Serenity descended on the farm this weekend. Partly from the stillness of the air after high winds brought in a cool front. Possibly because Saturday’s very dry air subdued the cacophonous insect chorus of high summer into just a single, high-pitched tone from just one species — the last to complete its mating process, I imagine. The concluding note of summer’s symphony.
Or perhaps it was just the aftermath of a lively night with good friends — lubricated by what some might view as an excessive four bottles of wine — that kicked the weekend off.
Eric decided to mark the change in season by making a “bouilli,” a traditional Québecois pot au feu of beef and salt pork slow cooked with savory spices for four hours, with end-of-summer vegetables — rutabaga, green and yellow string beans, cabbages, potato — added about halfway through the process. I fetched a large chuck roast, the traditional cut used for bouilli, from Hover Farm, whose herds graze our land, as the central ingredient. Because it was far too much meat for just me, Eric and our visiting friend Paul, we decided to make a party of it. From the north came Tom, from the east, George, and from the big city to the south, Steve.
Aside from Eric, none of us had ever tasted a bouilli. As was true with Eric’s other Québecois dishes, the end flavor was far more sophisticated and delicious than I might have expected from reading the unprepossessing ingredient list. The magical blending of flavors comes from the care taken in preparation.
Preceded by an extended cocktail hour, accompanied by generous pourings of hearty red wine, which continued to flow as we devoured the apple cake Paul had whipped up that afternoon, dinner was a smashing success. One to be remembered, not just for the beautifully prepared food, but also for the unquestionable sense of well-being and boisterous camaraderie excited by our being together.
Joyous — but exhausting. The two often overlap. I won’t go so far as to say I was hung over on Saturday, but let’s just say that at my age after such a roaring start to a weekend, nothing seemed more welcome than a contemplative tail.
Luckily, Saturday itself came through with its still quiet. And what better way to appreciate it than a walk with man’s best friend? Lillie, Eric’s aged Carolina dog, proceeds at what can only be described as a slow and deliberate pace, which makes her the ideal guide for a meditative, restorative stroll, and Tom and I decided to accompany her.
It was a short walk, limited by Lillie’s lack of enthusiasm for long treks. We made our way just along the farm’s eastern border on Old Saw Mill Road and past the two farms to our north. By the time we turned around and started back, we felt fully enveloped in the quiet: the constant hum of that one last vibrating insect species in the afterglow of its own mating season, nary a car passing. Just the barely discernible patter of Lillie slowly trotting her old arthritic bones behind us.
The sense of stasis came from what we saw as much as what we heard. The spectacular view of the Catskills looming in the distance, as they have over the Hudson Valley unchanged for centuries. The well-kept farmhouses we passed that should have been full of life but are now only sporadically used, lamentably deprived of their active farmers by illness and death in recent years. The pastures, though green from our recent rains, were also static in their way, no longer burgeoning with the rapid growth of spring and summer.
It all might have seemed melancholic, but such quietude this time of year evokes for me happy memories of how, in my childhood, the world seemed to enter a state of suspension as the Jewish High Holidays approached. For us, all normal activity was suspended — schools closed and work was forbidden. Of course, there was a large festive meal for Rosh Hashanah, and if the salt pork were removed, Eric’s bouilli might serve beautifully. But the overall tone of the Jewish New Year was always one of quiet contemplation, exemplified by the ritual of Tashlich when we cast our sins away by throwing bread on the water.
How appropriate to have been enveloped in this atmosphere on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. To all of you observing the holiday, may I wish a sweet New Year. L’shana Tova.
Lillie in the great quiet, Photo by Mark Scherzer
WHAT’S AVAILABLE THIS WEEK:
Coming soon: fall crops, beets and daikon radish
On hand now:
Zucchini: pale green or dark green, small 3 for $2, medium $2 each,
EGGS: $5/doz Less plentiful (flock has been decimated by predators) but still available
Lamb chops $14/lb, ground lamb $7/lb, riblets $10/lb., butterflied leg of lamb $14/lb, shanks $12/lb
Fresh horseradish root: $4/lb.
Garlic chives (flat leafed): $1/bunch
Shiso leaves, $1 for 10
Email us your order at email@example.com, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Because I’m now here full time, we’re abandoning regular pick-up times. Let us know when you want your order any day between 10 and 5, and unless there are unusual circumstances we’ll be able to ready it to your convenience. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call or text at 917-544-6464 or email.