Have I told you yet about my other mother, Darina Allen? Of course, Darina Allen doesn’t know we’re related, so shhhh; let’s keep it right here. But really, who better to eat with on St. Patrick’s Day weekend than “the Julia Child of Ireland” herself?
It pains me to imagine, but if I could only have one cookbook, I think it would have to be hers. Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honored Ways are the Best – Over 700 Recipes Show You Why; well, the ridiculously long title tells the whole tale.
The Allens live on a beautiful 100 acre Irish farm with a herd of Kerry & Jersey cattle, laying hens, a kitchen garden, plenty to forage, and a famous cooking school. Darina can teach you all about foraging, how to amaze your friends by making stuff like butter, ham, rose syrup, separating cream after you’ve milked the cow yourself and a gazillion beautiful things made with eggs warm from the hens. It is the real, old school, farmstead deal.
Of course, I’m looking at my menu, and have to laugh because while the meal (and my life) is totally inspired by Darina Allen, the corned beef recipe is actually from Michael Ruhlman and my favorite cabbage recipe is from Tyler Florence. I know. But the traditional Irish boiled potatoes and the Irish Soda Bread are straight from Darina’s book.
Corned beef with mustard sauce, traditional Irish boiled potatoes, braised cabbage & Irish soda bread...
A good Irish meal is one that is not particularly cheffed up. It is more about the very fresh, very flavorful ingredients, prepared simply but with care. And the dairy products need to be first rate. I’m not kidding – go for the really good butter like Double Devon if you can find it, or Kerrygold, Organic Valley Pasture Butter, or Plugra. One or all will surely be found at most modern grocery stores these days. Even better, if you have some local farmstead butter, well, lucky you.
Don’t balk at the price if you’re not in the habit of buying good butter. The rest of the ingredients in this meal are pretty cheap so go ahead and splurge; you’ll still come out ahead. You owe it to yourself to at least know what butter is supposed to be.
Then, if you think it’s overrated and that you’d rather have some soda or Cap’n Crunch instead, at least I can rest knowing you’ve made an informed choice.
I know that while my meal was lovely and the day beautiful, you’ve been pounded with corned beef, cabbage and green stuff all week. It’s a new week now, and time to move on to something else. Except for one thing; all that leftover corned beef.
Last year, for St. Patrick’s day I made corned beef tongue and corned beef hash. This year, I went the tongue route again, but still, while the flavor is great, I just don’t enjoy the texture. The hash worked well because the meat was cubed & crisped with potatoes and carrots. But that’s so last year. This year, I decided to go for corned beef spread. Click here for a printable recipe.
The unmistakable taste of corned beef and grainy mustard in a creamy spread.
And I’m glad I did. Grinding meats to use in sauces, spreads, fillings, sausages and such is an invaluable way of stretching meat as far as it can possibly go. All while concentrating the meaty flavor exponentially.
Do you have an especially good way to put a bit of minced meat to work?
We need to talk to you.
We need your help James Chartrand. We heard about your Damned Fine Words Writing Contest and we want to win.
Here’s why winning your contest is so important to us. We need to cut through the media clutter and touch people in a way that leaves them still thinking about us days, weeks, maybe months later. Then we need them to start to look differently at the way they buy food. We don’t need drastic changes – small ones really do make a big difference.
We have a small farm in Western Pennsylvania where we raise Heritage breed American Milking Devon cattle. Our little herd of old-fashioned cattle has the kind of DNA capable of reviving an ailing livestock gene pool, which, most people have no idea, is a real problem in today’s system of industrial agriculture.
Our cows are scrappy. Survivors. Tough. The kind of cows who will be just fine when farmers can’t afford to feed those bovine CAFO hummers our beef and dairy industries are reliant on today.
Our work is all about preserving the knowledge of the past and putting it to use in a modern way. Not because it’s charming or trendy, we do it because we believe it is critically important to retain this knowledge and biodiversity. But our effort falls short if we can’t financially support ourselves or get people engaged in our outreach.
Today, it’s a little easier to find information about real food and the importance of small, diversified farms, but you still have to actively work at it. Mainstream media offers corporate greenwashing and incomplete, sensationalized information and the contradictory stories tend to be more confusing and polarizing than helpful.
We also worry that since so many of the artisan and DIY food & farming conversations take place in a rarefied “foodie” atmosphere, many people won’t think the work of farmers like us is relevant or affordable to them. We need them to know how wrong they are; small, diversified farms provide important food insurance for everyone.
We want everyone to know they can afford quality food.
There’s an overwhelming flood of critical issues generated by our industrial food and farming systems these days. And so many small actions people could be taking but are not either due to misinformation, or complete lack of awareness. There are many, many painless and affordable actions which if adopted by enough people, would create huge improvements in the health and welfare of people, animals, the environment and the economy.
Auburn Meadow Farm has much more to say than our audience’s attention span can possibly bear. And we won’t browbeat or frighten people with misleading or sensationalized information. Instead, we want to inspire people to action in an upbeat, proactive and positive way.
What we want is to teach people:
- How to buy and prepare food that is cheaper, healthier and tastes so much better
- Ways to gain control over our personal food supply
- What’s happening behind the scenes of Big Food and Farming and Government
- How to support small, diversified farms in your community
- What farm life is really like and why family farms are so important to our future
- What joy good food brings to communities
Being so small, and not on the receiving end of farm subsidies and assistance, we need our business to be as scrappy as our cows with multiple streams of income to keep our mission moving forward year round. We believe developing the quality of our writing and teaching program will create not only a valuable reference for our readers and students, but a reliable source of revenue for the farm.
Our budget is extremely tight and this year does not allow for investment in education. The type of mentoring and community we would enjoy in your course would really help us make this a successful and exciting year.
Regardless of whether we’re selected or not, we thank you for all the helpful sharing you do on the Men with Pens blog. You may not know us personally yet, but you’ve been an important member of our imaginary herd tribe. But we’re thinking positively and look forward to being an active part of your real herd.
Our hooves are crossed!
We want to join your damn fine words herd!
How much more mysterious and magical the world looks in black & white!
We’re moving. Again. Packing up all our worldly junk and putting it in storage.
You see, while we now have a home for the Ladies, it doesn’t include a house for us, so we’re off to transitional housing to plan our next move. Hopefully the final one….
If you’ve ever packed up everything you own, you know the best part is that all sorts of forgotten treasures are found. Which is exactly how I re-discovered my enchantment with Thomas Moore.
Thomas Moore is a contemporary writer and lecturer whose life follows a route like my own; filled with seemingly random twists and turns. Beginning his journey as a monk in a Catholic religious order, then becoming a student obtaining degrees in theology, musicology and philosophy, working as a therapist and finally an author, Thomas Moore is a man who is willing to live the questions without needing to know the answers first.
His most famous books are Care of the Soul and Soul Mates, but the two that most feed my soul are the The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life and The Education of the Heart. I found The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life first and of course had to plop down in the middle of the action for a quick skim. Here I found interesting observations about that uneasy tension between dreams and practicality so especially polarized in our American culture.
Most of us struggle to balance these equally important needs. For some, the standoff is more difficult than for others. A rare few are so blessed they are completely certain of which road they must travel and set right off on their journey. Along the way, they find doors that open just when they are needed, but even for these lucky ones, the door opens not one second before the darkest hour has been endured. Give up too soon and live with regret forevermore.
Including enchantment in our lives requires a willingness to embrace solitude and quiet and forces us to relinquish the need to know everything that’s going to happen next and why. Enchantment is a place where everything is gray and to appreciate it you must have faith that you will understand when it’s time.
People must have excursions into enchantment to survive:
“The soul has an absolute, unforgiving need for regular excursions into enchantment. It requires them like the body needs food and the mind needs thought. Yet our culture often takes pride in disproving and exploding the sources of enchantment, explaining away one mystery after another and overturning precious shrines, dissolving the family farm that has housed spirits of civility for eons, or desecrating for material profit a mountain or stream sacred to native residents. We have yet to learn that we can’t survive without enchantment and that the loss of it is killing us.”
Most people dismiss the need for enchantment as irresponsible, childish or silly; yet why? Practicality and Enchantment are not opposing forces; in fact they serve one another:
“It isn’t easy to discuss enchantment in a disenchanted society, one that suffers the lack of a deep, solid, communal fantasy life, because enchantment stands our usual values on their head. What is central in the hardcore, hardware, hardworking world of the disenchanted has little or no place in a soft life of enchantment, and what is important to the charm of daily life may appear as a distraction to those who are dedicated to the kind of seriousness that excludes enchantment. Yet there is no essential conflict between enchanted living and practical, productive activity; they can serve each other: one delighting the spirit of ambition, the other comforting the heart.”
Food is a source of enchantment. For example:
“As a therapist, I’ve worked with people who feel their lives are meaningless, aimless, and generally depressed. In a number of instances, after discussions of family and tradition, these people have brought soul into their lives simply by phoning a mother, father, or grandparent and asking for some old family recipes. The familiar but forgotten smells and tastes restore (the meaning of the word ‘restaurant’) a long-dormant element in the soul – a comforted childhood, a feeling of belonging, the support of religious and cultural traditions, and family stories and personalities.
Is superficial and simple less important than complicated and academic? What feeds the soul is always simple; it’s buzzing human minds that love complexity.
“Over the years, when I’ve lectured on food, cynical listeners have complained that I’m reducing psychology to the themes of modern living and gourmet magazines. When I first heard such objections I felt defensive and concerned. Was I not being clear about the depth of these issues? Then I realized that magazines about food and home may be more important, even if they are intellectually light, than thick tomes of research and philosophy. Now I don’t mind being associated with books of recipes and advice about furnishings and entertainment. Of course, they can be superficial and middle-class, but their simplicity is not a sign of their insignificance.”
And, how true is this? The extra time real food demands of us is not wasted but serves the soul.
“It’s no accident that in our disenchanted times we have found hundreds of ways to short-circuit the production, preparation and eating of food, and so it makes sense that to re-enchant our ordinary lives we could approach the supermarket, the kitchen, and the dining room differently, realizing that the extra time real food demands of us is not wasted but serves the soul.”
Evening is a social time for the cows. The little ones scamper and play, tails flagging, wild eyed and silly or sometimes they are lazy and nap flopped together in a big, congenial heap. The Ladies are busy munching, grabbing their evening meal, especially when the weather is as stiflingly hot as it has been recently. To avoid the heat, they do most of their work in the cooler air of early morning and twilight, spending their afternoons napping in the groves of shady trees.
And so this evening, we ponder the importance of two words rarely used anymore – enchantment and delight. Yet that’s exactly what I feel every day as I stand in the special glow unique to summer evenings, pumping water into the trough and watching the cows graze their favorite evening pasture. My chattering mind cannot overcome the magic and finally gives up. We are completely content, the dueling parts of my brain and I, if just for a little while. And, that enchanted moment is what gives me the desire to get up early and do all the scary, mundane, dirty, repetitive and/or unpleasant things I have to do.
The little ones scamper and play, tails flagging, wild eyed and silly