Farm to Table. It’s the new hot hashtag, all the rage. Restaurants popping up all over the country who partner with local farms so that they can claim the freshest food in town. Traveling chef’s like Jim Denevan from Outstanding in the Field have gotten in on the action by linking up with farms to put on exquisite farm to table dinners, using ingredients picked or slaughters that day, selling tickets to the first 50-200 people willing to pay anywhere from $150-$1000 a meal.
As we travel we find ourselves seeking out the freshest, organic foods we can find. Firstly because of our health, and also because we want to support local as we make our way. We thought we had a pretty good grip on where to find fresh food and how to cook with local ingredients but nothing tops what we learned during our week in Lafayette, LA on the Gotreaux Family farm.
It’s been a week since we last sat at the Gotreaux family table sharing our last meal and saying goodbye. As I sit at my desk eating my egg salad sandwich made with the fresh eggs from their farm, hatched the day we left, I am reminiscing about our rich time with them.
This was our third visit with this awesome family of 12 and unlike previous visit where we just observed farm life, this time around we were invited to actually work alongside of them on the farm and in the kitchen. Craig helped build a brooder house (nursery for baby chicks) and Banjo learned how to care for and catch the organic Tilapia. We all had our hands in the dirt on harvest day and on market day Graciana and I got to make our first meal for the whole group, 18 of us in total. We had the help of the twins and through out the week they would stay by our sides, helping us navigate in the kitchen, find or pick ingredients, and prep cook. Occasionally, some of the boys would drift in the kitchen, observing and if they weren’t busy I’d put them to work. We also had the help of our friend, Victoria Jones, one of the Gotreaux’s interns.
Our first meal out of the gate was Moroccan Vegetable Ragout, fresh-baked naan, Greek Salad and Blueberry Pie. All but a few ingredients came from the Gotreaux garden. The dinner was a hit, and as the week progressed we were invited to cook a few more meals. Because of the cold rainy weather and ingredients available we ended up choosing hardy winter recipes. Our menu included:
Dinner: Sweet Potato, Red Bell Pepper soup, Cheesy Cauliflower Bread, a Garden Salad and Aussie Lemon Bars.
Lunch: Turkey Burrito’s, side of Guacamole and chips/salsa.
Dinner: Rosemary Potato Soup, Fresh Baked Baguette, Arugula Pear and Fresh Parmesan Salad, Choc No-bake cookies.
Formal Dinner: Fresh Tilapia Ceviche appetizer, Savory Chicken Crepes, Spinach Apple Blue Salad, Aussie Lemon Bars.
There is nothing like cooking with fresh ingredient but I have never had the privilege of cooking with eggs, vegetables, dairy, or tilapia that was fresh picked or caught that day and not just that day, but moments before I used them. I could ask for anything and if it was in season and available it would be brought to me, ready to use. I might ask, do you have celery and one of the girls would answer yes, walk out the door, over to the garden and minutes later walk in with celery. And, did you know that most nutritious, delicious part of the celery are the leaves? I learned that celery is really not meant to go to stalk and the pale green celery we buy in the store looks and tastes nothing like the lush dark green savory celery I used in my Rosemary Potato Soup. I still love ants on a log, but I’m not sure I can go back to the vacant celery stalks in the grocery store without feeling like I’m being duped.
There is also nothing like cooking for 10 (plus our two) growing young people, all excited see what I can do with their harvest, ready to try something new. Each meal, I could feel the anticipation and when they sat down to give my recipes a try, they were open and honest about how my flavors impacted their tastes buds. Thankfully, they liked most of what I made.
I know the rest of my family had an epic time on the Gotreaux farm and that they each have individual stories that are just as profound. But for me, as far as travel experiences go, the opportunity to learn and create with the freshest ingredients, cooking alongside some of the most precious souls, and watching so many beautiful smiles as they raised their forks to mouth will go down in my top ten moments of community and growth. Farm to table has taken on a new meaning to me. It’s not just the new hot thing to do, it’s not just a marketing term, it’s an inspiring way of life and we are so blessed to have had the opportunity to live it!