A New Mission
Like most of us, I grew up thinking of flour – when I thought about it at all – as an inert white substance, patiently waiting in its jar on the shelf until someone needed a spoonful to thicken a gravy, or a few cups to make a cake.
Then ten years ago, I became friends with Wolfgang Mock, a man with decidedly different views about flour. Since the early 1980s, Wolfgang had been building and selling home flour mills –setting standards for such mills- his efforts driven by a deep conviction that whole, and freshly milled, was the only way that grains should be consumed.
At some point, Wolfgang’s convictions about the importance of cooking and baking with live, fresh flour brought a live, fresh energy to my own life. I admitted that Wolfgang’s mission was drawing me into his orbit.
I had worked for nearly twenty-five years in the field of medical technology, playing pioneer roles in boosting obscure startups to unexpected, improbable commercial success. I realized, looking back, that what drove all of us in those ventures was a sense of mission similar in passion to the missionary vibes I was now feeling in my discussions with Wolfgang.
I also realized I was hungry for another Mission: an exercise in spreading conviction, a generally risky venture, a personal engagement requiring singular dedication and some sacrifice. I told Wolfgang to count me in.
Wolfgang’s mission for me was different, however. Unlike my prior experience developing new technologies, this time I would be bringing back an old technology – but doing so in a way that aligned with a newfound global interest in real foods. In fact, my task was to find new ways to approach the challenge of convincing people to give up a convenience few people question – that inert bag of flour on the pantry shelf.
Wolfgang knows, and has known for decades, that in our society grains are generally transformed to flour too early – and too destructively – for them to be of much value to us as food. To get their full value, we need to eat the whole content of the grain. And we need to eat it at once: we need to wait until the very last minute before we liberate the grains from their wonderfully protective natural packages, transforming them into something we can readily consume.
For that, we have to do our own milling. Just-in-Time. On-the-Spot. Our mission, at Wolfgang Mock, is to provide simpler, better, more affordable means of doing so. We’ll make it easy for people to unpack nature’s gift right before using it, an approach that promises more flavor and better nutrition for the consumer.
But how will we get that consumer to break such a very old habit? How will we get people to stop using only flour milled somewhere else, by someone else, sometime before? That is my new mission, one that has me greeting each new day with enthusiasm – and this blog will chronicle my experiences as a Milling Missionary.
A missionary’s life is generally fraught with hardship, frustration, and doubt. But it is also characterized by a sense of great purpose and meaning, and usually studded with profound moments of satisfaction. The successful missionary oversees the hardship, overcomes the frustration, represses or forgives the doubt, lives for the sense of purpose and bathes deliciously in the pleasure and privilege of those profound moments.
Already, this mission to get people excited about fresh, home-milled flour has allowed me to learn from Wolfgang Mock… to call on baking and grain experts around the world (who generously allow me to grab their attention!)… to travel to fascinating conferences and meetings… and to gather feedback on what we (and so many others) see as a truly nifty first product. It’s also allowed me to develop a lifestyle in harmony with the mission and also with my true, deeply-held values.
What a privilege! And it’s about that privilege that I intend to write. I hope you’ll enjoy the chronicle, as I am certain to enjoy writing it.
Next post: A completely new environment…