Letter from Quillisascut

To kick this off I am sharing this Letter to Quillisascut from Chef Greg Atkinson well known for his writing about food in the Pacific Northwest.

A Letter From Quillisascut
Wednesday, 24 August 2011
Recently I attended a Food Writer’s retreat at Quillisascut Farm School in eastern Washington. Gary Paul Nabhan was the facilitator, and the focus was on writing  from the perspective of promoting a healthier food culture.

For four days, we ate together, cooked together, milked goats, made cheese, harvested produce from the garden and berries from the wild. With few exceptions, everything we ate was produced right there on the farm. We talked, we gathered around the table, drank wine and shared stories. Every day we had a writing assignment, and every night, as the sun went down and the stars came out, we we shared what we had written.

On the last day, our assignment was to write a letter addressed to ourselves in the future.

My letter came out in the form a of a poem. It went like this:

Dear Greg,

You must reserve a place
inside yourself to house
the substance of what you gained
spending a time at the Quillisascut Farm School.

Save the air filled
with aromas of barnyard,
fennel pollen, dog hair, goat cheese,
pine needles, sunlight and earth.

Stop sometimes
and stick your head into that room,
where you put the pigs,
the wood-fired oven,
homemade yogurt,
beet salad bright
with nasturtium petal garnish;
where Aggie at age 3 1/2 is pulling his rusty red wagon,
past sunflowers blooming,
past the barn where hay bales you stacked yesterday
scratched your arm.
Weep
for the real possibility – no, dead certainty
that this – will – not – last.

Accept the brevity of life but cling
to the fleeting nature of life itself.
The way it’s here for a moment
then gone.
The way Mom was alive one evening,
and dead before dawn.
The way your sons
have grown almost entirely up.

Go back again and again
to that place, where times like this
are stored, and root around until you find some things
that might help you create
a moment like this for someone else.

Stir up some polenta from some forgotten grain,
enrich it with cultured cream, inoculated with wild
lactobacillus
and tuck a spoonful of that mush
under a few tender shards
pulled from the braised flanks of some
heritage breed of ovine, bovine or porcine flesh.

Garnish it with sautéed greens,
and present the dish in a humble bowl
to some poor soul in need of rest.
Sit down across the table and smile.
If necessary, offer them something more to drink,
another glass of wine.

And when your guest is swooning
with something bordering on satisfaction,
when they get through the flavor and the texture,
and find at last the long, lingering aftertastes of the dish,

Offer them something more.

Present
on a very small,
metaphorical plate,
a tiny dose –
because this stuff is terribly strong –
a truffle sized portion
of hope.

If you do this once in a while,
you will not be overwhelmed
by all that lies before you.

You may grow weary, and cranky, and full of longing,
but you will learn to recognize those same feelings in someone else,
and offering them some relief,
some small part of what you experienced on the farm,
you will be
revitalized.

Be sure to visit Chef Greg at his new Restaurant Marché Or Check out one of his cookbooks, the most recent At the Kitchen Table: The Craft of Cooking at Home

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