Sunday, October 31, 2010

Butter, Salt and the Simple Gifts of Restoration Farm

The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.
~Robert Louis Stevenson

And now, the growing season concludes again at Restoration Farm. Delicate spring salad greens gave way to the sweet berries of summer, ending with the russet flesh of autumn squash.

I am just a bit melancholy, but mindful of the simple gifts that flourish at Restoration Farm.

This season the food from the farm was less about striving for fussy culinary achievements. It was about the snap of a green bean, the tenderness of young spinach leaves, the earthiness of a golden beet, the savory richness of a tomato or the creaminess of a freshly-harvested potato.

Head grower Caroline Fanning said it months ago.  Really good food just needs a little salt and butter. Indeed, why meddle with perfection? So, I steamed and stir fried. I ate the spinach fresh because that moment in time was so brief. An heirloom tomato “slicer” made the perfect dinner for a sultry summer night. I roasted eggplant until it was rich and velvety. Crisp kohlrabi was sliced into wedges, each adorned with a dollop of peanut butter. A Napa cabbage sautéed in butter and sprinkled with dill melted on the tongue. And, my favorite autumn pleasure – the impossibly sweet butternut squash from the farm – was steamed and pureed until silky smooth with a little salt, butter and maple syrup.

I was not always happy with my stewardship of my share.  I didn’t volunteer to work enough, and I didn’t seem to be on top of preparing or preserving the food I received.   Too often items were wasted, and when that happened I was ashamed.   When I think of how quickly the months flew by, I regret the food that was wasted.  

There is a sense of solitude as I walk down the wooded path for the final visit of the season. The air is crisp and cold. I recall summer mornings in the berry field where – at times – it was just me and the bees, and perhaps the only peace I would find during seven days of mayhem. Because the farm is part of an historic village, there were moments when I believed I was a time traveler and I wondered what century I was in. On occasion, a lone interpreter would walk by in rustic 19th century garb and I’d have to pinch myself. I remember the morning the serenity of the berry field was abruptly shattered by a gunshot from a Civil War encampment on the other side of the road.

The fields are nearly slumbering now, covered with a blanket of green. Head Grower Dan Holmes just loves the cover crop. For him, it symbolizes the rejuvenation and nourishment of the soil for the season to come.

At the final distribution, there are leeks and red cabbage, more of my favorite beets and carrots, and even some lovely autumn lettuce to remind us of how it all began.

Even as the season draws to a close, the community of members gathers once more to plant garlic.   We sit at wooden tables and split cloves that will be pushed into the soil.  It is miraculous when you consider how a single clove of garlic will multiply. 

The community continues to multiply.  George is at a table pulling apart the cloves, and there’s a new couple who have just moved here from San Diego.    The pungent aroma of garlic fills the air.

We move to the field and tuck garlic cloves into dimples left in the soil.    We are surrounded by flaming autumn leaves and a brilliant blue sky.   I try to drink it all in.  These simple moments are rare and should be savored.  

Simple and sweet.    

©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Sophie said...

Thanks for sharing your visit to this lovely farm. All of the fresh produce looks appetizing!

MMMMM,..Great pictures too!

Many greetings from Brussels to you!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

So true about good food only needs some salt and butter. I might add freshly ground black pepper to that, but simple is best for me.

I smiled at the Civil War reenactment next door. We lived in Vicksburg, Mississippi for many years and the Civil War still lives there in the hearts of the old antebellum tour homes open to visitors and the Civil War battlefield at the park.

One 4th of July we watched the reenactment of Grant taking the city. It was spooky to be there. I felt like I was lost in time for a moment.

Happy Halloween,

Queen B. said...

Really lovely post ~

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Thank you for sharing another season at the farm with us. I've felt all summer that a part of the spirit of Restoration Farm has lived in my kitchen, through your stories.

Marijtje said...

Your blog makes my family and I (from the Netherlands) even more looking forward to visiting Restoration Farm next summer!
I mailed Chuck Burr to ask if he would be interested in organizing a PDC-course combined with a kids camp. We are delighted that he was.
So, 9 months to go and we will see it all in real-life. In the meantime I enjoy your blog's and photo's.

tasteofbeirut said...

So true; I agree, truly good food needs not be combined with a multitude of spices; good butter and salt is enough! (I would add some mashed garlic too, but then its not my fault I grew up on garlic)
This farm sounds like it has gathered a real community of like-minded folks; how wonderful to be a part of it.

Barbara said...

You are so right....really fresh veggies shine with just salt, pepper and butter. I do love reading your farm posts!

lostpastremembered said...

The quote made me feel peaceful... that all was right with the world. I do somersaults trying to use up summer bounty so that it doesn't go to waste. Sometimes things just slip through to the back of the veg bin and molder. It is then I give thanks for compost and know that it still has something to give back. I would love to see this farm of yours!!

Fresh Local and Best said...

I agree with Caroline that good food needs only a little salt and butter. I think that after you've gone through a season of this, you'll have a better idea of how you'll contribute next year, and how you'll use up the great bounty of each season.

I also think it's amazing how much springs from one seed and in this case garlic clove. It also reminds me of how much time and work it takes for that one garlic clove to turn into a bulb. I think people would have a better appreciation for their food if they got involved the way you did.

Velva said...

You said all so well. I say goodbye to Restoration Farm until the Spring. (sigh).