Dinkelmehl 630 by Anna Nguyen
I used to bake quite often. So often that whenever we go to the grocery store, I make it a habit to add a bag of flour into the shopping cart. In Germany, flour is graded and categorized by type numbers. “Mehltypen,” or the ash level of the flour. I’ve come to learn that 550 is the equivalent of all-purpose flour.
Six months in Germany and I’ve had to reset everything. 350 degrees Fahrenheit is 176.667 Celsius. ⅔ at the end of the whole number, I’ve memorized. But how to account for the fraction on the temperature knob on the oven?
Are conversions ever truly accurate? I wonder, as my fingers touch the silky, almost fragile texture of the flour. When the mixture looks too wet, I sprinkle in more flour. I underbake by about ten minutes, worrying that the cakes or rolls will burn.
Since February 24, there’s been a shortage of flour. And oil. The flour shelves are always empty at the grocery stores. I can sense the disappointment whenever I pass by that aisle. People always linger too long in front of those shelves. The few bags that might remain are Dinkelmehl 630, similar to spelt flour. Occasionally, I’ll catch someone begrudgingly taking a bag of it.
I tried to preserve the 550 for as long as I could. When I did bake with it, I still offered slices of cake or pie to the neighbors.
When I posted photos with my in-progress baking, I wrote “there’s a shortage of flour here.” The ominous comment seemed to spark the curiosity of my Instagram friends in the United States. “Why are there flour shortages?” I’m asked so often, in my DMs.
“There’s a war,” I remind them. Then I add, “Germany is quite close to Ukraine and Russia.”
Even my mother seems curious about the flour shortage. Every phone call, she interrupts an innocuous conversation to ask if I’ve been able to purchase flour.
“No, not yet,” I always say. It’s another way of saying the war isn’t over.
At the neighborhood discount store, I saw a family of three load their cart with the store’s entire inventory of Dinkelmehl 630. A store employee, unloading another shipment nearby, watched them take all three of the cardboard boxes. They didn’t even spare a bag.
Nor did they purchase anything else.
Anna Nguyen is a PhD student and instructor currently in Germany. She likes to blend theoretical creative non-fiction while thinking about food, science, and the mundane without enforcing academic conventions. She hosts a podcast, Critical Literary Consumption.