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In Defense Of Gluten: WSU's Bread Expert Explains His Love Affair With Wheat

Gabriel Spitzer
Stephen Jones in WSU's wheat field in Mt. Vernon, Washington.

Everyone’s got a favorite food. But how about a favorite crop? Dr. Stephen Jones, director of Washington State University's Bread Lab in Mt. Vernon, loves wheat. A lot.

"The sheer beauty of the crop in a field like this ... you can almost hear the voices in it — the voices of the tradition, the voices of the people that came before us into this crop," said Jones. "I don't get that when I walk into a lettuce field, but I do in wheat."

Beyond appreciating the beauty of the field, Jones directs crop breeding and research. As director of the WSU Bread Lab, he and his students want to understand how to grow better, more nutritious wheat everywhere. But even more than that, he wants to elevate wheat from a commodity to a real food — one whose flavor reflects the place and climate where it is grown. 
Sound Effect's Gabriel Spitzer went out to the WSU Bread Lab and talked with Jones about why he loves this lowly crop, and why he stands up for bread in an anti-gluten era. 

Sound Effect producer Allie Ferguson has been making radio for nearly 5 years. She got her start at KUOW and has since traveled the country working for national news shows including WNYC's The Takeaway and NPR's Weekend All Things Considered. Allie won a 2016 Gracie Award, which celebrates women in media, for her work at KUOW. She enjoys telling surprising stories about passionate people.