Essex Farm Note
Week 47, 2016
I’ve been saving three bones for a night with three eaters. Mark was in New York City last night, celebrating the harvest with members and prospective members there, and the girls and I were home alone, and so it was my chance. They were such beautiful bones! Round, three-inch tall slices of grass-finished beef shank, full of rich, cream-colored marrow, as if they had come to life from a dog’s sweetest dream. I cut the meat away for use in a stew, and arranged the bones, like a red-blooded triptych, in the roasting pan. I couldn’t take my eyes off them, as I puttered around, waiting for the oven to crank up. When it finally reached 400 degrees, I popped them in. Fifteen minutes later the primal fireside roasted smell of them filled the kitchen, and through the oven’s window I could see the marrow bubbling in its custom bone bowls. All they required to reach perfection was a dusting of salt.
Like all rich foods, you have to be truly hungry to enjoy roasted marrow bones. Best if they come toward the end of a week without much meat, when your body looks at those bones, smells them, senses the density of the energy there, and registers it as good. Best if you treat them as the delicacy they are, with ritual, in small amounts. I searched for the tiny spoons we reserve for small delicacies, couldn’t find them, so we three resorted, farm style, to turning the regular spoons around, and digging the steaming marrow out with the handle end.
Our kids like what most people consider very weird kid food. Green things. Unsugared fruit. All sorts of strange and strong-tasting vegetables, plus unusual animal parts like marrow, liver, kidney. The first clear phrase our older girl spoke as a toddler was, “More testicles, please,” the day we slaughtered our bull and ate his defining parts, sliced, breaded, and fried in butter. I’m tempted to be proud of them for their adventurous palates. But I know, really, our girls are just normal. It’s only that they are animals, like all of us. They are wired to detect and like what their bodies need, and what is familiar. What’s different about kids raised on whole, seasonal farm food is that they have developed their palates, for the most part, in the absence of processed food, away from the daily seduction of refined sugar, which clears an enormous amount of room for liking things like bones, organs, and vegetables. Maybe one day they will be in therapy, discussing the strange contents of their lunch boxes and the deleterious effect on their social lives, but for now, I’m grateful our table is a beautiful, bountiful, nutritious adventurous playground.
What news from the ground this week? It was a busy one, as everyone prepares for next week’s feast. Onions are cleaned and stored. Squash, sorted. Aidan has taken over the helm of the butcher shop at the biggest time of the year. Congratulations to her on a first week well done. She (17), Jon (19) and Morgan (19) are three counter-arguments to any narrative featuring lazy or rudderless teenagers. It simply isn’t so, not here. And that is the news from here for this bright warm 47th week of 2016. –Kristin & Mark Kimball