Reflections on Terra Madre and the Quillisascut Farm
By Amy Grondin
Walking my dog each morning through the fields near my home gives me a chance observe the changes that turning seasons bring. Today there was a definite nip in the air signaling for me that autumn was seriously taking hold and the summer that many say wasn’t had passed. If you are a farmer, you see the changes in your own fields as crops come in and out of season. For shoppers, the offerings displayed in Farmers Market stalls act as indicators of the changing seasons. Summer sweet berries give way to crisp apples, thin skinned summer squash are replaced by their hearty, thick fleshed winter cousins and delicate greens and shoots fall back for chard, kale and collards that cascade in green-purple waves on market tables, awaiting their turn in a sauté pan.
For me the coming of fall also finds me planning ahead for winter yet remembering the experiences and tastes of the past summer. One of the finest experiences, loaded with sun ripe flavor and hands on experience, was my week spent in early August at the Quillisascut Farm School for the Domestic Arts in Rice, Washington for the Second Annual Slow Food Youth Workshop.
The first Slow Food Youth Workshop was proposed in October 2008 by Quillisascut Farm owner Lora Lea Misterly while attending the third Terra Madre gathering in Torino, Italy. Terra Madre is an international celebration of sustainable small scale food producers. It is hosted biannually by Slow Food International. At Terra Madre, religion, language barriers and debates are all set aside, not because the organizers ask that these differences be checked at the door, but because what is shared in common by the multicultural participants is so very powerful. All that attend Terra Madre are striving to preserve, foster and share their own unique way of producing sustainable food that is good, clean and fair.
During Terra Madre’s proceedings a challenge was issued by Slow Food USA Leader Josh Viertel for all in the room to bring Terra Madre home. Folks were asked to bottle up the energy and inspiration that was generated by the 5,000 people who were brought together from far reaching corners of the world. Once back home, how would each attending continue their work to produce good, clean and fair food while inspiring other to become a part of the sustainable food network?
The Slow Food Youth Workshop would be Lora Lea Misterly’s way to bring Terra Madre home. People between the ages of 18 and 29 would come to Quillisascut Farm for a week of learning first hand where their food comes from and how to embrace the seasonality of local goods. How lucky were Kim Bast and I to be standing next to Lora Lea at Terra Madre when she hatched the idea to host a workshop on her farm! While our status as youth had been officially dropped a while back, our role would be to assist at Quillisascut while learning with others through shared agricultural and culinary tasks.
Back home in Washington, with two Slow Food Youth Workshops completed, I happily report that a total of 22 Slow Food Youth representatives have visited the Quillisascut Farm. They have willingly taken on the duties of caring for goats and poultry, learned about organic gardening and had first lessons in making cheese with farm fresh goat milk. They have cooked meals together using the fruit, vegetables and meat raised on the farm, and have been overheard expressing their pleasure that the sustainably grown food they had followed from the field to the plate actually tasted better! Energized and relaxed at the same time by the rhythm of life on the farm, all shared increased awareness that our differences are our strengths and that respect, sustainable, biodiversity, community and enough are more than words – they are concepts to live a life by.
Much more than sustainable food was cultivated during the time spent on the Quillisascut Farm. And we have much to share! This past August four of the people attending the second annual Slow Food Youth Workshop were from Seattle. Two attending the workshop were sponsored by Slow Food Seattle - Andrew Heimburger from Seattle Culinary Academy and Erica Carre from FareStart – and two were sponsored by their workplaces – Ryan Stoy from Rainier Club and Anna Bazzi from TASTE at SAM.
These four exceptional individuals have agreed to work together with me to plan an event that will allow Slow Food Seattle members to meet them, hear their stories from the Quillisascut Farm and raise funds to send others from the Seattle area out to the Quillisascut Farm School for Domestic Arts in Rice, WA for the third annual Slow Food Youth Workshop in 2011! Stand by for updates and event details in November…But until then, please enjoy this recipe created by Chef Karen Jurgensen while teaching at the Quillisascut Farm School for Domestic Arts:
Jacob’s Cattle Bean, Kale and Chèvre Soup
The goat cheese adds a delicious tang to this comforting soup. The heavy cream binds the beans together and makes the soup thicker, so resist the urge to substitute whole milk or half-and-half. Because of the high fat content, this soup freezes well. Note: Canned beans are not a suitable substitute as the beans make their own stock and sauce.
Makes 8 servings
2 cups (about 12 ounces) Jacob’s Cattle beans or other white beans, rinse and soak overnight (3 parts water to 1 part beans, soaking water reserved)
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons (¼ stick) unsalted butter
1 medium carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1½ cup tomato purée
1 cup chopped preserved roasted red peppers (store-bought is fine)
1 bunch black kale (or other kale), about 8 to 10 leaves, stemmed and chopped
2 dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 cup heavy cream
1½ cups (about three-quarter pound) soft goat cheese
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Put the beans and soaking water in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and skim foam from the beans. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and add the salt (the water should taste lightly of salt). Cook about 1 hour, until the beans are soft in texture and creamy in flavor.
Meanwhile, in another saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and cook the carrot, celery, yellow onion and garlic, until the mixture is soft but not brown. Stir in the tomato purée, red peppers and black kale. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes and add salt to taste.
When the beans have finished cooking, stir in the vegetable mixture, bay leaves, thyme and chili flakes. Cook for about 20 minutes, then add the heavy cream, goat cheese and black pepper. Cook for 15 minutes more, then season to taste with salt.
Variations: In summertime use fresh tomatoes, peppers, and thyme. For a lighter minestrone-style soup, leave out the heavy cream and goat cheese.
— Recipe excerpted from Chefs on the Farm: Recipes and Inspiration from the Quillisascut Farm School for the Domestic Arts by Shannon Borg and Lora Lea Misterly with recipes from Karen Jurgensen and photography by Harley Soltes (Skipstone).