Saturday, June 8, 2013

Carbon's Golden Malted Flour --Waffle Ambrosia

                                 Carbon Flour in a restaurant on the Greek island of Poros. [Photo, Teri Carns]

I wish I could say that I grew up in Buchanan in the 1950s enjoying F. S. Carbon Golden Malted waffles. They were, after all, invented there. My oldest brother, who recalls serving Carbon Flour pancakes and waffles at Boy Scout fund-raising dinners said, "It never entered my mind that ordinary people would eat it at home, unless they lived in the big city of Chicago." My next younger brother took over our father's factory, White Welder in the mid-1970s, and recalled helping re-engineer the waffle irons with the young Carbon son who ran the company in Buchanan at time.

Today there are still family connections. A sister-in-law treats us all to Carbon waffles made in one of the early Carbon irons on special occasions. The Iowa sister keeps a supply in her cupboard for kids and grandkids. The oldest brother, who retired and turned speed skater some years ago says that the Olympic Headquarters for training in Colorado Springs regularly serves Carbon Flour waffles and pancakes to the Olympians.

                                  Iowa sister with Carbon Flour stash [Photo by Tom Lazio].

What I found most fascinating over the years were the little cafes in unexpected places with Carbon Flour signs in their windows. Something created in Buchanan had made it into the larger world.  My favorite was the little cafe that featured it on the waterfront in Poros, one of those exotic Greek islands not far from Athens.

                                         The harbor at Poros, April 2010 [Photo, Teri Carns]

The 75th anniversary of  Golden Malted Flour rolled around in 2012. Fred S. Carbon founded the company in 1930 in Buchanan, Michigan, and patented his flour in 1937. In 1968, he got a patent on his waffle iron. In 1998, the company reorganized as New Carbon, and moved to South Bend, Indiana, a few miles from its first home.

Some Carbon history tidbits:
  • Carbon has supplied waffles and waffle cones to Disney since the early 1970s.
  • Betty Ford served Carbon waffles at the White House when she was first lady.
  • In 1986, Fred S. Carbon died, and his son Don became owner of the company.
  • He sold in 1998, to Scott Carbon (Fred's grandson) and four of Carbon's distributors who reorganized the company in 1999; it  became New Carbon, and moved to South Bend, after sixty-plus years in Buchanan.
  • 2004, Carbon was featured on Emeril Live, the Today Show, and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
New Carbon has kept up with the times. In 2013, it makes Gluten-free Carbon flour, and Organic waffle mix in Apple-Cinnamon and Multi-Grain. If you eat waffles in the self-serve breakfast rooms in Hampton Inns, Hilton, or Marriott, or any number of other hotel chains, you may well be enjoying Carbon waffles. Denny's serves them. In 2012, Carbon went mobile with Carbon's Kitchen, its truck for travels to food festivals, fairs, tailgate parties, and more, across the United States.

The recipe is a mystery of course --even when you know the ingredients: "Enriched Wheat Flour (wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), Corn Flour, Leavening (baking soda, monocalcium phosphate, sodium acid pyrophosphate), Malt Powder, Salt, Sugar, Buttermilk, Artificial Flavor." Nothing spectacular there, but the company has patented the way in which those ordinary things are combined.

Carbon  Golden Malted waffles came to my attention again while reading William Alexander's book, 52 Loaves. He describes his year's worth of efforts to bake the perfect French peasant bread,and along the way mentions Carbon Golden Malted Waffles as the gold standard in waffledom.  The book lays bare some of the mysteries of waffle deliciousness. For better waffles, he says, add more fat (melted butter is best) because it takes the place of water and therefore reduces the sogginess possibilities. Use a waffle iron with deeper indentations to get more surface area crisp. And, he says, use Carbon Malted Flour.

                                                  Carbon flour in its well-known can [Photo, Peg Lazio].
Contact information:

Carbon's Golden Malted
4101 William Richardson Drive
South Bend, In 46628
574.247.2270 • 1.800.253.0590

To order your own original Carbon's Gold Malted, or other products, go to:
© 2013 | Carbon's Golden Malted, Golden Malted and Carbon's Kitchen are registered trademarks of New Carbon Company.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Michigan wheat - A miller's tale

Pears Mill
Pears Mill, Buchanan, Michigan, photo from

Late in the wet and drear October of 1822, the Reverend Isaac McCoy and a small group of settlers arrived at the Carey Mission on a small creek in the southwest corner of Michigan.  In their ox-drawn wagons they brought the essentials -- flour, seeds, seed potatoes, corn, dried fruit, and clothing. They drove and dragged their sheep and oxen, ferrying them across rivers in canoes built as they slogged along. Norma Stevens, in The Real McCoy, told of their arrival and settlement, and more of the story of the town's history.

From the inauspicious beginning on the Potawatomie land around the village of Chief Moccasin grew the town of McCoy's Creek (when the railroad came through, it assumed the "more dignified" name of Buchanan). The Reverend McCoy built the first grist mill, powered by horses, in 1825. Dr. Charles Wallin came from New York state in  1834, and converted an existing sawmill near the mouth of the creek to the first water-turned grist mill.

Pears Mill itself wasn't built until 1853 ( some sources say 1857) when the town had grown to 1,282 citizens. It was known around the area for automation so advanced that the owner, William Bainton, could set the wheels turning and go off to fish. In its early years, the Rural Milling Company took in 500 bushels of wheat daily, and ground out one hundred barrels of flour (weighing 196 pounds each). This "Diadem" flour was all shipped to Bainton's home town of Walton Abbey, Yorkshire in England.

Remarkably, the Bainton (and later Pears) Mill escaped the great fire of 1862, Even though the fire started in a cabinet shop right next to the mill, it was one of the few buildings still standing in the downtown after the townspeople quenched the flames. The merchants and businessmen rebuilt all along Front Street, Main Street, and Days Avenue, better brick structures some of which remain in 2013.

By the 1870s, a businessman from Chicago who was visiting Buchanan could say of Pears Mill that "150,000 bushels of grain were ground [in these mills; the main Pears mill and a rural one owned by him] in the past year, mostly for the local trade, where the flour of this firm finds a ready market on account of its superior quality." He went on to say that "for miles in either direction the farms are fine and the farmers are, many of them opulent. . . . [T] country about Buchanan has almost an air of romance, especially the scenery along the St. Joseph River to the north of the village."

The mill ran until 1983, but only turned out animal feed after 1933. The restoration to its 19th century prime began in 1984, and it reopened for business in 1988.

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Michigan winter wheat, May 25, 2013 [Photo, Micki Glueckert]

The town itself thrived until the 1880s because of its location near the St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan. It was surrounded by thick stands of walnut, maple and oak trees, considered by some to be the best in the United States. The McCoy's Creek water, part of it directed through the Mill Race, powered sawmills and enabled furniture factories to spring up. In its hey-day, people described Buchanan as 'the wickedest town in the state," "the horse-race and gambling center of the mid-west," and alternatively as "the town with more churches than saloons." More productive lands further west set Buchanan on the road to becoming a ghost town, but with the St. Joseph River dammed to create bigger and better hydropower and enabling the use of electricity, the town rose again as a center for manufacturing  machinery and  truck and auto parts.

Today, farmers around Buchanan plant wheat mainly to feed to their animals. Better wheat lands that are drier and sunnier lie to the west. Pears Mill, however, grinds corn and wheat flours for sale in its gift shop, using the same type of stones that gave William Bainton such a pleasant life in the  1860s.

Pears Mill
The Pears Mill in Buchanan, Michigan. 

If you go:

Pears Mill is open during limited hours all summer, but for much of the day on Saturday. Contact them at (269) 695-3844 for hours and special events.

121 South Oak Street
Buchanan, MI 49107
Buchanan is my hometown, and I have to add: don't miss the Union Coffee House at the corner of Front and Main Street, or the Buchanan Sweet Shop at 205 East Front Street. The Union Coffee Shop has excellent breakfasts and lunches, plus great coffee and music. It's housed in the former bank where I had my Christmas Club account in the 1950s, but it's entirely in the twenty-first century in the quality of its food, coffee and music. The Sweet Shop has its original 1947 soda fountain and booths, and some of the best homemade ice cream anywhere. We hung out there in the 1950s and 60s, drinking Green Rivers eating hot fudge sundaes. Our kids love it still. Prices throughout the area are exceptionally reasonable.

Sources include Norma Stevens, The Real McCoy; William C. Hawes, Tales of an Old Town and The Story of Buchanan; the Pears Mills section of the Buchanan website; and articles in the Berrien County Record.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Wheat, Weather, and Trade Updates, Late May 2013

Michigan winter wheat, heading, May 24, 2013 [Micki Glueckert photo].
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The biggest news of the week was the discovery of an experimental GMO wheat in an Oregon field. The U. S. Department of Agriculture said that there are no genetically modified varieties of wheat that are approved for planting in the U.S. or elsewhere. Monsanto said that the field in which the Round-up ready wheat was found had not been used in its testing program a decade ago, and that it did not think that any Round-up ready wheat had gotten into commercial lots.

Japan said that it was cancelling orders for white wheat, and South Korea soon said that it too would halt purchases until it could test the incoming crops. The European Union has a long-standing policy of not allowing any genetically-modified crops across its borders and said that it would test shipments.

Because the U.S. is the world's largest wheat exporter, and because most other countries are nervous about genetically modified crops, the stray seeds could cause sizable economic shakeups. The New York Times article notes that Spain, once the Romans' bread basket, is now a major importer of United States wheat. Egypt, the country in which wheat came to maturity as a crop thousands of years ago, is now the world's largest importer of wheat, and according to a European wheat dealer, might not be in a position to be choosy about the crops that it takes.

As wheat prices fell, then rose, experts speculated about who might benefit -- Canada? Europe? Australia? Australians say that they are selling enough internally to livestock producers that they might have a hard time helping out. Canadians and Europeans are waiting to see how the further testing and investigation being done by Monsanto and the U.S. Department of Agriculture turns out before they take action.

The discovery may come at an awkward time for Monsanto, which has been under attack on social networks and at rallies for its work with genetically modified products. A recent provision in the federal budget bill that eliminated court oversight of Monsanto and others exacerbated consumer concerns. Web sites like Organic Consumers Association and March Against Monsanto promote boycotts and other consumer actions. On the industry side, several supporters and spokespeople said that "literally trillions of meals with GE ingredients have been consumed since these crops were first commercialized in 1996, with no ill effects on anyone attributable to genetic engineering, and that safety record will continue." To protesters with other data, and with concerns about longer-range effects, those are not necessarily reassuring words.


Whether the wheat is genetically modified or not, farmers still have to deal with the weather. The Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association said that rains during the weekend of June 1 and into the next week could delay spring wheat planting. Severe storms could harm growing crops. They noted that Europe continues to be unseasonably cold, while Russia is hot, and Australia has the rain that it needed.

The May 31 tornadoes in Oklahoma moved northeast late on Friday, toward Missouri and Illinois. Much of the Midwest is due for thunderstorms, hail, and rain.. But as the weather moves away from the Plains states, better growing conditions will return. Wheat in the Pacific Northwest and mountain states will have calm sunny days as well.

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Michigan winter wheat field, May 24, 2013 [Micki Glueckert photo.]

Other news

The National Association of Wheat Growers is still focused on the agriculture bill making its way through Congress. It's interested in the proposed Clean Water Act regulations that the National Association of Wheat Growers says would "dramatically expand" oversight of wetlands and waterways. The NAWG notes that the U.S. Wheat Association forecasts of a doubling of  wheat trade by the year 2050, without providing details of where the increased crop yields or farm land will come from.

All Aboard Wheat Harvest, a blog sponsored by the herbicide company Syntenga and others, follows the lives of several families who contract to harvest crops throughout the U.S. and into Canada.  Using their own combines, trucks, and other equipment they bring in wheat, soy, corn, barley, and other grains for farmers throughout most of the United States, and into Canada. They've just started publishing again, as they prepare for a new season, and start spreading out to fields across the country for the 2013 harvest.

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Another Michigan winter wheat field, May 24, 2013 [Micki Glueckert photo].