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Bread Lab! kids book explores the science of bread

Sep 2nd, 2018 | Category: Community

Breadfarm will join Sept. 15 book event

by Mary Vermillion

What better way to celebrate Food Literacy Month in September than with a launch party for Bread Lab!, a picture book that reveals the science – and magic – of bread written by Kim Binczewski and Bethany Econopouly of Washington State University’s Bread Lab in Mount Vernon. Binczewski will be joined by Renee Bourgault and Scott Mangold of Breadfarm in Edison for the 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15 book launch event at Village Books in Bellingham. We caught up with Binczewski and Bourgault to find out what happens when you mix bread and books.bread lab book kim web

Grow Northwest: Kim, why did you and Bethany decide to write the book?

Kim Binczewski: Philip Lee, co-founder of (publisher) Readers to Eaters, met Dr. (Stephen) Jones at a Slow Food Seattle event. They approached him with an interest to publish a book on the Bread Lab.  Bethany and I pitched an idea to Philip and (co-publisher) June Jo Lee in January 2016 and it took off from there.


GN: Renee and Kim, how did you meet? 

Renee Bourgault: At the Bread Lab and over the years of attending the Grain Gathering (an annual industry event held at the Bread Lab). On a side note, Breadfarm has been lucky to have a relationship with WSU graduate students and researchers since early on in our existence. Research students would bring Scott small bags of grain after harvest to mill and bake with. Scott loved to test bake and help them develop qualities in their wheat breeding that an artisan baker would look for. The Bread Lab kind of took that to a whole new level.  It really couldn’t be much better for us!


GN: Kim, what do you hope kids and families will do or learn as a result of reading the book?

KB: I hope it inspires them to start baking, or bake more; to think beyond the bag of flour they typically grab at the grocery store and consider the farm where the wheat was grown and the mill where it was ground; look at ingredients in bread and investigate them if they do not know what it is; start their own starter and try the recipe in the book!; think and talk about women in science.


GN: Renee, I would think you’d read this book through several perspectives: as a baker, a business owner connected to Skagit’s grain economy, and as a mom. 

RB: Breadfarm is a sourdough bakery, all our loaves are naturally leavened. It’s such a great way to bake – adding flavor, nutritional value, keeping qualities of loaves – so a book appealing to kids about this technique in bread baking is fantastic! As a business owner, we are indebted to all the work of Dr. Jones and the Bread Lab over the years. Speaking from the regional grain perspective, having access to our main ingredient, wheat, now being grown (in abundance) all around us is amazing. Skagit County was bathed in amber waves of grain the past two summers. We literally can source flour that has been grown and milled within 12 miles of our bakery… Last year, 40 percent of our grain purchases at Breadfarm were local grain from Fairhaven Flour Mill and Cairnspring Mill. It’s an awesome accomplishment for us and a story we need to be better about sharing with our customers. We bake for a living, so slowing down and remembering to bake at home with our kids, creating memories via baking, passing along the craft.  This book is a great launch pad for that.


GN: The book tells the story of Iris and her Aunt Mary, a plant researcher inspired by co-author Bethany Econopouly. Together they make whole wheat sourdough bread from scratch, transforming the family kitchen into a bread lab. Iris (and young readers) learn the science – and magic – of making bread. What are your childhood memories of baking?

KB: My mom baked a lot in the summer with all the fresh fruit … shortcake, cobbler and lots of pies.  And we always made cookies for Christmas.

RB: Ha! My brother and I loved the refrigerated Pillsbury croissants out of a tube. My uncle was famous for his sourdough pancakes, so we kept his starter in the fridge; it was so fun to have to “feed” it the day before making pancakes.


GN: What has it been like to share your book with your kids?

KB: My daughter was my go-to person when I needed someone to read the updated drafts (which there were A LOT!).  Honestly, I think she was just relieved when it was finally finished!


GN:  The book also encourages readers to think about the science connected to baking. How are kids reacting to that lesson?

RB: My kids love the science of baking, but they hear about it a lot at home. We host the kids from Edison Elementary every year to tie science or math curriculum with our craft. It’s lovely to see kids close the circle with real life experiences after textbook learning.

GN: Your Village Books event is timed to Food Literacy Month. Why was that particularly important?

KB: The mission of Readers to Eaters is to promote Food Literacy so children and families have a better understanding of what and how we eat. It lined up perfectly to release the book in September, which Gov. Inslee proclaimed as Food Literacy Month in 2015.


For more information

IF YOU GO: The Bread Lab! book launch party is 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15 at Village Books Readings Gallery, 1200 11th Street, Bellingham. The event is co-sponsored by the Bread Lab at WSU, Mount Vernon. After a reading from the book, author Kim Binczewski will discuss the work of the Bread Lab and share wheat plants and different types of grain and flour. Renee Bourgault and Scott Mangold, founders of the Breadfarm, will lead the audience in a tasting of several breads. Hands-on activities may include doughs in different stages for people to smell and touch. Kids will receive a sourdough starter to take home. Bread Lab! is available for purchase at Village Books.

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