Thoughts from the TreeSong Community
Featuring Annie McHale
It’s that time of year: Spring o’clock. When seed meets soil and Intention is put to task. Nature doesn’t make bad food. It’s impossible. Every single seed, every tiny, unpretentious seed has in its DNA one goal: to become a zucchini, a pumpkin, a rosemary bush. It just knows what to do, when, and how. And when it becomes whatever it is meant to become, it presents its beautiful, colorful, flavorful, nutritious self as a gift.
It is for this reason that I honor food. Real food. The way it is intended, which is to say, organic or otherwise natural. My husband Curt and I were recently blessed with an opportunity to co-manage a 60-acre organic farm near the Oregon coast for several years. During that ridiculously difficult and completely blissful period, few people turned down our dinner invitations, knowing to do so meant missing out on perhaps the freshest meal they’d ever had the pleasure of enjoying. Our table was an organic feast. Every. Single. Day.
Hours-new duck eggs with their bright orange yolks, dutch-oven-baked artisan bread finished with smoked salt, plump raspberries bursting with sweetness from the afternoon sun’s kiss, fresh hand-pressed ricotta, bright and tender asparagus just snipped from the soil, tulsi basil bearing an aromatic hint of licorice, wild salmonberry gastrique slowly drizzled over line-caught Pacific salmon, fire-roasted over coals on hand-hewn cedar planks, raw milk whipped into heavenly cream, and garlic greens. Ohhhh-the-mildly-sweet-garlic-greens!!
Long before our farm adventure, we were CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members. Like a restless 6 year old on Christmas Eve, I waited with great excitement every week to pick up my box. In those days, I didn’t get an email telling me what to expect, or recipes, or even a scribbled list in the box. Members were on their own to do their best guessing, hopefully before it all went to waste in the crisper drawer. I shined under these conditions, adapting to the “sink or swim” environment with ease. That might be owed to growing up with 10 siblings. Or, surviving 8 brothers!
I set a goal once to use every single ingredient in one meal. And that week my CSA was beautifully random: 3 apples, 3 beets, 1 red cabbage, 1 whole coconut, 2 garlic bulbs, 1 pink grapefruit, 1 green pepper, 3 lemons, 3 limes, 1 onion, 2 oranges, 4 tomatoes, 2 turnips, and 2 yams. The citrus, fruit, and coconut tickled my tropical taste buds, while the root vegetables and cabbage made me think of a farewell-to-Winter soup.
Within an hour of its arrival, I had a fabulously delicious and healthy menu planned: Caramelized Chicken Tacos with Fruit Salsa, Roasted Beet and Turnip Slaw with Citrus Dressing, and Coconut Rice with Yams. To drink: Grapefruit Iced Tea. And for dessert: Orange Sponge Cake w. Citrus Syrup. A perfect “Hello, Summer” pairing; light, yet filling and bursting with complementary flavors, textures, and colors. Like building blocks dinner came to life, filling me with the essence of that family farm.
My reverence for farming and food is born from a deep sense of personal responsibility and stewardship for our planet and its life-sustaining abundance. As you and I go about our day, dodging rain and potholes, going to and from our warm homes, likely inactive jobs, and predictable routines, organic farmers are rising before daybreak and pulling on heavy 35+ mil coveralls and coats for protection against the weather. Right now, if the snow is gone, they’re either manually or mechanically plowing winter-hardened earth. Soon they’ll begin the careful process of transplanting tender seedlings into the raw Earth; seedlings they’ve been nurturing in the greenhouse or cold frame for the last two or more months, likely under heat lamps to keep the chill away. All while simultaneously managing animal care, egg production, and inevitable maintenance and repairs. In a farmer’s world, these new plants are precious infants, and the season’s success is wholly dependent upon the level of care provided in this first stage of growth.
Honestly, I don’t know anyone with a greater work ethic than a farmer. Except, maybe, the seed.
It is with this scenario in mind that I look forward to bringing Spring, and the farmers’ essence, to our cooking experience at TreeSong this month. My hope is that you, too, will become mesmerized by the bounty and its story, and grow your connection to the Earth and the Farmer. In this place of gratitude, combined with the creative energy you lend during preparation, there’s one guarantee: a meal so flavorful you’ll speak of it for years to come.
Join Annie and Curt for a glorious afternoon/early evening of soulful, nourishing and delicious culinary creating on Saturday, April 29th. Click here to learn more.
From Annie and Curt:
“At our core, we believe that breaking bread with others is the fabric that weaves families and communities together. Sharing a meal is sacred, and invites people to celebrate friendship, engage in conversation, and connect meaningfully.
Several years ago we committed to living a sustainable, healthy life beginning with the food we eat and share. We traded in our corporate jobs for rural living and real food. Gradually, we enlarged our classroom from a simple kitchen garden in Stevenson, WA to a 60-acre organic farm with multiple gardens, an heirloom orchard, animal care, egg production, and a food education program on the Oregon coast.
We recognized a common theme among hundreds of guests: most experienced a profound connection while seated at our table, overflowing with just-harvested organic goodness. The smell of earth, of evening dew, of fresh herbs, and edible flowers was palpable. No one wanted to leave!
Far too often we are reminded of the very real disconnect between most people and their food source, nature, their body, family, and roots. We now know that real food is medicine, the healer of most ills. Determined to bring the farm experience to others wherever they are, as well as debunk the myths that healthy food is too expensive and dietary changes too challenging, we created ROOTS Farmacy. It is our intention to inspire folks to enter into relationship with their own kitchen to prepare fresh, healthy meals and connect meaningfully with their loved ones.
We’ve done the hard work: the research, the number crunching, the planting, the harvesting, the taste-testing, the recipe tweaking; all from a labor of love. Join us for a class or retreat, and savor the bounty of our local Columbia River Gorge farms while learning to prepare heart-loving food. Your spirit, body, and mind will thank you.
Here’s to living a simple, affordable, DELICIOUS life!”
Annie McHale and Curt Gray