Kelly and Sam let some visual creativity flavor dinner last week.

Kelly and Sam let some visual creativity flavor dinner last week.

The weather today is soupy. Fog suppresses activity in the village with dense mist, while the wind threatens to get nasty this afternoon. Can you believe it? Yesterday the temperature was in the 70’s and I put on sunscreen, yet we prepared for a hard frost this weekend. We will probably be making soup for dinner.

Mmmm …..Soup for dinner.….home-baked bread would go well with that soup, and Aaron is in the kitchen today, which means bread is surely on the menu. Aaron is one of our more skilled bread-bakers up on the mountain, but although he is skilled, that doesn’t mean he is the only bread-baker. The atmosphere here at AMS is one of support and encouraged experimentation. At this point, all of us have dabbled in the art of kneading, proofing, and baking. Sometimes it is a success, and sometimes it is flavored with “Burnt.” Yup, that’s a flavor. Flavors both real and abstract fall into the metaphorical pot, here at AMS. There is “garlic” and “fennel” but also “growth” and “flexibility.” Because our Fellowship is not your average farm apprenticeship, these flavors tend to melt together like a long-simmering soup. Farm soup.

The flavoring of our farm soup started with “burnt” and has progressed into something more enticing, shaped by both the delicate and strong flavors we have added to it. For example, there is “nooch.” In reference to nutritional yeast, “nooch” is a delicate flavor we have all embraced as a necessity to most any meal. And then there’s “garlic.” Not a new flavor, but one enjoyed over and over again on the mountain. Which reminds me of a story connecting bread, nooch, and garlic….

You see, two weeks ago I was in charge of making our bread ration for the week. Aaron had sent me one of his favorite recipes, and I was trying to follow it; perhaps I have a tad more of my mother’s cooking genes in me than I thought because although I intended to follow the recipe exactly, I ended up changing it completely (my mother does this quite often). When I first messed up on the bread, I threw my hand to my forehead and thought ‘oh no! I just wasted soooo much flour! Can I fix this?’ Emily Sullivan assured me I could. I am not new to bread making so I put my thinking cap on and figured out a solution. Ten minutes of kneading and many extra cups of flour later, I had made three beautiful loaves of bread, and a delicious focaccia full of garlic, cherry tomatoes, basil, salt, nooch and oregano which disappeared in less than half an hour. “Flexibility.” That’s a flavor. One which I employed to make this bread turn out with fantastic flair. And it all turned out so well, that the community asked me to make the focaccia for the upcoming open house! Again, it was a success. Flexibility is a strong flavor we all must handle delicately. When someone uses the ingredients you were hoping to use, another dash of flexibility gets thrown into our farm soup. When workshop times have to be re-arranged and we start at 9am instead of 8 (oh, darn), flexibility is added yet again. Last week as village manager, my farm soup was always being stirred with the flexible flavor, especially with spotty weather. But like the silky smooth soup which slides down your cold, tired throat at the end of the brisk autumn day, my farm soup satiates me.Cooking with some flavor

On the mountain we are fond of creating wild culinary experimentations that you could never recreate in a thousand years, and our farm soup has reflected our culinary journey. We have one month left to put the finishing dashes of spice in before we are ready to serve up. In that time, Kayla, Ellen, Laurie and others intend to add their own touch to our farm soup in order to prepare us for Phase II. The most recent flavor came through a day not on the farm, but at the Highland Center. “Management:” Defined as a complex flavor, layered into soup at just the right moment. 😉 (Like Miso!) Our workshop with Betty Mitchell and Ellen Butchart on Non-Profit Management was filled with advice for our Phase II work, perfectly timed for our transition. We discussed our individual positions for next year, rolling through our responsibilities and what that will mean for us professionally. The talk extended into grant-writing, and appropriate communication. Budgets were touched on, and how to conduct ourselves while wearing so many new hats. The management flavor made us (well, me at least) feel a little more prepared to serve up: Serve the community, serve each other, serve the rest of our lives some healthy farm soup.

The focus on wholesome, well-rounded education is how we get so many of our interesting flavors. From Shannon’s pumpkin sauce designed to coat black bean burgers, to pesto yogurt cheese, to the songs Nick and Sam write with their guitars; from the perseverance it takes to bath 40 chickens, to the essential flavor of “burnt” in dried cherry tomatoes. We flavor our farm soup with experiences, teachings, and failures until we realize our soup has become so rich and layered, that you could never recreate it again. 2014 Cohort of Fellows, I am quite fond of your soup. Keep stirrin’ that pot!

 

 

 

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