By Lola Dalrymple, Phase I Fellow
It is probably an obvious fact to readers of this blog that the nine of us who have gathered on the mountain and embarked on the first phase of our Fellowship all have an interest in learning to grow food. But what has revealed itself over the course of the last five weeks is that we all also take great pleasure in learning how to prepare that food. Likewise, we see gathering at the table and enjoying the fruits of our labor as a cornerstone of our time here at AMI.
The day begins with us entering the Timberframe (the Fellows’ common area), some more bleary-eyed than others, to get breakfast before heading down to work in the gardens. We always have a supply of yogurt and granola: staples that the Fellows make each week. The recipes and techniques for both have been tinkered with and perfected continuously. There’s also the option of beautiful sourdough loaves that the bread-bakers among the group have so graciously toiled away on. There too are eggs, laid by our hens, and collected each evening. Then there’s coffee—lots of coffee—and off we go down the hill.
Each day, two Fellows are the cooks for that day, and are charged with preparing lunch and dinner. It’s become a habit for the cooks to head down to the farm first thing to harvest some goods for their meals. Over a month into our Fellowship, it has become clear that some of us are planners: the planners have soaked beans overnight, they have written up menus, they have defrosted veggies frozen from last year. Then, there are the rest of us. The “fly by the seat of our pants” sort. Those that fall into the latter group will come down to the farm, see that kale and carrots are itching to be harvested, scratch their heads until a light bulb goes off, and run with it. The good news is that both of these methods have lent themselves to some truly inspired cooking. We have all agreed that we haven’t had a bad meal yet; and at approximately 45 communal meals into our Fellowship, I’d call those odds pretty good.
Lunch and dinner start with the cooks explaining each of their dishes and sharing the origins of each ingredient. Most things come from the farm: whether they were harvested this season, or frozen or preserved from last. Nothing, we have learned, tastes quite so good as something you yourself have plucked from the ground. While our ingredients are as local as possible, our palates have expanded to anything but. We’ve shared Indian curries, gnocchi, tacos, and falafel. Each day seems to raise the bar, daring the next cooks to shoot even farther.
We enjoy our meals together at a long table. While we eat, we digest the day’s events: what went on in the garden, and what’s to come. Or, maybe, conversation will turn to something completely unrelated to the farm. Long after the dinner dishes have been cleared we tend to linger around the table, as the sun begins to set over the mountain.