Sunday, October 12, 2008

Yuppie cat nip

I may whine about Boston every once in a while, but I love it. I love it especially now that I have a car. Riddled with scratches, cracked taillights, and other city kisses though it may be, it’s my connection to the many farms that surround the city. Now that it’s fall harvest season, the farms are kicking into over drive, pulling up millions of varieties of squash (only a slight exaggeration), potatoes, greens, and apples. I took advantage of both the car and the season to visit a farm, in true to type yuppie fashion.

Red Fire Farm, located in a teeny town about an hour and a half west of Boston, hosted a fall harvest festival this last weekend. Farm festivals are like cat nip for yuppies such as myself - interact with the farmers, spend a day outside, eat really good food, pretend to be in touch with nature - it makes for a good day.

The farm stand itself looks like nothing more than a regular house in a neighborhood. Walk through to the back though, past the tables loaded with garlic, squash, and locally produced milk, and the house opens up to fields with the backdrop of stubby mountains, turning leaves, and a quiet calm.

German extra hardy garlic, on sale at the farm stand

It was so quiet! Almost shocking to someone such as myself, used to the background buzz of the city. The smell all around was wonderful – heavy on cut grass, with slight tinges of natural fertilizer, if you know what I mean. Not in any bad way, but in a way that reminds me that I am never out in nature. Really, never. I am not much of a nature-girl. Which brings me to the mosquitoes.

Never in my life have I seen so many mosquitoes at the same time, at the same place. They swarmed. They conspired against me, I am certain of it. They could tell that I hadn’t been that close to “nature” in years. If it wasn’t for the kindly yuppies sitting next to me who gave me the kind and generous gift of a bug repellent wipe… well, I am not sure I would be sitting here typing now. I would be a giant, pink, itch-filled balloon praying for a swift death. I am itchy still, mind you, I just don’t want to die. Not at all. I keep remembering the evening and it makes me smile.

The harvest feast began with a squash tasting – butternut, carnival, spaghetti, two types of kabocha, and others I had never heard of. All grown on the farm, all cooked till sweet and smooth. It was really interesting to taste the range of flavors in one vegetable. The word squash all of a sudden seemed rather limited.

We made our way to the tables set in the farm fields under a tent, set with a small pumpkin, cider pressed on the farm that morning, and a hard cider donated by a local company. Everything we ate that night, save for the lasagna noodles, was grown on the farm. How incredible is that? The yuppie in me rejoiced. The repressed hippie let out a 'Yippee!'.

The meal began with small (biodegradable) bowls of squash and apple soup made by a local shop.

For the entrée, we were offered a choice of delicata squash stuffed with rice and topped with mozzarella, or a squash lasagna (my choice). The lasagna was stuffed to the brim with sweet and creamy squash, flavored with just
a hint of sage and other herbs. The tender whole wheat lasagna noodles were barely perceptible amongst the mounds of squash, but lovely topped with melted fresh mozzarella.

The mixed greens salad was so crisp and fresh that I was shocked by the crunch.
The roasted vegetables had sweet and white potatoes, red and golden beets, eggplant, cauliflower, and bell peppers, oh my. All sweet and packed with flavor, the kind of flavor you don’t get with vegetables that have lined supermarket shelves for an unknown number of days.

As if that wasn’t enough food, there was also home made pumpkin pie with freshly whipped cream. The pie (whole wheat crust) was super smooth and not overly spiced, nutmeg coming to the front. If I had any room in my stomach at all at this point (did I forget to mention the cider donut I had before the squash samples and the rest of the meal? Oh yea, there was a cider donut) I would have tried to whipped cream. As things stood, I barely dragged myself away from the table, stuffed to the brim and reluctant to leave the farm, with its crickets and bugs in the background and nighttime farm smells.

Parting shot of the tent on the farm. I was sad to leave, yet excited to get to my cortisone cream.

It could have been the romance of the farm and fresh air, or it could have been the crisp hard cider, but everything tasted so freakin' good. So fresh and alive, made with care by dirty hippie farmers, none older than me and all committed to the cause of local agriculture.


Malen said...

i just went apple picking for the first time ever. There was no impressive dinner spread, but I am having fun trying to figure out what to do with allllll of the apples I picked and am going to attempt cooking squash tonight. It's nice getting out of the city and off to the country.

Have you seen stories about this guy Will Allen in Milkwaukee trying to bring the country to the city?
He's has some pretty cool contraptions, like three tiered fish farming where the water gets filtered through crops on the top levels and ends up nice and clean for the fishies underneath. He has dreams of skyscraper farms. Pretty neat idea I think!

JC said...

That sounds likes a wonderful experience and meal. Nothing beats fresh vegetables. The ones in the supermarket just can't compare. Squash sounds really good now, I need to get some.

I got harrassed by mosquitoes while waiting for the doors to open at the concert I went to the other day. I squashed 2 that had started sucking blood on my arm. Bastards. For some reason mosquitoes seem very attracted to me.

One Food Guy said...

What a good time, and damnit, all the mosquitoes should be dead by now!

You bring up a good point for me, why don't I go to visit local farms more often?! I have a car, I live in the suburbs, there are many farms close by. I must change this in the year to come, an early new year's resolution in the making!

Anna said...

Hi Malen! Apple picking is awesome, but yes... all those apples! I think my next 8 posts will be about apples. My fridge is full! Very cool story about the urban farmer guy. A MacArthur Award winner, no less!

JC - Is it true that mosquitoes like some people better than others? I think it may be a myth. They certainly like me, whatever that means. They like me lots and lots. Fresh produce is really beyond compare. It makes me so happy.

One Food Guy - Instead of being dead, they are just super angry and aggressive! I don't know what was up with all the mosquitoes. You really have no excuse to not visit farms right now. Harvest festivals are going on left and right. It is such a wonderful experience to get out of the city and see how actual food is made. Real, un-packaged, good for you food. It's awesome.

Sand Mama said...

Hi Anna, Love your blog. Living in Dubai missing New England so its a great read for me.

Anna said...

Silvia - Dubai! Wow. You do have some interesting food stories to tell! Will make my way through your lovely blog shortly!

tusya said...

granby is not that teeny... maybe a little.
go wes.mass!

JC said...

I once read somewhere that mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide that we exhale. So maybe there are differences in the exhaled CO2 from different people that make them more appealing to mosquitoes? Or maybe it's just smell. I do smell pretty good.