Farm to Table

IMG_0749Farm 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.

IMG_0755Our 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.

IMG_0832There 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.

IMG_0848There 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!

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By the way if you are interested in any of the recipes that we made during our visit with the Gotreauxs please visit  Behind The Apron Strings; Recipes from the Road.

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Sing My Joy

10409290_971041472909311_6025193075287294830_nYou remember Chaz Jones, don’t you? He was our first bus rider. We met Chaz at a festival in 2012 and he kept in touch. In Feb of 2013 he invited us to visit his community in Lafayette, LA. We met many of his kinfolk, sharing song and a meal. Near the end of our visit, Chaz mentioned that he was keen to ride our bus and wondered if we would be open to that idea. Over the next few months we chatted about what that might look like and in late July of 2013 Chaz took a greyhound up to Michigan to meet us for a five week tour that would take us across the US, finally getting off the bus in Boise, ID. It was an exciting time for us all, learning how to communicate needs, desires, boundaries, encouraging and challenging one another. By the end, there was no denying the intensity and deep connectivity of living in community with Chaz. He was endeared to us as family and his mark would forever be upon us as we travelled forward.

A few months later, we had new enquiries about riding the bus so we reached out to Chaz and asked if he would offer any feedback or insights into his time with us. Anything that might help us be better hosts with new riders. I was ready for the skinny, thinking there surely had to be some admonishment coming. You see, it’s a tricky and humbling thing to live in community with outsiders, allowing them to come into the fold. Although, he was always gracious with us, I don’t doubt Chaz saw all of our ugly. It’s very difficult to play perfect little family, specially in 300 square feet. And so, we wanted to hear his heart, allowing him to put everything on the table, sharing what he had learned, the good and bad. His words caught us off guard.

He wrote: “Man, I could probably write a book. Let’s see, Before I arrived, I was a real people pleaser. I felt like I always had to explain myself in times of uncertainty rather than just being vulnerable and saying  “I don’t know where i’m going or what i’m doing exactly” I realize now that when I arrived my passion was lacking but I was hungry for purpose.

During my time on the bus, I was able to reflect on my life and saw that I had been half-hearted in just about everything, especially my relationship with God and with the people that I love. I met so many people during my time on the bus and I learned that you can never go to a place or meet a person and think you’ve got it/them figured out. I found that coming into these new situations gave me fresh perspective and understanding about that place/person, which gave me even more understanding about myself.

I learned to really live in the moment, to not just spend the present thinking and worrying about the past or future but to most importantly just BE. There’s so much growth that takes place when traveling in community. I know that being with The Hollands has helped me grow in my communication skills. I really loved being able to go into various types of people-groups and find common ground, especially within the church.

I’m so thankful for the fellowship with The Hollands and really felt at home among family. I’ve learned to “step into the mystery” and I look forward to more times of living and laughing together.

Highlights: Jana’s cooking, of course! I Really enjoyed enjoyed floating in the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Colorado was just lovely. Meeting Trippnwk. Craig’s morning coffee pour-overs. Visiting Jpusa, and camping at Lake Michigan.

Suggestions for other who may travel with The Hollands: Be open and just fully live in the moment. And hold your nose when the bus is leaving to take off! Ha!”

10801946_971125486234243_957717618970174661_nIt has been a year and a half since Chaz rode the bus and on a cool December afternoon in Lafayette, LA, we celebrated the marriage of Chaz and his new bride, Victoria. The country farm setting of the Gotreaux Family farm was the perfect backdrop, with a large Live Oak as the cornerstone and a vintage Volkswagen van as the sidekick. Victoria’s styling was shabby chic 1930’s with a touch of retro 1970’s. Her dress was beautiful and her bridesmaids complimented the styling with pale pink, peach and cream colors. The fella’s wore browns and whites with bow ties and suspenders. Their ceremony was short and sweet with music compliments of two of us Hollands, along with two of Victoria’s brothers and a friend of theirs. Chaz played banjo when he toured with us, so it was no surprise when he asked for a few numbers heavy on the banjo. Their wedding party consisted of dear friends that they had both met at Masters Commission in Lafayette, LA.

The reception followed naturally right after the ceremony, with guests meandering under the oak trees, enjoying appetizers and signing the guest book. A lovely cajun dinner was served, capped by a delicious white wedding cake with rosemary. Beautiful speeches were given by family and friends and us Hollands! finished the night with merrymaking and delight.

It is a honor to be invited into the lives of others, to share each others woes and joys. We are thankful for our time with Chaz and excited to see what all may come for he and Victoria as they embark on their own journey!

All Photos by Claire Vogelgesang: http://lcvphotography.tumblr.com/

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Gotreaux Family Farm

IMG_9925Chaz Jones… you remember him? He was our first bus rider. He’s living back down in Lafayette, LA, engaged to the darling Victoria, and learning alongside the Gotreaux family and farms.

Chaz definitely has the gift of hospitality and invited us down to his community for a few days. He organized a house concert, where we were going to park and how long we could stay. We were told that we could park at the farm and that it would be the first time that this family would open their home to strangers like us. We didn’t know much else, except they were a family and they ran an organic farm.

Gotreaux Family FarmWhen we arrived, we knew we were in for a real treat as our welcoming party consisted of twelve of the most beautiful, pure faces on the planet. All curious about the arrival of this big ol’ bus and it’s inhabitants.

Over the course of the next few days we would learn about Mother and Father, Dawn and Brian’s meeting in high school, Brian’s love for building car, a spiritual awaking that brought them to a deeper understanding of God and their purpose, a call to adoption and a new path that eventually would lead them to where they are now, as owners and stewards of one of Louisiana’s most innovative organic farms.

Gotreaux Family Farm is a diversified natural family farm growing nutrient dense food. They raise chickens, turkeys, tilapia and have a fantastic veggie patch. The care they took in understanding all aspects of their farm was incredible and inspiring. For instance, we learned much about their Tilapia farm, and all the science and love that is involved in maintaining their above water tanks, creating an optimal environment for fish that are raised without antibiotics, chemicals or hormones. We learned about the PH of soil and how the quality of that soil affects the nutrients in our food. And, we learned about omega 3 and 6 in the diet of a chickens and how that translates to benefit human consumption.

Learning alongside Brian was a real treat for Craig, as it tapped into his desire to someday work the earth again. And, for Banjo the running with the wind, trudging through the mud and being with all of the Gotreaux boys was just the medicine our spirited young teen needed.

One afternoon we went for a hike at a local lake in hopes of seeing “gaiters.” This part of the country is so mysterious with its brilliant greens and swampy mangroves. It beckons the onlooker to venture into the wild and leave the path. And yet, we kept our footing and forged ahead. The youth however, were enticed by the mystery and moved past the margin, to the edge of the river. Because of their bravery, or maybe insanity, not only did we see alligators but the boys actually caught (and released) a baby alligator!

During our visit, it rained a few of the evenings and because of that, the Gotreaux’s normal routine slowed down, allowing us plenty of time to just be with one another. We made blueberry pies, shared meals, talked through and encouraged each other in our parenting, marriages and faith. And, our children all ranging from 12-18, along with Rhys (our current bus rider) spent hours playing games and making music.

It’s always so amazing to us the way that the saints are woven together in this great big tapestry of humanity. The depth of connectivity we can have in just a moment and that sense of time ceasing to exist, often catches our breath. When we pulled out of the driveway, only a few days after we arrived, we were pleased to leave a little piece of our hearts at the Gotreaux family farm. We don’t doubt that it will be well cared for and we delight in the idea of one day returning and enjoying another season with this precious family.