Wheat Berries and Writing

The best part about spending the night with my best friend was the food. Her mother bought organic and local before those words entered the public conversation. Dinner was always made fresh and was always very filling. At my house, we started with small helpings and then (maybe) went back for seconds. We always ate dessert. At my best friend’s house, plates were filled to the rim, and everyone got seconds. No dessert. But that didn’t matter because my best friend’s mom served homemade whole wheat bread. She even ground her own wheat berries to make the flour. I’d skip the meat and fill up on her bread.

L.L. Barkat mentioned that she grinds her own wheat berries, too. I always wanted to be the kind of woman who did that sort of thing. I’m not. But, oh, there is nothing better than a loaf of warm wheat bread, fresh from the oven, like my aunt in Wyoming used to make. She didn’t grind her own wheat berries. She ran an advertising agency.

I’ve been thinking about wheat berries and writing after my counselor asked me, “How do you think your writing might change?” I didn’t like the question, but I can’t shake it. My counselor asked because our family is in the midst of a tragedy. We’re past the crisis. Now we’re on to a good old-fashioned epic Greek tragedy which ends with everyone in a massive display of PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome).

Classic Greek tragedy is the origin of acting, of people portraying other people in disguise. Like in the book of Sirach: “I will walk with them in disguise.”

How do you disguise a wheat berry? Grind it up. Pulverize it. Bake it into bread.

In November, Ann Kroeker asked me what kind of writing gives me the most life. I said poetry because in a poem, I can be completely honest while keeping things in disguise.

For example, Robert Burns wrote, “My love is like a red, red rose.” Simile. Fine. At some sunnier points in my life, I might have written, “My love is a red, red rose.” Metaphor. Also fine. Now, I just write about red, red roses. If you happen to see love in that, well, that’s lovely. If not, tell me about roses — red, white, pink, the yellow rose of Texas. More than fine.

Maybe this is the place where fiction takes over. But not memoir-disguised-as-fiction. If I’m gonna write fiction, I’m gonna go all the way. Let’s talk about wheat berries, how after you grind them to smithereens, you can make the most amazing whole wheat bread.

I’ve got loads of wheat berries to work with. The comments on L.L. Barkat’s post showed me that some people don’t even know what a wheat berry is. So, there’s room for this wheat berry disguised as a loaf of bread to rise. Only those who grind their own will know where it came from.

Photo by Vegan Feast Catering. Creative Commons via Flickr. Post by Megan Willome.


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  1. says

    A certain person told me yesterday that a piece I had written looked like it had some wheat berries in it.

    They were ground to such smithereens I hadn’t even seen them.

    Love this piece, Megan. :)

  2. says

    Fresh Start
    for Megan

    The best part is organic,
    the knowing how to be

    her own woman, not
    in disguise, past the crisis

    of change and keeping words
    completely honest.

    Where grinding things
    like local wheat berries

    gives life to the house
    that serves the bread,

    it’s more than fine to make
    the most of the loaf

    that, like her, will rise
    and rise, knowing that

    where it came from
    she’s got loads to work with.

  3. says

    I love fresh-baked bread from freshly ground wheat berries. A friend of mine grinds and bakes bread daily with some assistance from machines (an electric grinder and a bread maker), and it always tastes so good. She inspired me.

    I, too, wanted to try making wheat from freshly ground berries, so another friend loaned me a hand grinder. That’s work, let me tell you, grinding with that little hand mill. We would take turns sitting at the table, cranking up the music to keep us going, and after a long, tiring time of turning the handle to grind bowls of wheat berries, we’d triumphantly hold up a tiny little bit of wheat to work with.

    But we cherished the bread made from all that smashing more than any we’d eaten before.

  4. says

    I used to make fresh bread. My wheat berries came ground. Or maybe i started with flour. It’s been so long I don’t remember. But I do know it all needed to be ground before it could grow.

  5. says

    I’ve always wanted to be the kind of woman who ground wheat berries too. But I’m not either. And, I think I’ve noticed a change in your writing. I might call it bolder. But I think “brave” is a better word. And, isn’t it funny how, the more in disguise the writing is, the realer it can be to other people?

  6. says

    I’m not very good at disguises, culinary or otherwise. But I think writing from deep and painful places in a way that is careful and sensitive to others is about the best thing a writer can do for herself or others. And you do it SO well, friend.

    I read this twice, by the way, just to soak it all in.

  7. says

    Honey, I think you are the wheat berries. God has crushed you, pulverized you and is baking you into something different but delicious. One day you will realize that you’ve come through the fire to the other side. And it is so sweet here.

  8. says

    I just finished a slice of warm banana bread. There was no wheat berry grinding going on, but there was some banana mashing. Kinda gooey,actually,but works well in the bread.

  9. says

    Meghan, this is so beautiful and filled with your heart and soul, and wheat berries. I love it. I love the metaphor. I love the incantations of fresh baked bread now wafting through my home. I love the talk of disguises. I have learned that disguises are not something to be cast off too quickly, and they can serve such a protective and therefore useful purpose (unless worn to harm others, and that’s another story). And, no matter how much we grind up that wheat berry it makes the most distinctive and wonderful bread, doesn’t it? Ahhh so glad I popped in today. Now I am feeling a sudden urge to reacquaint myself with the taste of nutty, warm, chewy wheat berries… and maybe even learn to grind ’em!

  10. Elizabeth says

    When I saw you in WalMart I thought, “What a facade that girl carries.” Then I whispered, “Please, Father, protect her.” Since I sat at my computer literally sobbing after reading your words and some of the comments…especially Sally’s and the banana bread response. I’ve lived my whole life in disguise, dear friend. It is hard. I hope you rise up and stand firm because I realize I am the banana that I hope God will find some use for. Thank you for your honesty. Write my name in the beach sand, please????

    • L. L. Barkat says

      We all carry facades. Some of us know it, and some of us don’t :)

      Art is a way to mediate between our inner lives and the world, and, thus, is probably less of a facade than one might first think.

      In this way, I imagine we can all find use for our wheatberries and bananas, should we put our hand to the medium of art (thinking, suddenly, about that word “medium” and how it feels related to “mediate.” :)

  11. says

    Makes me smile to know I have a big, unopened bag of hard wheat berries waiting to be pulverized into flour for fresh bread…yes, I bake bread occasionally – not as often as my family would like :) The experiences of life may grind and crush us but that’s what God can use, that we might nourish others. Thanks for a post wafting the warm and delicious aroma of satisfying ideas!

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