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An English Rose in Georgia: Carb cravings and the history of flour
Lesley Francis new 2022.jpg

I love to cook, bake, host family and friends for meals and of course eat! 

I do try to eat healthily and avoid unhealthy choices – at least most of the time. However, a major issue for me is that I don’t think I have ever met a carbohydrate that I didn’t like. Of all my carb cravings it has to be baked goods that are my downfall.

From fresh bread or (better yet) croissants straight from the oven with unsalted butter, home-made cakes and delightful pastry dishes…yum! If I allowed myself I could happily blow an entire day’s worth of calories on these carbohydrate heavy treats!

Of course, to bake all of these items, I have an extensive range of flours in my pantry. But where did it all start? Archaeological evidence shows that flour was made 30,000 years ago in Europe with a type of stone mortar and pestle. Ancient Greeks had watermills and the Romans made flour by grinding seeds on cone mills, combining two stones: the upper being convex, and the bottom concave. An animal turned the upper stone while the bottom stood still. In time, a number of different mechanisms of grinding flour were invented.

Flour is defined as a powder made by grinding cereal grains, seeds, or roots and different cultures have flour made from different cereals. While in European, North America, Middle Eastern, Indian, and North African cultures, it is most commonly made from wheat, flour can also be made from corn, rye and rice.

This reminded me of my trip last year to Minneapolis and our visit to the Mill City Museum, which has been created from the site of the General Mills flagship mill.

With the beginning of the Industrial Age, mills were powered by steam and flour was ground with metal or porcelain rollers instead of horizontal stones. This increased flour production and gave a product with a longer shelf life. Before industrialization, white flour was expensive and only affordable by wealthy people. Roller mills made removing the germ much easier, so white flour became more affordable. Minneapolis became the “flour milling capital of the world” from 1880 to 1930 as the city’s position on the Mississippi’s west bank allowed river-power to run the mill, and the city was ideally located for farmers on the Midwestern plains to cheaply ship their grain to be processed into flour. Flour milling is not without its dangers as flour dust is highly explosive and in fact a serious explosion killed 18 workers at this mill in 1878.

During the 1930s, scientists realized that diseases caused by a lack of B vitamins were increasing because industrial processing removed these nutrients from white flour.

Flour began to be enriched with iron, niacin, thiamine and riboflavin. Folic acid was added in the 1990s in the USA and many countries undertake similar fortification to

flour. Did you realize that there is a big difference between English and American flour? I discovered this the hard way when I moved here in 2009 and some of my recipes, especially the beloved “Yorkshire puddings” (a type of popover served with roast beef and gravy in England), did not work very well. I soon discovered that the protein content is the main difference between UK and US flour, as American flour has a much higher protein level, which is enough to change the basic texture of many baked goods.

Like many people, I assumed that all-purpose flour is the same as British “plain” flour. It is not, because the level of protein found in American all-purpose flour is only found in what the UK describes as “strong” flour and is ideal for bread making. I have discovered that cake flour and Wondra is lower in protein than all-purpose flour so I rely on these and other imported flours from England for making roux gravy, Yorkshire pudding and some other favorite  . In addition to all these I normally stock corn flour (after all, we are in the south!), cornstarch for thickening (confusingly called corn flour in the UK) and almond flour (called ground almonds in the UK) in case I need to make a gluten free recipe. Gluten is one of the natural proteins in wheat flour which helps dough rise and gives baked goods their shape and a chewy texture, so it can be challenging to bake without gluten.

Confused yet? Try emigrating!

There are multiple different types of flour that I occasionally purchase for specific recipes including tapioca flour, rice flour and others. For a lot more information see and millcity As preparing food is definitely one of my love languages, I will say goodbye this week with a quote from American journalist, Tom Junod. ““You don’t have to love cooking to cook, but you have to do more than love baking to bake. You have to bake out of love.”

God Bless America!

Lesley grew up in London, England and made Georgia her home in 2009. She can be contacted at or via her full service marketing agency at www.

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