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I posted this over at Field and Table, but I thought that I should post it here for those who don’t make their way over to that blog.  It’s called “Stepping into Private Catering.”

Two weeks I received a phone call to see if I would be interested in catering a businesses open house.  I spent four years cooking in a professional kitchen as an assistant chef.  Two of those years I managed the kitchen operations for the catering requests the restaurant would receive.  I love to have cook for people and teach people how to cook.  But I was surprised to get this phone call because I’ve never done any private catering on my own before.  It’s one thing to prepare a meal for 8-10 people; it’s an entirely different thing to prepare hors-d’oeuvres for 75 people.

I’ve had the opportunity to cook for this business owner before, and I knew that they wouldn’t ask me if I was interested unless they were happy with my ability to cook.  This couple recently purchased a coffee and paper house and are having the open house to welcome back some of the locals that the previous owners scared away.  The new owners wanted to have some festive hors d’oeuvres and cookies to serve during the open house.  I told them that I would think of a few menu options and get back to them.

Two days later we settled on the menu:
-Spanakopita triangles (traditional spinach/feta as well as wild mushroom/blue cheese)
-Cranberry Cheddar meatballs
-Baked Brie
-Hummus and crispy pita chips
-A simple cheese platter
-Cookies (fresh ginger, espresso-chocolate shortbread, chocolate chip, and another variety I have yet to decide on)

I feel really good about the menu.  I wanted to have foods that people will be able to eat easily, without utensils, as they walk through the store and mingle.  I was also trying to offer a few special items- handmade spanakopita, meatballs with a holiday twist, a baked brie, and my favorite shortbread cookies.

This past Tuesday was the open house.  Lauren made up a business card design for me to have available on the tables.  I wasn’t really sure if I could handle doing many catering gigs like this on my own, but we decided that it couldn’t hurt to have my information available if people were interested.

The evening was a success for the new owners of Longs Peak Coffee and Paper House.  My guess is that they had well over 100 people in their shop during their two hour open house.  I received many sincere compliments on the food and in fact, a few people went out of their way to track me down and offer their appreciation.  Cooking for that environment reminded me how much I love to cook for people.  It reminded me of how much I enjoy preparing food for others to enjoy.  Here’s hoping I have another chance at it.

I don’t often find myself thinking about Myers Briggs personality types. Perhaps that is simply an aspect of my own personality. But over the past few days I’ve been thinking about mine a lot. I’m an ENFP, which may be an “Ah-ha” kind of moment for some or a “huh?” to others. The ENFP stands for Extroverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving. Here’s a little blurb on my personality to bring you up to speed. (Feel free to jump down past the quote if you are already bored.)

As an ENFP, your primary mode of living is focused externally, where you take things in primarily via your intuition. Your secondary mode is internal, where you deal with things according to how you feel about them, or how they fit in with your personal value system. ENFPs are warm, enthusiastic people, typically very bright and full of potential. They live in the world of possibilities, and can become very passionate and excited about things. Their enthusiasm lends them the ability to inspire and motivate others, more so than we see in other types. They can talk their way in or out of anything. They love life, seeing it as a special gift, and strive to make the most out of it. ENFPs have an unusually broad range of skills and talents. They are good at most things which interest them. Project-oriented, they may go through several different careers during their lifetime. To onlookers, the ENFP may seem directionless and without purpose, but ENFPs are actually quite consistent, in that they have a strong sense of values which they live with throughout their lives. Everything that they do must be in line with their values. An ENFP needs to feel that they are living their lives as their true Self, walking in step with what they believe is right. They see meaning in everything, and are on a continuous quest to adapt their lives and values to achieve inner peace. They’re constantly aware and somewhat fearful of losing touch with themselves. Since emotional excitement is usually an important part of the ENFP’s life, and because they are focused on keeping “centered”, the ENFP is usually an intense individual, with highly evolved values. Because ENFPs live in the world of exciting possibilities, the details of everyday life are seen as trivial drudgery. They place no importance on detailed, maintenance-type tasks, and will frequently remain oblivious to these types of concerns. When they do have to perform these tasks, they do not enjoy themselves. This is a challenging area of life for most ENFPs, and can be frustrating for ENFP’s family members.

I wrote at the beginning that I don’t usually thing about my personality type, but when I do I am reminded of two things: 1. I am driven by deep sense of values. and 2. If I cannot connect something with these values it becomes less and less of a priority to do it. I jump head first into something that interests me. I’ll read and research and experiment and talk about the things that I’m passionate about. This blog is a small outlet for that, but if you know me in person this would make all the more sense. My wife, an ISTJ, can attest to this. In fact, she is probably smirking and rolling her eyes as she reads this. It has only been in the past few years that I have embraced this part of my life and have tried to find ways to celebrate it.

When I get something in my head it can consume me. All of this should bring you up to speed on my past week. I found this posting for a hotel/restaurant in New England looking for a farmer. It’s nearly an ideal position for me. We’ve traded emails and I’m waiting to hear back from him. I’m trying to get some more information about their expectations. I don’t know whether or not they would think I’m qualified to come out and farm for them. I don’t know a whole lot about what they are looking for, but I’m driving myself crazy thinking about it. I check my inbox with an anticipation of finding an email from them with more information. I’ve been thinking non-stop about what would happen if they wanted me to come out there to work. Would we stop school for this opportunity or hope another comes around?

I’m consumed by these thoughts; I wish I could simply let it go, but I don’t know how. Does this make me sound crazy?

I really love this time of year.  My weeks are long and filled with exhausting work, and when the weekend arrives I can rest.  I haven’t had this feeling in a while.  Throughout the school year my weeks are filled with classes and homework (and a little work), but when the weekend arrives I don’t feel as though I am really resting from anything.  Perhaps that’s because I still have home work and projects to work on, but I think it’s largely due to the fact that my body isn’t engaged in physical labor like it is now.  Winter itself is a form of rest from all the work done throughout the rest of the season, but over time I get antsy to stretch and tare muscles that generally are underused.  When winter slowly turns to spring and then summer and carries into fall my body and spirit rejoices in the work that’s needed to be done.

I’m not very good at resting, though.  For such a simple sounding thing, it can be quite elusive at times.  I feel the need to do something.  To check something off of a list.  To accomplish something.  But that is not rest.  So I force myself to sit and be still.  To listen to the sounds of the world around me and to the voice of GOD speaking in a gentle breeze.  Last weekend I felt very restless in my attempt to rest.  I decided to go for a bike ride.  I grabbed an apple, some water, and a book and took off with no purpose in mind.  I rode in the direction that the road guided me, and in spite of the 25 miles I rode I felt rest.  At times I had to remind myself that I didn’t need to push myself.  I needed to slow down and enjoy what I was doing.  The bike ride wasn’t a means of transportation; it was the purpose.

I still find myself waking up early on weekend mornings.  I might be able to sleep in until 7, but that’s usually it.  I don’t mind, though.  The mornings are peaceful and generally quite.  Songs of crickets and birds slowly crescendo as the morning moves on.  During the business of the week I stockpile articles and blog posts that show up on my Google Reader account or through recommendations given by my Twitter friends.  Saturdays are days for me to sit with a cup of coffee and read through things I didn’t have time for during the week.  I really like that.  Waiting until Saturday also allows for a type of “time filter.”  On a Tuesday I might save an article thinking that I will really want to spend time with it, but by the time I get to it over the weekend it seems much less important.

I spent a little time this morning reading an article on The Jesus Manifesto blog.  Their blog is one of a handful of Christian blogs I still follow because their voice cries out against much of the marriage between the Kingdom of GOD and the Kingdom of man.  So many “Christian” blogs seem to be trying to evangelize Christianity though the American Dream.  That doesn’t sit too well with me, and The Jesus Manifesto people live in a way that challenges that.  Here’s some links to a 3 part series:
Part 1: “Come to me, all ye who labor for a living.”
Part 2: “Freely you have received, freely give.”
Part 3: “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Another exciting thing for my upcoming weekends will be cheese making.  Are you really surprise?  L and I are now participating in a form of food activism by drinking raw milk.  Raw milk you ask?  I’m working on a post to explain all of this a bit clearer but here’s the gist.  Milk that is bought in a grocery stores has all been pasteurized, which means that the milk is cooked for a period of time at about 160 F.  Like cooking any foods, nutrients are lost in the process.  A benefit to the pasteurization process is that it lasts longer because there is less living bacteria in the milk itself.  (Bacteria is not a bad word, here.  There are good bacteria and bad bacteria.  The goal is to have enough good bacteria to kill the bad.)  Food scientists have used Ultra-High Pasteurization to allow milk to last for months…on the counter.  That really creeps me out.  Because raw milk is not pasteurized it has a shelf-life of about a week.  Our lovely USDA has decided that raw milk is unsafe and therefore cant be sold.  Every state has a different law on raw milk ranging from straight-up illegal to acceptable to sell if the dairy has a permit.  In Colorado the law says that you can drink raw milk from a cow that you own.  So we now own part of a cow and are legally allowed to drink raw milk.  Now that we have a source of good, fresh milk I can start making cheeses.  A while back, when a few dear friends were up for a visit we made some ricotta cheese and then made homemade ravioli.  It was a lot of fun.  I’ll be stocking up on rennet and cheese cloths and molds so if you want to come over and make some cheese with me let me know.

It’s 8am now.  Time to make some pancakes.  But I’ll leave you with a question.  Is resting an easy thing for you?

In an hour I begin my internship on a 3 acre organic farm.  I’m really excited about the opportunity.  I spent last summer as a landscaper, which I enjoyed (for the most part), but I was often wishing that I was pulling weeds from vegetable plants rather than lupines.  Don’t get me wrong, I think there is great beauty in an ornamental garden, but that isn’t why I’m studying horticulture.  I want to be apart of solutions to fixing our broken food system and economies.  I want to work with people who are growing real food for people who aren’t used to eating real food.  I want to help people see that their kitchen has more than just a freezer for frozen dinners, and a microwave for “cooking.”  I want to help people see that there are choices that they can make that are better for their families health, their communities health, as well as the earth’s health.  I’ve been trying to write more and more about all of this stuff for the past year, but have struggled to find the right words to use.  I want to be able to share my thoughts with reasons and statistics, rather than simply conviction and passion.  I think that is why I’ve struggled to write about these things before, and I’m going to make a change over the summer.  For my internship, I’ll need to be writing reports and speaking about my time on the farm, and through that I think I’ll be able to fine tune my thoughts.

Well, I got to go jump on my bike and head to the farm.
I really like being able to say that.
I hope you all are well. peace.

This morning I will start my career as a farmer… sort of.  This year I will be working with 8 other people for the Rocky Mountain Small Organic Farm Project.  The farm itself is 8 acres of certified organic land that is used by Colorado State University for different research and study projects to better understand the particular micro-climate of the inter-mountain west.  I will be involved with two aspects of the farm: the 3 acre CSU CSA, and researching effectiveness of 150 different variety trials.  Along with these two projects going on at the farm, there is also some research being done on organic hops growth and overwintering processes, perennial small fruit production, and green manure and living cover crops.  Here’s a link to the specialty crops page at CSU.  I’m really excited about having the opportunity to be a part of what the school is doing.

I’ll be working there as much as I can over the summer and through the end of the season in October, but I will be taking an Organic Chemistry class for 8 weeks throughout the summer so I wont be able to work full time.  I’m particularly excited about this because I think it will help me think about some of the routes I will be able to take when I graduate a 2 years.  I’ve struggled with the idea of studying Horticulture for a few reasons.  First, my interest is mainly in food crop production.  I don’t have an interest into running a greenhouse for a nursery, or want to do landscaping.  And second, I don’t see myself farming.  Sure, I’d be excited to work with someone for a few years on a farm, but I am most interested in cultivating connections with people and food.  I’m hoping that I’ll be able to spend some “off-farm” time connecting with CSA members through newsletters, maybe a blog, and through face to face connections.  I’d love to be able to interact with the members by swapping recipes for the more unusual (re: not found in most supermarkets) vegetables.

I should probably get going.  My coffee is gone, and I should grab a little breakfast before I head out.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the push for local and sustainable food.  I realize that this isn’t the type of things that many of my friends think about, but you’ll just have to indulge me for a bit.  I’ve been reading praise and critiques of local, sustainable, slow food and while I more often then not will find myself on the side of praise, I do have a few concerns with what I see and hear.

The foundation of my critique comes from the location of the praise.  Let me put it this way.  More often then not, the examples of restaurants and homes that are pushing the local food movement come from people who are able to grow food 9-10 months of the year.  In Fort Collins, we are lucky if we can push 7 months.  It is much more realistic for people that can have a nearly year-round supply of local food to be advocating the consumption of it.  However, it is much harder for me to consume a local-only diet.   If there are going to be cookbooks that are intended to promote local foods, wouldn’t there need to be highly regional cookbooks?  I have tremendous respect for Alice Waters and what she is doing with Che Panisse, but the reality of it is, her local foods can be worlds apart from the things that are local to me.  So where are the chefs from Denver talking about a seasonal menu?  Where is there praise for root crops?  And what should we be doing about a seasonal dessert?  This is not a topic of discussion within the local food movement, but I believe it must be if it is to be more than a posh trend.

The second thought that consumes me has to do with the economics of local, sustainable, slow food.  I’m no economist, but I have a basic understanding of supply and demand curves.  So here’s my issue, if we are promoting local seasonal foods as something that we should all be using, then we should be showing people what to do with the local and seasonal foods.  Here’s an example of a common menu item praised for it’s seasonality: Lagier Ranches goose: grilled breast, leg confit, and sausage with chestnuts and wild mushrooms; with Chino Ranch savoy cabbage and other winter vegetables.  But is this the type of menu that appeals to the majority of people?  If we are going to create a demand (in reality we showing honest benefits of the local movement, rather than turning it into a consumer-driven marketing product.) for honest, local food then we should be showing people what to do with it.  I believe that the majority of people don’t have any confidence in the kitchen; if you were going to suggest for people to start using root vegetables over the winter season, they wouldn’t know what to do with them or even what they are.

So these are the things I think about.  When I think about “what I want to be when I grow up,” these are the things that I think might be involved.

What I’d like to know is, what do you think about these things?  Cuyler, I know you don’t care much for all these types of food conversations, but I’d really like your input.  Shannon, you too.  Maria, any more recent thoughts about Tomato Theology?  Josh, what about things up in your neck-of-the-woods?

I started my new job yesterday. I’m really excited about it. I’ll be working outside. I’ll get to drive a front-end loader. I get to work with trees and dirt and mulch and rocks all day. What a great life. I’m looking forward to a job that gives me blisters, sunburn, and exhaustion at the end of each day.


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