Recipes for an Adirondack Semester
Slow Food Adirondack-style
Every Wednesday morning, from late August until the week before Thanksgiving, I fill the back of my Subaru with waxy recycled produce boxes, but not before I've had a peek inside. From Ann and Brian Bennett's Bittersweet Farm there are dozens of fresh eggs and sometimes chickens. Dan Kent and his family supply all the produce: early fall brings bags of sweet corn, summer squash and zucchini, a box elbow deep in lettuce, spinach and greens, another brimful of tomatoes. More boxes stuffed with baby eggplants, peppers, basil and melons. Later, the winter squash come on: delicata, acorn, many I can't name, as well as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages and onions, beans, chocolate peppers, sometimes potatoes.
As I drive down Route 68, then down Highway 56 to Route 3, I notice how the colors of the vegetables in my boxes reflect the changing seasons, from the delicate greens and yellows of summer to the darker, more assertive golds and purple-reds of fall. I turn in at the Massawepie Boy Scout camp, unlock a gate, then pick my way up a stony road, and on to an almost hidden two-track until I park my car at Tenderfoot Cove. I haul the boxes to a rickety dock and wait for a couple of students to bring the barge across the bay so we can haul the vegetables and eggs over to the yurt village on the shore of Lake Massawepie that's home to twelve St. Lawrence students for the semester. We carry the boxes past the wood-fired sauna, past the two-stall Clivus composting toilet and the students' sleeping yurts to the kitchen yurt where students are busily cleaning up from lunch before we start my creative writing class for the afternoon. "Mary's here with the vegetables!" they yell, eagerly peering into the boxes before they start stacking the week's array into the mouse-proof bin. Right now, I'm the most popular person in the village.
Here, at the remote village they call Arcadia, the students live simply in the woods, away from computers, cell phones and stereos, and take academic courses and field trips that explore their relationship to nature and place through the lens of the Adirondack mountains, lakes and small towns surrounding them. They learn to carve paddles with master boatbuilder Everett Smith and make furniture with Michael Frenette in his Tupper Lake woodshop. They learn that living simply and sustainably means a lot of hard work, maintaining the small solar array that powers the lights, raking the composting toilet, splitting wood for the stoves and the sauna, hauling, purifying and heating water from the lake for cooking and drinking. And after a day of woodworking, class, chores and time spent roaming the miles of trails around Massawepie they're ready for a hot and hearty meal.
Every night, two students prepare dinner for the rest of the group and the assistant directors or director who live with them. This past semester, ten of the twelve students were vegetarian and so the bounty from the Kents and Bennetts, along with some staples like beans, rice, pasta and bread, formed the basis for three month's worth of meals. Following are recipes compiled by each cook team, and though I haven't tried them all, I can attest to the fact that hard work, fresh air and healthy eating has given the Adirondack students a glow that's lasted all semester.
Mary Hussmann, Canton NY
Bittersweet Farm Chicken
Peter Tucker and Laura Sisco
Eggplant for the Phobic
Raurri Jennings and Erin Hanafin
Baked Delicata Squash with Maple Syrup
They got shoved into the back of the screened-in, mouse-proof vegetable cabinet, behind the more recognizable peppers, onions and tomatoes. There were seven of them, oblong with stark green stripes across their smooth skin. The normal fare at Arcadia typically features more common vegetables, and the eggplant, root vegetables or unfamiliar varieties of squash tend to be overlooked by the amateur chef.
But these unique delicata represent the rich, abundant harvest offered by the soils of the North Country. As summer fades into the colder nights of fall, the beds of thick, spiny green plants produce an array of hardy vegetables of every shape and size. Tonight is cool and crisp. Zena and I survey the veggie cabinet, spot the seven colorful squash and decide to bake them. Using a method she remembers from home, Zena creates a tray full of sweet, warm nourishment that helps us welcome the new season.
Katie Powers and Zena Wolcott-MacCausland
Chilly Evening Chili
By Monday night the vegetable cabinet is looking sparse since the last shipment of vegetables was almost a week ago. There's a chill tonight as autumn sets in, the perfect weather for wool sweaters and the best kind of homemade, heartwarming meal: chili. The measurements are up to you depending on the company. Is it a big family gathering or just the two of you? Either way, just plop these ingredients in a big pot, and as they simmer sit down for a hot cup of tea and a nice chat with a friend.
Kate McCarthy and Dominique Edgerly
Bottom of the Barrel Chili
Cooking dinner on Tuesday nights is always a daunting task since the vegetables don't come till Wednesdays. In the fridge we have butter, soy milk, corn, and leftover cabbage salad. The vegetable bin is not much better. There we have garlic, onions, two squishy squashes and some overripe tomatoes. In our storage room at the boy scout lodge across the lake we have several cans of beans and other assorted vegetables as well as frozen tomato sauce. Chili, we decide, is a delicious way to use up what few remaining vegetables we have. After a quick kayak across the lake to grab supplies we're ready. Just mix everything together and heat.
Nathan Basch and Emily Rooney
Great Gramma Flood's Pasty
As we clean up the remnants of lunch, Mary arrives with the week's fresh vegetables. Mabel and I, while busily bleaching the tables and sweeping the floor, see an abundance of colors, a cornucopia of food, the bounty of a North Country harvest zipping around us, deftly handled and stored by our classmates. We look at each other and sigh, knowing that it will be difficult to prepare dinner with so many options. Seven hearty meals for thirteen will be prepared from the veggies in the cabinet over the following week, yet the array before our eyes is perplexing. What to make? After much deliberation, we fall back on an old family recipe that has followed my family from the early 19th century copper mines of Michigan's upper peninsula.
Mix together well and roll out.
James Douglass and Mabel Carlson