Essex Farm Note
Week 5, 2017
Before farming grounded me I used to travel a lot. My vivid, lasting memories are not the iconic sights or monuments of other countries but their smells and flavors. There was a pungent and complicated home-cooked dinner I ate with a family in Myanmar, where I was the only one who was served, while the rest of the family watched. And the iguana that was my birthday meal on a remote barrier island in Mexico, where I got the claws, in honor of the occasion. There was the simple, stunning revelation of a proper Parisian baguette. The more stamps I gathered in my passport the more interesting food became. We human have the same basic range of flavors to work with and we eat the same narrow selection of cultivated plants and animals, and yet we’ve come up with so many different ways to combine these things, in the same way that given the same tones, we find our own unique ways of building music, in rhythms and harmonies distinct to our own culture, but accessible and pleasurable to others.
One of the many beautiful things about being American is that because we are largely a nation of immigrants, our culinary culture is unconstrained by the traditions that shape and bind the food of older nations. There is no right way to cook American. We are free to draw on all the different traditions that have combined to become us. Last week, when we were in Montreal, we ate at a Syrian restaurant, and it made me happy to watch the girls discover meatballs spiced with coriander and allspice and smothered in tahini sauce, black tea with mint, and baklava, knowing that this new palette of flavors is now a part of them. Back home, in the late winter kitchen, as the range of fresh vegetables becomes more narrow, I start to look to other culinary traditions for inspiration. My best antidote to the winter blues is a well-stocked spice cabinet. This whole, seasonal food we grow and eat is amazingly adaptable to different cuisines. I’m leaning toward Syrian, Persian and Israeli food next week, and will post ideas on Instagram. Follow along or join in with your own internationally-inspired winter farm recipes.
What news from out there in the fresh, cold air? The days are getting longer. We can feel the light returning. I saw bluebirds in the pear tree, a scarlet tanager in the lilac, and a bald eagle soaring over the pond. The bins of Belgian endive have come up from the basement to the warmth of the kids’ playroom. They will be a treat in a week or two. We bought several young Angus steers and heifers from the Patakis at South Farm. I’ll look forward to seeing how they fill out when they hit grass. Calliope the Jersey cow is recovering from her bout of mastitis. The ewes are starting to look quite round. They’re not due to lamb until April 15, so the roundness must be from the good hay they are eating and thick wool they are wearing. We’re thinking about sugaring, thinking about seeding, thinking about the whole grand range of work that is going to arrive with spring. We four Kimballs are hoping to slip away during school break for a quick winter camping trip before it all begins. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this gray 5th week of 2017.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball