One of the interesting things about living in the middle of such a different culture is seeing how different our perception of what is desirable often is from that of others.  Obviously we know that not everyone shares the current American obsession for lean meat and whole grains, but sometimes the reminders come in funny ways.

We took Danny’s parents up to Ulus to show them the citadel and the little old cobblestone streets and shops and such, and I noticed that outside the spice shop there was a big sack of what looked like whole wheat berries.  I love grinding my own flour for bread, but whole wheat berries are surprisingly hard to come by, even in the States.  When we lived in DC, for instance, the only place close to us that had them was MOM’s.  Even the Whole Foods in Clarendon didn’t carry them in their massive bulk foods section.  I had assumed that the only way I could get whole wheat berries to use for bread baking here was to order them from the States, and you can just imagine the shipping costs on something as heavy as wheat.

When I asked the shopkeeper if the grains in the sack were indeed wheat that could be made into flour, he looked somewhat bemused and noted that they were only for feeding to birds.  He brought me into the shop and showed me a sack of what looked to me like polished wheat grains, and noted that they were the ones to use for flour and cooking for humans.  Upon further questioning he explained that yes, they were the same grains as the ones in the sack outside, but that they had been cleaned and had the nasty outer part removed.  Imagine his confusion when I asked for a kilo of the “bird food” and kept talking to Danny about how I wondered if it was high gluten wheat that would be suitable for bread-baking.

I tried baking some bread with the wheat, using half store-bought whole wheat flour to be on the safe side, and it worked beautifully!  Of course, I did have to pick out some bits of hay and straw before I ground it, but that’s a small price to pay for having freshly ground flour for a tiny fraction of the price I would pay to get it shipped to me.  The whole kilo of wheat cost me 2.50 TL, which works out to 67 cents a pound.  I’m not sure exactly what it costs to buy it in bulk now, but I can’t imagine that it’s more than that.  Sometimes being the crazy Westerner who wants to eat undesirable things like whole wheat and lean meat works to our advantage, since skinless chicken breasts are never sold out and apparently whole wheat can be gotten for the price of bird food.