This week was a beautiful orchestration of events – entrenched in food – that was probably the most rewarding to me, as a chef. I had unique experiences, practiced and enjoyed cooking so closely related to my Food Philosophy that I felt complete and at peace and made connections with people – chefs and otherwise – that I will remember for an eternity.
Our week commenced on Monday with an early trip to the hospital garden. I spent my time mulching planting beds and then transitioned to transplanting flowers. Work was swift and we returned to the farm shortly after where I did some weeding in the rhubarb patch and around fruit trees. Afterwards I mulched leaves around some of the seed saving crops to prevent future weed assaults. I then moved down to the main garden to tie up tomato vines so they wouldn’t fall over into the dirt. I had the village fire gathering to prepare for so I began to get my tools in order and tried to get ready for bed. It wasn’t that easy though. The dogs found a fawn nestled down in the woods and killed it. This became an ordeal that I was then involved in. David dressed out the carcass with my help – mostly observation, the occasional steadying of the animal too – and then butchered it. Since the kill was fresh I decided to make a quick pate out of the liver before I really went to bed. No sooner did I have the liver browning in the pan that the phone rang at quarter past nine. Hannah Breckbill a CSA farmer who was donating food to my event the following day was on the line. She asked if I wanted to help them season the ram and help put it into the pit to roast. I couldn’t decline, so I hastily finished my pate and ran out to her farm. (This experience was so complex and I plan on expanding on it in more detail this week!) Things went late into the evening and I finally got into bed about two and half hours later than expected, or desired. Nevertheless I slept well and awoke early the next day to finish my final details before leaving the house for the campground. When I arrived, I got the ovens cranking and roasted spaghetti squash. I also chopped and blanched some other vegetables while simmering a curry sauce for lunch. Around 11, the sheep that I helped season the night before arrived and I broke down what I needed for lunch. Shortly after I cooked wild and basmati rice and then began my buffet setup. Lunch went quite smoothly and then I transitioned to my dinner prep. I started with slicing cabbage for a coleslaw; I wanted to get it salted to purge some of the excess liquid even though it was for the following day. I then cooked some potatoes for breakfast, setup beans to simmer for dinner and made a corn bread for a light dessert. Someone dropped of a large supply of rhubarb which I promptly turned into a cobbler and a simple compote to go with the cornbread. I served the mutton, gravy, roasted potatoes, sauteed spinach and more rice for dinner. It was quickly devoured and I was glad I had made a few desserts. Those two were crushed in minutes and the campers left satiated and happy. Wednesday morning I arrived at camp around seven in the morning. I had initially been told breakfast was scheduled for nine, but within minutes of arrival I was informed that breakfast was at 7.30. I ran around and prepared eggs, hashbrowns, setup a granola and yoghurt bar, made a pepper onion mix and reheated beans for an added boost. I am proud to say that I managed to have it all ready by the required time. (Thanks in part to a gracious volunteer who helped keep the details in order as well as chop some vegetables.) Lunch was much easier because I had two extra hours. I cooked more potatoes, finished the cole slaw, made a rice salad from the previous days leftovers, cooked more rice – again, both kinds – and also reheated some of the leftover curry. Many people had made donations as well so I also put out ram organs, smelt, various salads and a mix of sweet items. With no rhyme or reason people ate way less than both the day and night previous so there was plenty of leftovers. I spent my afternoon cleaning and left around three. I returned home just in time for wine time where David, Ellis and I shared some of that faun pate. Two words: Holy Shit. (Again more expansion required!)
Thursday I was scheduled to do some catering with Ruth, she was in charge of feeding people for the actual event. I arrived a little early for my shift and was stunned by the sheer number of people and the activity in the kitchen. I started by helping out with dishes and once they were caught up I was put on mixing a chili lime slaw. Then I portioned soup between the five warmers and added in some corn as well. A couple more people rolled in to help and then I sliced cornbread for lunch. As I was finishing we began setting up the lunch buffet. The menu was pozole, cornbread, molasses butter and chili lime slaw. We spent the next hour managing the buffet and refilling items before moving onto the next segment. Ruth only had me work the morning afternoon shift so I returned back to Pepperfield. David and I left for town to plant basil at the hospital garden and then returned back to the farm to repeat the same process. Birte returned from a day in town with a friend, Christie, and we spent a long evening with great food, wine and conversation. The sky opened up late in the night and continued to rain through the morning. I left the house early to make it back to the campground. The vast crowd of 300 was now all huddled under the main pavillion making the numbers seem even larger. I squeezed my way into the kitchen and began by chopping potatoes. As I completed that task I dropped them into water and portioned more soup among warmers. As each batch of potatoes were done I put them in the soup warmers. Ruth, TJ – the other chef, and I took turns going around tasting each soup and seasoning them. Afterwards I shredded cabbage for coleslaw for the following day and then began lunch buffet setup; we offered mulligatawny soup, hummus, whole wheat bread and quinoa salad. Again, I only worked the afternoon segment and I returned home early. Ellis and I went to town to complete some errands and then spent about an hour at the library. We then drove out to a small town called Sattre, the kind of town that if you blink as you pass through the town square you miss it. We went out to a prairie and valley that had been placed in conservation for a self guided tour. We returned home after a quick walk about and were surprised to see Jane and her husband Guy – professors from Luther College, acquaintances I have made before – as well as Christie over for dinner. In stunning Pepperfield elegance we put out a spread of various hors d’oeuvres, pate included, and enjoyed wine, brought by our guests, and a fantastic meal late into the evening. I wrapped everything up with a pear sorbet, something I have come to love because of its simplicity but also deliciousness.
Saturday I awoke to the surprise of Anthony Bourdain’s death. I was, by no means a fan, but it was both shocking and disappointing because I know how many people’s lives he touched and I appreciated his work. I started my day by helping cook lentils for lunch. I then spent much of the afternoon preparing potatoes, celery and peppers for various preparations later in the day. Afterwards I processed carrots, onions and celery for a fried rice mix to be used later. Ruth wanted some extra help so I stayed for dinner and helped by roasting vegetables and seasoning the mix. With the help of a few others we setup our dinner buffet and just scraped by with food. Ruth had crafted a menu of red beans, rice, coleslaw, roasted vegetables and a rhubarb crumble with vanilla ice cream. It felt like the guests were getting hungrier each day. I stayed for another couple hours to help clean and then departed and went straight to bed. Sunday was an easy day, Ruth and I started lunch by reheating leftovers. Our only addition to lunch was fried rice. Ruth did a couple of batches as demo and then was called out to complete some tasks and make announcements. I took over as we were slammed by people for lunch. The hunger had only increased and we ended up heating up many more leftovers on the fly to feed everyone. It was the first time in nearly four months that I felt the pressure (not stress) of being in a restaurant kitchen; it was surreal, I had forgotten how much I enjoy it. Lunch went later than usual and as people began to leave the event we started our cleanup. Ruth and I worked late into the evening and completed most of the breakdown by six. I went back to Pepperfield where I spent the evening unwinding and reflecting on this awesome week.
The fawn pate, village fire – and its eclectic mix of people – and my time with Ruth all had many different details worth sharing. Please check back this week to see some of these fleshed out in greater detail. Click here to see what you missed this week!