The First Part:
Every single issue of Bon Appétit and Food & Wine includes a feature article — accompanied by a photo spread — in which beautiful people with perfectly manicured nails eat delicious, healthy, sustainably prepared food in an unbelievably gorgeous setting.
A few example pieces spring to mind: A Vegetarian Feast in Hungary’s Bakony Hills, How to Throw a Summer Dinner Party at the Beach, The Locavore Empire of Anya Fernald.
I imagine that this kind of article inspires imitation in most readers; they do give you the recipes, after all. But for me, these pieces always stir up a bit of jealousy. ”I’m glad those people have a summer cottage where they can harvest wild nettles to make soup,” I think. “But I never will.” “I’m happy that family can enjoy their picnic while sitting on a $450 handwoven blanket…”
This is how I read this type of feature.
The Second Part:
A two-and-a-half month farm internship is not how I’d choose to spend my summer, but it’s how my friend Camille chose to spend hers. So, twice in July and once in September, I found myself making the 6 hour drive from Baltimore to Western Massachusetts to visit her at Sawyer Farm.
Sawyer Farm is an organic, horse-powered farm about 45 minutes west of Northampton, MA. They grow all kinds of stuff — tomatoes, potatoes, kale, cabbage, squash, pumpkins, many varieties of lettuce, fennel, watermelons, Brussels sprouts, several kinds of chard, beets, carrots, kohlrabi, soybeans, garlic, onions and more — and also have chickens that lay eggs (though the eggs can sometimes be hard to find), and a cow who produces milk and cream, some of which is made into fresh ricotta, yogurt, and butter. The farm runs a CSA share which supplies its members with produce, eggs, and dairy products as well as homemade bread and granola.
As I sat at the dinner table on the first night of my first visit, I realized I was experiencing something akin to a Bon Appétit feature spread. I was in the beautiful place, eating the beautiful, wholesome food with the beautiful, interesting people. Except none of them had perfectly manicured nails.
The Third Part:
I attended a somewhat woo-woo Montessori school from kindergarten through 7th grade. The school owned a farm called “The Land School” and students were required to spend a certain amount of time working there every year. By Junior High we were out there at least once a month to do things like muck out the chicken coop and winterize the greenhouse. And, for a week in April that was known as “Land School Days”, the entire Junior High class camped there. We were in Wisconsin, sleeping in tents, and it was cold.
Every night of “Land School Days” (and every night of every school camping trip we went on, of which there were many) ended with a mandatory meeting around a bonfire. During the bonfire, instead of roasting marshmallows, every member of “The Community” was expected to pay a compliment to another member of “The Community” and also to share their highs and lows of the day with the the rest of “The Community.” Adolescents rarely take well to this kind of thing. As a result, I have spent much of my post-Montessori life actively avoiding and rolling my eyes at any hint of forced togetherness. I thought the anonymity of attending a huge public high school was really great.
Many of the nights I spent at Sawyer Farm ended with a group of people sitting around a bonfire sharing their “gratitudes” with one another. Mine were almost always related to spending time with Camille, or the food we were eating, or the litter of barn kittens that I spent most of my time at the farm playing with. It was very Montessori, and yet, I didn’t mind it one bit. Again and again, on each of my three trips to Sawyer Farm, I experienced a sense of coming back to a place that I had been before. And coming to that place intentionally, as an adult, did not feel bad.
The pictures attached to this post are from my first two trips to the farm. The first one is of my very first meal there, the aforementioned dinner, which was ground beef tacos with cabbage and corn slaw served on homemade whole wheat tortillas. The second is of the homemade granola and yogurt. The third is of a rabbit stew with wheat berries and carrots. The others are pretty self explanatory: barn, table, vegetables, baby chick.