Moving to the Farm

It's been two weeks since my first day interning at The Farm Cooking School at Roots to River Farm. I’ve moved to Lambertville, New Jersey from New York City, having worked at a private psychology practice and in clinical psychology labs for the past two years since graduating from college. I'd initially pursued psychology because I most enjoy connecting with people and trying to make their lives a bit better. As it turns out, researchers have more regular connection with data and fluorescent lighting, and clinical psychologists, while invaluable, aren’t able to form the sorts of connections with their clients which I’m looking for.   

Now, after spending countless lunch breaks mentally cataloging that night’s dinner plans, commutes greedily reading Lucky Peach and M.F.K. Fisher, and weekends in the kitchen, I’ve come to realize that I feel most connected to people through eating, sharing, and talking about food.

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I’ve always obsessed over food: over cooking, sharing in a meal, and discovering the world - both familiar and new - through a gastronomic lens. Growing up in Wisconsin, my experience of food was divided along familial lines. With my maternal grandma, as soon as I could hold a spoon I’d spend days off from school helping to cook, usually family recipes or those from the church cookbook: beef stroganoff, roasts and potatoes, and of course, the ubiquitous and delicious tater tot hotdish. Things were different with my dad’s mom, though no less satisfying: we’d order Chinese take-out, drink tea, and do crosswords while watching Two Fat Ladies, America’s Test Kitchen, and Iron Chef (the original, of course). Though vastly different, both instilled in me a belief in the power of food to entertain, connect people, and make family, friends, and strangers alike, happy.

 
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Six years ago when I moved to New York City for college I suddenly had access to a greater diversity of tastes and cultures than I’d ever known back home. I dove in, exploring the city the only way I knew how, through my taste buds and a heaping portion of flyover naiveté. I ate anything and everything I could get my hands on: Grey’s Papaya, bagels from Absolute in Morningside Heights, dumplings in Flushing, and doubles in Bed-Stuy. This move - and an ingrained sense of adventure driven by taste and the whims of my stomach - ushered in a shift in the way I eat. Namely, more thoughtfully. No matter what I’m eating - whether Kosher or Mexican, from a dollar slice in the Village to biryani in Jackson Heights - I increasingly find myself thinking about how it gets on our tables, where it comes from (botanically and culturally), and the people who prepare it. It’s these intersections of food and culture, craft and art, eating and storytelling which I’m so excited to explore while working at The Farm Cooking School.

At the same time, this all feels a bit weird. My parents are worried about me. I know because my mom sent a text, “I’m worried about you.” (Midwesterners have repressed feelings for so long that the somewhat recent normalization of discussing mental health means we tend to be particularly cavalier - I like it). I understand where she’s coming from; she’s probably wondering why after leaving La Crosse, Wisconsin - the town most of my extended family calls home - for New York City, I’m now leaving the city for an area almost exactly like home. A river town situated amongst farm land. An outsized artist’s presence relative to the size of the community. Clean air and clear skies so you can see the stars at night. Importantly, good, local food. Home. I must need that right now.

But what home doesn’t have is The Farm Cooking School. As I ease in it seems I really need this too. Right now the one thing I know for sure is that I love food, and I’m excited to jump in, appetite first.

 
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Karl Wagner2 Comments