Beginnings...part three

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Rainshadow continued to expand its commitment to education and connecting eaters with food in the ground. They took on six-month interns who wanted to dive into the world of farming. The farm gave them a unique opportunity to connect their food with the culinary experience. After milking cows and goats, they used that milk to make cheese, ice cream, butter, and yogurt. They seeded, weeded, thinned, harvested, and delivered tons of produce; fixed fences, herded cows, harvested honey, threshed beans, milled flour, and butchered chickens and turkeys, using it all to make three meals a day from the farm. With the exception of peanut butter and rice, they cooked what they grew. They barely even used olive oil, as the farm rendered all the back fat from the hogs into lard. And, because they cooked the food every day, they were better able to connect with the farmer’s market customers, explaining how they made tomatillo sauce, salsas, tomato preserves, plum jams, apple sauce, hot sauce, krauts, and kimchi.

In addition to its interns, the farm also hosted tours of students from grade school to culinary school. This is how Lindsay found the farm. Enrolled in Cascade Culinary School’s new Sustainable Food Systems program, Lindsay found herself far away from the school kitchen’s sleek stainless countertops and air-conditioned interiors, visiting local farms to learn more about where their food came from. She came to understand how organic practices differed from conventional ones, along with how much extra effort it involved. The more she learned about the full diet, the more she came to appreciate the hard work of farm life and the true value of the ingredients that took so much effort to cultivate.

When Lindsay graduated from culinary school and got a job as the chef of Jackson’s Corner, she was thrilled at the opportunity to work with Sarahlee again. She and Sarahlee put their heads together to figure out how to make it a reality to source local food on a large scale. Over the years, she spent a lot of time at the farm, picking up extra tomatoes when they ran out early or chatting crop planting for the upcoming season. One afternoon, Sarahlee was prepping the farm for a Longtable dinner when Lindsay came to pick up a box of Malibar spinach for a special. She walked out into the garden, holding her prized goods to thank Sarahlee for harvesting the extra greens. Nibbling on a leaf of spinach, she joked that there was nothing more delicious than eating food right at the source.

“You should come back for the dinner,” Sarahlee offered as she helped Lindsay to her car. “I’ve got a couple of spaces at the table.” Lindsay didn’t hesitate and shouted her acceptance out the window as she headed out down the gravel road.

Later that evening at the Longtable dinner, Lindsay and her now-husband walked through the gardens and solidified their decision to get married right there on that land. Later that fall, Sarahlee and Ashanti cooked a pig in the ground for their wedding while Wendy and Rebecca prepared a delicious meal from the farm’s finest vegetables. That choice led to the formation of some strong lasting friendships.

A few months later, the ladies were gathered in Rebecca’s kitchen for a monthly dinner. Sarahlee unloaded some ground pork, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, onions, garlic, and kale. Rebecca and Wendy chopped and prepped while Chris monitored the pan. Lindsay popped in late after her shift at the restaurant ended, promising to do the dishes since she’d missed all the cooking. Over dinner they found themselves reflecting on how much food Rainshadow sends into the community.

“The farm is an incredible success!” gushed Rebecca,” Not only does it give people inspiration to feed their families with nutrient-dense food. It also creates a space where people come together and celebrate.”

“I know! It’s exhausting, isn’t it?” joked Sarahlee.

“It’s so much fun though” Rebecca replied. “I mean, we get to provide people with these incredible ingredients.” She paused for a moment and turned to look at Sarahlee. “What if we could really tell them how to cook it?” Rebecca paused again. “ I want to write a Rainshadow cookbook. Every shopper at our booth needs to be able to go home and have our stories and inspiration waiting for them!”

“I’m tired of the way people resist like they are too busy,” Sarahlee responded. “They work too hard. They’d rather be recreating…especially in this town.”

“A book isn’t going to change that “ Lindsay suggested, “but we might be able to create a spark that that incites even tiny changes in our readers.”

“That’s exactly what they need: a spark,” Chris agreed. “We can create a culture around food. Rich food culture exists in other places in the world, just not so much in the U.S. Our farm members can use this book for inspiration and guidance, it can feed into a sense of community, as more people adopt all these ingredients into their lives.”

It was vaguely reminiscent of their discussions of creating the Longtable. One simple comment about a new way to enrich people’s lives, and they were all in! They could even include Longtable recipes that people were always asking about.They raised their glasses to the food, the land, and the friendship that had been forged in the process. There they were inspired by a farm, a group of people from different backgrounds and experiences. They were ready to offer the world a view towards the link between good food and health. Wouldn’t hurt if they peppered in some cooking skills and demystified some hard truths along the way.

“Cheers to that!” said Sarahlee with her glass raised. “Are you guys in??”

“Of course,” smiled Chris.

“Absolutely!” chimed Rebecca and Wendy.

“I’ve always wanted to write a cookbook,” quipped Lindsay “ I’d love to write my first with you ladies, with this farm at the center of it.” 

Witnessing this dinner and the ideas that unfolded was enough to gladden Sarahlee’s heart. It took her back to the night on the river that sent her on this journey to feed herself and her community. She interjected that piece of inspiration from several years before as the final blessing on the newborn project, “Let every meal connect us to the joy of living and the wonder of nature.” Sarahlee said. “Every meal can be like saying grace.”

They paused and let the words resonate within them and then raised their glasses over the table once again.

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Lindsay D. Mattison

Hi, I’m Lindsay D. Mattison, a former Chef turned freelance writer living in Durango, CO. I started a food blog, Zest and Tang, to share my passion for food and my love of seasonal, from-scratch cooking. I’m in the process of writing a cookbook with Rainshadow Organics in Bend, OR, and would love to chat about food and recipe writing opportunities!