some families pay for fast food.” During the summer, with an ample garden and sacks of fresh grain, the contrast is even greater.
I asked Georgie for some ideas for using whole grains with summer produce. She makes fresh berry puddings, polenta pie, wheat berries softened and tossed with chopped herbs. She likes making a stiff polenta, cooled and cut and covered with sautéed vegetables as an appetizer, or a creamier version flavored with herbs and dipped up with crudités. One of her current favorites is La Taboulee des Croissades (see recipe, below) a bulghur salad that combines the cracked wheat with tomatoes for a refreshing summer dish. It was named she said, as many things were, for the knights who brought Moorish ideas back to Europe during the dark ages.
La Taboulee des Croissaides
In the summer, Georgie Young makes this with fresh tomatoes. In the winter, she uses fava beans or edame (cooked green soybeans).
Start to finish time (including bulghur preparation) 1 ½ hours. Serves 8-10
– 3 cups bulghur wheat
– ¼ cup mixed butter and olive oil
– 1 medium onion,chopped
– 2 cups boiling salted water
– Salt and pepper
– Tomatoes according to taste, sliced, or grape tomatoes cut in half
– Pitted good quality black olives to taste
First, make the bulghur. Add one cup of Wades Mill cracked wheat to one cup of water and cook at high heat in a microwave oven for five minutes. Dry in a 250 degree oven for an hour. Makes three cups of bulghur.
Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion until translucent but not brown. Add the bulghur and stir for a minute or two to coat the grains. Add the water, boil for a few minutes, stirring. Allow to cool, correct the seasonings, stir in the dressing, olives and tomatoes.
For the dressing:
– Juice and grated rind of 2 lemons
– 1/3 cup olive oil
– 2 garlic cloves, peeled
– 10 pecans, toasted
– ¼ cup plain yogurt
– Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
– 8-10 medium, tender romaine or Bibb lettuce leaves
– Spread leaf on each plate and tops with mound of taboulee.