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The Mystery of the Mill, by Vrest Orton, 1951.

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A Word of Warning

In all recipes in this book, to save space and repetition, the grain ingredients are listed simply as wheat flour, oaten flour, soy, rye, corn meal, buckwheat and the like. Naturally we are referring only to 100% stoneground wholegrains.

There is some confusion, in the public mind, about two other terms often advertised. One is "Unbleached Flour." This is simply white flour, without the chemical bleach. in no sense is "unbleached flour" a wholegrain because, like any other white flour, it does not contain the natural vitamins and other nutritional elements always present in stoneground wholegrains.

Another term often misued is "Water Ground Meal." In the beginning stone mills were, by necessity, turned by water power created by a water wheel. "Water" has nothing to do with the meal except to provide power. The important fact is that the stone mill must be turned slowly so as to grind the grains cold, as will be explained in the following pages. A stone mill can be turned slowly by horses, windmills, electric motors, gasoline engines or even atomic energy; it makes no difference what the power is.

And one more word of warning: Labels are sometimes misleading on whole wheat products. Federal law requires that all ingredients be listed. This under the title "Wholegrain Bread" you can read in very fine print that the ingredients are "wholegrain wheat flour" and "white flour."  The proportions are never given. They could be one barrel of "white floiur" and one teaspoon of "wholegrain flour" and be within the law. That's like the classic recipe for Rabbit-Elephant Stew: One rabbit and one elephant!

Mystery of the Mill

mystery of the mill
"And when i have broken the staff of your bread -
Ye shall eat and not be satisfied."

A COOKING BOOK devoted exclusively to cooking with wholegrain flour is such an old-idea that it's brand new. Up to 1850 there was no other kind of cooking book. Yet there is probable not in print today, and certainly there has not been published this side of three-quarters of a century, a basic book of this character. This paradox can be explained by a brief excursion into the history of milling,

But  before this excursion into the past, I must define my terms. What is this wholegrain that we have all heard so much talk about in the last few years, particularly during the last decade?The answer is simple s all of of the grain kernel ground into meal of flour, whether it be corn, rye, wheat or oats.

Some confusion aries due to the several names given the wholegrain wheat products. In England, it is variously called wholemeal, entire wheat, wholegrain, and whole wheaten flour and in America, Graham flour and "wholewheat" flour. I prefer the term wholegrain flour to distinguish from that now prostituted word wholewheat, which in American has no more meaning whatever due to the shred manipulation of the English language by the millers and bakers or their advertising agents. For wholewheat is no longer a word meaning all of the wheat berry. You can buy "wholewheat" bread and "wholewheat" flour but you are in no sense getting all of the kernel of wheat. The millers and bakers get around the federal laws under which manufactures are supposed to attach true names descriptive of their produts by claiming that their product is wholewheat or, in their language, all wheat....that is to say, no barley, no corn, no oats. But in no sense is it all of the wheat.

Now when and why did the millers, already characterizes as shrewd, begin to use less than all of the wheat berry which nature in its munificence furnished to mankind?


The story begins in the Stone Age when wheat berries were crushed or pounded betwen stones by the females of the tribe. After a few thousand years they learned to use saddle-stones, or one concave stone upon which the grain was spread and another stone to rub or grind the grain into a coarse and primitive meal.  Even today in Mexico this saddle-stone, calle the metata there, is used for grinding corn from which the Mexicans make their tortillas. The third and last development of the stone was the quern or the stone rotation mill, the first complete milling machine. In existence as early as the second century B.C. this device was composed of two round French Buhr, or granite stones into which grooves were cut (the top turning on the stationary bottom stone), and it persisted down to about 75 years ago in England and America, and indeed is found in back country regions even today.

All of these aforementioned processes obviously ground all of the kernel of corn, rye, oats, or wheat into meal, taking no part out and therefore giving real meaning to the word wholegrain. Then came the revolution.

About the middle of the 19th Century when the industrial age was reaching out for more production and a mass market, there was invented and developed (chiefly by Hungarians at first and later by other continental Europeans) the roller-mill. The first complete automatic roller-mill was established in the United Kingdom in 1878 at Dublin, although the principle had been introduced into Scotland as early as 1872.

The roller-mill, ancestor of the contemporary milling apparatus is practically all civilized countries, consisted principally of a pair of fluted or grooved metal rollers. Unlike the single pair of cold stones turned slowly by waterpower, these rollers were arranged in a series, beginning with breakers to split the wheat, thus releasing the starch or endosperm so that it might be completely pulverized and ground by the smoother reduction rollers into white flour we know today.  Naturally speed was the main objective. Such a system produced flour just about 100 times faster tan the old slow-poke stone mills.

Yet the very slowness of the stone mill constituted its chief value as a food producing tool. The rich germ of the grain kernel has an oil that is susceptible to rancidity when heated in grinding, and if so heated clogs up the grinding surfaces. But the cold stone mills turned slowly, and could pulverize the germ into flour or meal. But like many another tool of early days, character and quality soon became less important than speed, and so the stone mills gave way, about 1870, to another machine.


Now we come to the "mystery of the mill." What else dud the new high-speed steel roller-mills do except to grind grain 100 times faster? Well, it was soon evident that the germ gummed up the high speed rollers. Therefore, by a series of graduated siftings it was possible to screen out this germ. This epoch-making discovery allowed the millers to expedite their operations, but more significant, they discovered soon enough that flour from which the live and perishable germ was screened out would keep indefinitely on store shelves.

It is rather appalling to realize how easily the milling trade has succeeded these many years keeping these facts from the public, both in America and Great Britain. We only have to look to that famous authority, The Encyclopedia Britannia, to obtain bonafide evidence.  The erudite and technical account of milling in that compendium was written by an English miller, and it is revealing to see how nonchalantly he treats of the process by which the germ was eliminated. He says, " roller milling the germ was easily separated from the rest of the berry and it was readily sifted from the stock. The germ contains a good deal of fatty matter which, if allowed to remain, would not increase the keeping qualities of the flour."

That such a standard reference should allow truth to be so distorted is amazing enough, were it not for the more sinister fact that the milling trade has now reached the apotheosis of the craft when they believe their own lies and perpetrate them with no moral guilt whatever.

But it might be interesting to ask what this refined white flour that keeps better is doing to out stomachs. No one has summed it up more than Geoffrey Bowles in that delightful magazine the British Countryman, when he declared: "much of our national illness is caused by crazes for food that is (1) white, (2) refined, and (3) keepable. All three crazes are exemplified in white flour. The best food chemists are the earth and the sun, which produce the wholewheat that the steel rollers of the white flour millers spoil. White flour makes white is stuff to be eaten fresh, not to be "kept: as if it were an heirloom.........wholemeal flour naturally does not "keep" because the germ in it is alive. Germless white flour "keeps"  because it is dead, because it is as dead as Portland cement powder, all its goodness having been sifted out of it. Let them "keep" their flour who have no care to keep their health."


Let it not be thought from the forgiving that our cooking book is a polemic against the milling business. But to understand what actually has happened to food during the years of "refinement," it is necessary to look carefully into that simple thing; the wheat berry or the corn kernel, and to understand why it has been treated so unfairly.

Without getting too technical we can say that the wheat berry consists of three sections, (a) the skin or what is commonly known as the bran, which holds the rest of the kernel together, (b) the endosperm, is volume the main part of the berry, or seed of life from which new life springs if planted, and which give life-nourishing factors if eaten. This energizing germ contains most of the vitamins and minerals of the berry, very approximately 90%. Yet this germ, in modern milling, is cast aside as a by-product. That such is paradox could persist these many years is astonishing. Yet it is easy to see that when a process and results in millions of dollars of profits yearly, the millers are not likely to change in favor of producing a better product when they can make more money with what they are doing.

And it is not because they have been given no opportunity. From a process introduced about 1910, down to the revolutionary milling methods of an engineer name Earle, introduced in England before the Hitler war, millers have been offered machines by which they could not only include the vital germ of the grain in flour, but they could still grind it as fast as by the roller-mill system. Their argument that, to grind the germ into the flour, they would have to return to the stone mill, does not hold water.

The British Countryman, at the beginning of the second World War, started a brave crusade for real wholegrain bread in England, but it was not strong enough to beat down the resistance of entrenched millers. In this country there has been no concerted movement to oppose the milling trust, and certainly this author is not foolhardy to undertake what could be at best a quixote adventure. However, this is not to say that in the United States there is not an increasing number of persons discovering the truth about modern milling. And certainly in our small hill village in Vermont we have seen what can happen when intelligent people catch on. The Vermont Country Store stone mill in Weston is not hard at work grinding wholegrain products which are distributed to Americans all over the land by mail.

This wholegrain "revival" is small and will never reach more than a million people, because - as authorities have pointed out, there seems to be a perversity in human beings to like things that are not good for them! This is due somewhat to the obdurate fact that the milling and baking groups have for fifty or more years kept alive the public's opinion that refined white flour was refined in more than the technical way, that is, it was socially incorrect to be caught eating dark bread or, as the propagandists now call it, peasant bread. Although millions of people today eat they assume to be wholewheat bread issued by modern bakers, thus is in most cases made of nothing more than patent white flour colored with bran.

The original meaning of the word flour, from the French fleur, signified "the best part," but it apparently is no longer the best part at all. Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture in one of its Bulletins had the courage to state that "..............experiments have shown that in general the highly refined flours contain practically none of the vitamins present in the whole grain product."


A great to-do has been made in recent years over the "enrichment" of bread and flour. In England millers and bakers were compelled by the government to give the people of that country more vitamins per loaf during the war by producing a higher extraction flour, fortified with synthetic vitamins. However, this very slight improvement was fought bitterly by the millers and bakers who played up the horrible fact that the good folk of England were being forced to eat peasant bread! Yet in America, those gentlemen eagerly accepted the enrichment idea, as a sop to public demand for better bread.

But this enrichment program is at the bottom a delusion and a deceit.*

*Gayelord Hauser, in his book "Look Younger, Live Longer," says, "No vitamin E and only two of the sixteen or more known B vitamins are added to devitalized bread ironically publicized as "Enriched." What strange mathematics - to take away sixteen and add only two, and call the result "enriched." Such misbranding should be dealt with under the Pure Food and Drug Act."

The original wheat berry contains a number of minerals such as calcium, iron, and phosphorus as well as fat, and the vitamins A, E, and the B-complec group of vitamins. In the wheat berry (as nature grew it) these elements exist in perfect balance and furthermore, create a rich nutty flavor which anyone can discover by chewing a few fresh, unground berries of wheat. The "enrichment" of bread consists of purring back into the defunct white flour one or two synthetic vitamins. The other vitamins and minerals and nature's balance, as well as the flavor of the original product are omitted. What we really have in these synthetically enriched products is something approaching a patent medicine lost in a welter of starch, and starch, of course is destitute of flavor.  The white bread eater walks out of the grocery store with several loaves of white bread under his arm and in order to obtain any discernible nourishment, he must walk across the street to the drugstore and buy several bottles of vitamin pills. But even then he is missing a great deal in actual nourishment and downright eating pleasure. Also, sadly enough, diseases increase and fertility decreases.

Medical discoveries not accepted by all well known nutritionists show that vitamin E (which is present in the original wheat berry) benefits many types of heart disease. Reputable physicians after a great deal of research have discovered that the known increase in heart disease may well be due to the over-refinement of foods such as the removal of the germ, and therefore of the vitamins and minerals from flour.

And when it comes to fertility, it is well established now that the oil in the germ is rich in vitamin E which confers upon mankind fertility and vigor.

This germ is removed by modern milling processes.


It might seem  that I wandered far from cooking. But this volume is an attempt, by the empirical method, to prove that everything good may still be made of wholegrain flour in spite of the fact that the hundreds of cook books in print today are based upon germless white flour. The impression has got about (and not unaided) that you can cook nothing fit for human consumption of wholegrain products and that you need white flour to make beautiful light, fluffy bread, rolls, cakes, etc.

I sometimes wonder just how this food lightness and food whiteness got started. My hunch is that the lighter and whiter a food is, the less tasty and satisfying. I suspect that the desirability of making foods as light as a feather and as white as chalk was brought about, shrewdly, after millers and bakers found by the removal of the germ, and by the introduction of bleachers and chemicals they could make food that, like any other embalmed thing, kept until it was sold! They have been able to educate the public into believing that lightness and whiteness are more important than taste and nutrition.

I strongly suspect that modern cooking, promoted by the cook books and cooking schools subsidized by manufactures of refined and processed products, is a way of making something to eat that will quickly and completely fool the eater into thinking it is something good to eat. One has only to look at the brilliant display of items on the shelves of the supermarkets to realize that they eye appeal is the main desideratum. I feel that many of us, until we are shown better, are very much like the woman who rushed home from a meeting of the Wooman's Sewing Circle and, surrounded by her husband and children, exclaimed with great pride: "Oh, I learned a wonderful recipe for cake today from Mrs. Jones. She gave me her rule for making cake without using any eggs or butter at all!" The next step would be cheating at solitaire!

For thousands of years bread was made of genuine wholegrain flour, and man thrived. As a matter of fact the highest level of cooking as an art, as well as a method of fortifying the human frame, was reached in the 18th Century. Those great chefs of France, such as Brillat-Savarin and Monsieur Careme now considered the greatest cooks of all time, were plying their art before modern white patent flour was ever dreamt of.  They cooked everything with wholegrain flour and firmly established cooking among the great arts of civilization. This was a contributing factor in making France one of the great civilized nations of the world.

"COOKING WITH WHOLEGRAINS" is not, however, a book for professional chefs or for those who believed that they can duplicate the success of Brillat-Savarin and Careme. It is for everyday housewives and also men who are occasionally found in the kitchen, who wish to cook something not only good to eat but good for them!

I will state without fear of contravention that all edibles capable of being cooked with grains can be better cooked with wholegrains and, what is more important perhaps, be better eaten for better health and enjoyment.

This book was originally published because of a new concern about nutrition that was being expressed at that time in articles and books by a few pioneer crusaders for better health, such as Adelle Davis. Now that interest has been tremendously intensified not only because many new books now pay attention to good cooking as well as good health, but because the Federal Government, through its several consumer protection agencies, has begun to see to it that the public knows what it is buying from reading the labels on what is being bought.

But today the broader interest in natural foods and wholegrains goes way beyond these factors. A new audience has been born. Young people all over the land are experiencing a new joy that this book reveals. They are discovering that cooking with wholegrains, as a process, is stimulating and rewarding because it produces foods of superlative taste that appeal to an educated and committed gourmet, not whom, of course, good eating is not a necessity but an art.

And the young folk are not inhibited against experimenting. That is why they are finding a new interest in a "Basic Cookbook" like this one which leaves room for the exercise of the imagination and aids in the acquisition of new skills.

Of a necessity, a quite different set of recipes is needed for wholegrain cooking than for cooking with germless commercial meals and flour. In using wholegrain products, the relationship between dry and liquid ingredients is different, and other ingredients change in amounts, and especially the knack of combining them. For example, wholegrain corn and wheat contain considerable natural sweetness, and therefore it is never necessary strongly to fortify them with sugar, as must be done when cooking with tasteless and lifeless commercial flour.

It occurred to me that my wife probably knew as much about cooking with wholegrains as any other woman not because of her particular genius as a cook (although she is an excellent one), but because in all these years we have been operating a stone mill here in Vermont she has cooked with wholegrains products!

Being a fellow who believes that things must work to be good, I was forced to the realization that my wife was the only person to prepare this cooking book.  So this year she has been hard at work. Every recipe in this book has been eaten, not sold. Many recipes in this book have been tried time and time again until the right blend was achieved.

I am proud to se that my wife has not committed the cardinal sin of some cooks. I have seen and tussled with, I refer to the sin of using any sugar at all in Southern, or Rhode Island Johnnycake, hoe cake or whatever you prefer to call it. Having eaten and drunk my way pleasantly from New Orleans to Philadelphia, I take off my hat to those lovely ladies of the South, who know by nature that wholegrain corn meal tickles the palate with its own natural sweetness, and that it is as sacrilegious to add sugar to corn dishes as it would be to erect a stature of Sherman in Atlanta.

Further, while these charming ladies of the Providence Plantations still swear by white corn meal, which I claim exhibits less than half the flavor and natural sweetness of yellow, I am ready to forgive this fall from grace on the ground that in my early days in their nation I relished with no little gusto to the classic Rhode Island johnnycake, flavored with bacon fat, covered with South country butter, and washed down with a beer that was, the last i heard, still made in those parts, and a credit to the country.

My wife won't admit it, but I am of course somewhat of a cook myself! I sneak into the kitchen, particularly in the morning, and knock off muffins or pancakes, at will. However, if I were to write the recipe in this book, they would go something like the one for flapjacks I made last Sunday morning. I give you my recipe for what it may be worth: -

My Own Flapjacks

Da\ump some wholegrain oaten flour into a large dish and into that some wholegrain wheat flour. Mix these together with the hands so that lumps are broken up. Then shake some baking powder out of the can into the mixture, and some salt. Mix again. In another dish beat up two eggs with wire whip until they run over the edge. Pour this liquid into the dry mixture and then add some milk and stir but not beat. Melt some lard and when cool stir it in.  Now you have flapjacks that when properly and slowly fried on a soapstone griddle on top of a woodburning stove, and then dished onto a plate and covered with butter and maple syrup are fit to eat.

I suppose, however, that it would be difficult for some people to follow such a recipe but frankly I cook by ear. I can never remember how much of anything. If you wish to cook this way, I suggest that you eat a little raw wholegrain meal of different kinds and see how it tastes. And since you know how milk, eggs, and other ingredients taste you should be able to put them together in such a way that when they get through everything tastes good. This is my method of cooking.

Probably most women will be glad that this is not my wife's.


I want to say a word about bread which my wife has really paid a great deal of attention to in the following recipes. It should be obvious that the bakers' bread we eat nowadays is no longer the staff of life. The most classic evidence of this was reported some years ago in the British Medical Journal. It seems that Sir William Wilcox discovered that in the hospitals of Egypt during the first World War there existed an epidemic of beri-beri which knocked off the white troops but not the Indians. When Sir William looked into the matter he found that the Indian troops had been fed their native flour made of wholegrain ground on stones. The white troops had been treated a little better and fed white flour!

It is to bad that modern penology does not recognize the wisdom of punishments meted out to bread adulterators in the early days. Records show that the making of bread has always been regulated from the Middle Ages and that in the 18th Century it was usual, when bread prices were raised too high, to hang a baker or two. An authority writing of the bakers of Cinstantinople relates that it was the custom of master bakers to keep a second employee in reserve who in consideration of a small increase in his weekly wage, agreed to appear before the court in case a victim was wanted.  In Egypt bakers who sold adulterated bread were nailed to the door posts of their establishments by their ears.

I suppose it is too much to hope that this tradition will be slavishly followed by out government, and as a matter of cold fact, if most of the world wishes to eat sawdust, I don't know as it is any concern of mine. I shall have to be content in the hop that a chosen few who have been introduced to the wholesome, rich, nutty flavor of wholegrains will be eager t try a hand at new and different way of cooking them.


I would, however, make a final plea for the healthy exercise of the imagination. Cooking, being an art, is no different, at bottom, form any other art.  The rules of painting, or the notes of an immortal sonata can be set carefully down, and in fact beautifully printed, but the result is still in the hands, mind, and heart of the practitioner. So with cooking.

The recipes that follow are, like the rules for mixing paints, or the symbols for finding notes on the keyboard, merely to guide you. They are basic recipes, and can, by minor changes, be varied ion dozens of different ways.  It is your imagination, and your technique (which may be no more than "just getting the right knack") that can help you reach the Olympian heights of all those who practice the culinary arts, where it is realized that we live to eat, rather than eat to live.

Vrest Orton, (1897-1986), 1951, from "Cooking with Wholegrains," by Mildred Ellen Orton (1911-    ), Introduction by Vrest Orton.

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