June 8, 2008

Me and Mollie

This was my first weekend spent at Featherstone Farm, and what a weekend it was. Work on the farm ended late Friday as we had a last minute lettuce-pick in the fields for wholesale boxes to be shipped up to Minneapolis Saturday morning. I hadn’t seen lettuce picked before so I was pretty excited. Salads, to me, have always seemed clean and dainty, things served at ladies’ luncheons with fruit pieces or roasted nuts or some fancy-schmancy vinaigrette. But a head of loose-leaf lettuce bulging from the ground is quite a humble sight. Loose leaf lettuce is just that – loose. Its open leaves create room for soil and sand to nestle a home for themselves. Not only is the lettuce host to soil before we wash it, it also is completely exposed to the elements – no shell, skin, or earth to protect it. Lettuce, fully mature, is completely at the mercy of its external environment. M.F.K. Fischer once said, “Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken.” This is most certainly not the case for loose-leaf lettuce in all its exposed glory. It really is beautiful – almost like a firework coming from the ground.

Friday evening I took my new camera around Zephyr Valley (where the farm is located and where I live) while Simon and Garfunkel sang to me on my iPod. I never realized how photogenic this huge red barn outside my window is. While taking pictures, my neighbor Pryce mentioned his wife was good with cameras and to stop by if I had questions. And I did just that. After his wife Tisha invited me in I noticed the plethora of cookbooks she has. As I am in charge of putting recipes in the CSA newsletter, I’m on constant ‘hunt-mode’ for seasonal recipes. I encountered a particular cookbook author whose books I have seen on the shelves of many here – Mollie Katzen. Katzen organized a cookbook for the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York, and was a front-runner in popularizing vegetarian cooking. These books were a godsend as they are havens for veggie-infused recipes. Tisha had multiple books of Katzen’s, all of which she let me borrow. (Which leads me to what I did the majority of the weekend – more on that later.)

After a few substantial spoonfuls of mixed almond butter and vanilla yogurt on the porch of the common house Saturday morning, I packed my shoes, coffee, and a book. That day I had big plans to see a hiking trail I had gotten wind of both at Bluff Country Co-op and also from a barista at the Blue Heron Café. On my drive to Winona, the sky was looking as though the weather had different plans for me. A few sprinkles on my windshield were enough to solidify the decision to put off the hike for another day. Because I was more than halfway there I decided to go to the Winona Farmers Market. Many beautiful, beautiful things were there. I got green onions, pimento olive bread, spaetzle, bok choy, and mint. While there I ran into Kevin from Zephyr Valley, followed by Jan (also from Zephyr Valley) at Bluff Country Co-op. I couldn’t beat the bad weather home and was forced to spend the rest of the day inside.

But a few vital elements to my circumstance made it extremely tolerable: 1) I was stocked with good, fresh food. 2) I had new Moosewood cookbooks. 3) I had time. Before cooking I rummaged through the Moosewood books to find recipes for the newsletter. (I would reveal the recipes, but I don’t want to ruin it for all the CSA-member readers. They’re going to have to wait.) By this time, I was itching to prop these books open on my kitchen counter. In the next two days I ended up making Persian Yogurt Spinach soup, ‘Gypsy’ soup, sautéed radishes (twice), and green garlic scrambled eggs. I’m stocked with good eating for a while.

Not only did the crummy weather put a damper on my ambitious outdoor recreational plans, but it also depleted my cabin’s solar energy. I’ve got solar panels that source my cabin with energy, and the sunlight was nearly nonexistent this weekend. Needless to say, the panels are thirsty and I don’t foresee them getting a good drink of sunlight in the near forecast. But, candlelight is beautiful – nonetheless.

The weekend closed with a warm, hearty, home-cooked meal with my neighbors. Even though it wasn’t my family, it felt good just to be with a family. More warmth was extended as Mary (the CSA manager) called in to check how I was doing alone in this stormy weather – how powerful simple gestures can be.

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