If you do not own a cow, or know someone who owns a cow, I must caution you never to try raw milk straight from the teat of a Jersey cow, because it would be cruel to taste it and not have access to it again.
-Kristen Kimball, The Dirty Life
Rachel and I have taken to cooking dinner most nights here on Josep’s dairy farm. Josep cooks like a 49 year-old bachelor who lived with his parents until two years ago because, well, he is.
A few nights ago we made leek and potato soup (thanks to John Gore, who put me on to it). The leeks and potatoes were pulled out of Josep’s vegetable garden a few hours prior. The recipe calls for buttermilk and cream, which we didn’t have on hand, so we substituted two cups of milk still warm from the udder. We garnished with thyme, which grows wild in the cows’ pasture.
For breakfast we drink milk fresh from morning milking (I call it “life juice”) with bread toasted by the fireplace. The hens drop a fresh egg every few days which Rachel eats for lunch. One night I made chili from beans I picked from stalks lying on the floor in the loft above the stable.
For me, cooking here has been a humbling experience. At home, I don’t cook to eat… I cook to cook. I like the engineering challenge. I like the idea of doing it “perfectly”. I like the specialized gadgets. I like impressing people with my culinary prowess. This has been a source of conflict with Rachel who, like most women, sees cooking as a means to provide nourishment. When Rachel cooks it’s about others. When I cook, it’s about me.
This week I’ve been pushed more into her camp.
I wanted to bring a chef’s knife on this trip, but we didn’t want to check bags. My original packing list had a dozen deli containers, which Rene talked me out of a few nights before we left – “Every kitchen is missing something, but you MacGyver it and you make it happen.”
Here we do all of our chopping with a dull paring knife on a cutting board smaller than my kindle. We have no say in the ingredients on hand – we just use whatever is in the pantry. The kitchen has no hot water unless there’s a fire going in the fireplace. Despite these limitations - probably even because of them - the simple meals Rachel and I have made here have been more rewarding than most of the cooking we do at home.
There’s no challenge in feeding yourself in the city. We can walk to Whole Foods and buy any ingredient imaginable. Any cuisine desired can be delivered to our door in thirty minutes with a phone call. But here, the ingredients are the result of labor started six months ago. The cooking feels more honest… more sincere.
Josep eats breakfast in the morning, and then labors for twelve hours taking care of living creatures. He won’t eat again until dinner around 9:30. Every night he trusts us to provide him with warmth and nourishment, and if the meal we prepare isn’t worth eating, he goes to bed hungry. We want to honor the ingredients he has labored to produce, and the effort that went into producing them.