The little red barn we're looking for is tucked within an industrial park just outside Portland.
"Huh," I say, peering at the GPS to make sure it hasn't led us astray. For two midwesterners, the idea of a barn brings up images of rolling fields and long gravel drives under great expanses of sky with hardly another structure in sight. Instead, this building sits on a tidy asphalt parking lot -- a small one at that -- minutes off a local highway lined with warehouses and strip malls. But this is the place: Bob's Red Mill, an intermediate destination on our way to Oregon wine country. We're at the beginning of a much anticipated getaway weekend that happens almost to coincide with our dating anniversary -- 13 years.
Our first date isn't exactly at the front of my mind as D pulls into the parking lot. That night, three weeks before our high school graduation, we caught an early movie and dinner at a diner in the same plaza. Then, arms around each other, we stood on the sidewalk -- rather, I balanced on the curb, D on the blacktop one step down -- for 45 minutes while other restaurant patrons came and went. We'd hugged, but neither of us quite wanted to let go afterward. So there we were, arms loosely draped over shoulders and waist, as if we'd been doing this forever and could keep right on going until time ceased to exist.
Time is on my radar so many years later on our way into Bob's. We've gotten a late start from Seattle, and the wineries we're hoping to visit, still some 40 minutes away, will close soon. I don't want D to miss out for what is really just a grocery trip, but it is our only chance to stop here this weekend before we continue on to the B&B we've booked.
"There's no hurry," D says, reading the worry in my eyes as I check my watch. "Let's go find you some goodies, okay?"
The cherry-bright storefront trimmed in white and the honey-colored timber bracing the roof from within gives the entry a quaint feel. I expect checkered tablecloths and butter churns, ladies in big aprons, hay bales. But instead, there are aisles of shelves lined with dry goods packaged in colorfully labeled cellophane or brown paper. All of the store's grains are ground and packed in the company mill down the street -- hence the industrial park. I scan the hanging signs. Gluten free, one of them reads in clean-lined capitals. This is why we've come here.
I've been experimenting for months with alternative baking since the end of the elimination diet, sifting through allergy-friendly cookbooks from the library for recipes I can adapt to my new normal. Our new normal. D's gone almost completely gluten-free at home to help keep our kitchen a clean zone. Among other replacements for conventional flour, ground garbanzo beans have been an excellent discovery, but the bags at our local grocery store are tiny, enough for two or three little loaves of bread at best. Enter Bob's, which sells in bulk. Normally, we'd order from the company by mail, but since we're passing within such a short distance this weekend, we can't argue with the savings in shipping by picking the goods up ourselves.
We find the bean flour. And the brown rice flour and gluten-free rolled oats, items that have become staples in our pantry. D pulls the largest sacks from the shelves and hefts them into a cart with ease; each lands with a satisfying thump. Our cargo may be on the order of cents per ounce, but I feel suddenly rich. In this space, I'm a baker with options again rather than somebody who has little reason to walk down the flour aisle at our local grocery. We peruse the other nearby novelties: amaranth, teff, sorghum, tapioca. Corresponding recipes from my recent research dance through my head, better than any sugar-plum visions.
I catch D watching me, a tender happiness in his brown-eyed gaze. I know he knows this stop is a treat for me, but to see how much it pleases him to give me time here makes my heart flutter. The look in his eyes is the same he wore so many years ago, standing on the sidewalk as the sun began to sink and we pulled a little closer to each other to ward off the dusky chill. "Seventy-five pounds," I whisper, my eyes on the flour but my mind suddenly taken over by the memory. "Pretty amazing."
And, as if on cue, D slips his arms around me, perfectly content that we are hugging in the middle of a grocery store while other customers come and go. "I know, sweetie," he says. "I know."
1 day ago