Last week I graduated from Experience Institute, one of the weirdest and best things I’ve ever participated in. My classmates were kind enough to nominate me to speak at graduation, this is what I said:
A year with Ei is a year with many questions.
When am I in my element? What can I bring to the world that is worthwhile?
How can it possibly be time to write my newsletter…again?
For me, 2 questions kept coming up again and again.
The first led me to Ei. I was living in rural Vermont and found myself wondering:
‘What is a community?’
It went well, really well. All the ingredients made it to the kitchen, most of them made it into the food… except the sage, which I forgot and is still sitting in the fridge. The food all came out the right temperature at the right time, and people had fun.
But I’m a perfectionist on a mission – I want my ingredients to be 100% local, and after 2 full weeks of hunting down ingredients like it was my full time job (because well, it sort of is), I only managed to get 26% of my ingredients from a source that was within 100 miles of where the meal is being prepared and served. Our average ingredient traveled ~760 miles. That feels like a huge failure.
This was the dessert for our first Fargo Family Dinner. Combining the Rhubarb and Strawberries of June with some whipped cream, apple cider vinegar reduction and meringues for a nice balance of flavors and textures that still feels light, even when it’s 85 in the shade.
I met Toni on Noreen Thomas’s Mystery Food Tour (totally worth checking out if you haven’t!). Sometime between quietly touring an Amish Homestead and impulse buying an apple tree, I learned that Toni was a farmer. I asked if she happened to have any Kale for a dinner I was planning and she said “sure!” and quickly rattled off all the other produce she had available.
Years ago I was wandering through a grocery store chain with an Italian friend, muttering “are raspberries in season?” She was shocked that an American would be thinking about seasonality in produce. Though I accepted her praise, (like you do) it made me feel a little guilty – I still had no idea if they were in season and wouldn’t until years later, when I lived in a cabin in the woods surrounded by wild raspberry bushes.
Documenting my 9-week journey to create a local, sustainable, affordable, balanced, satisfying and tasty meal in Fargo, ND
There are a lot of reasons to eat local. When I lived in Vermont, I found myself doing so almost by accident. I’d poke into the farmer’s market to pick up Melissa’s honey, or drive out to Laurie’s farmstand for some raw milk. Local eggs were everywhere and I could even sign up for a yearly consignment of local pork chops from Jill.
I can’t remember when we met, but it feels like you’ve always been a part of my life. I have very few memories of you from when I was young… I remember carrying cloves of garlic around in my pocket, microwaving eggs as an “experiment”, or getting my hair caught in the blender. But mostly you were just there, silently, without demands, taking care of me.