Tracing My Bongo Burgers: A Day on the Farm Part 1
This series of posts describes my recent trip to Bobolink Dairy Farm. I decided to break it into chunks because I apparently have a lot to say about it. Today’s entry is sort of an introduction and background.
For Valentine’s Day this year, Lady Aravan got me the coolest present ever: a trip to a farm to take a cheesemaking class.
Now, to a lot of people, that might sound like hell on earth, or at least dull and pointless. I mean, Wal-Mart has all the cheese you’ll ever need, right? Perfectly yellow, helpfully shrink-wrapped, every single one of each variety tasting exactly the same as all the others. Such perfect uniformity is yummy!
Not to me, at least, not anymore. Since my Lady and I decided to change our lifestyle to lose weight and increase our healthiness (and, hopefully, our lifespans – if my cybernetic body with the lasers and gatling guns isn’t ready until I’m 90, I want to make sure I’m around for the fitting), I’ve become increasingly interested in food and cooking. I’ve said before that my guru is Alton Brown, and he is the one I credit for opening my eyes. It no longer was enough to know how to make a recipe; I wanted to know why, and how. I started shifting from cooking to being a cook.
A lot of this involved learning ingredients, and working backwards to make things I used to buy to cook with, like tortillas and mayonnaise. I wanted to be able to control what I was eating and the chemicals and hormones I was putting into my body. I didn’t want corn syrup and soy flour in every single thing I ate anymore. The fact that the better the food was for me the better it tasted was just the icing on the cake.
So over the last 8 or so months, both my Lady’s and my own cooking became more frequent, and more elaborate. We started making our own protein power bars, pretty much stopped going out to eat at all (I think I have had a dozen restaurant meals, at most, in the last 6 months), and cook almost every night. I love cooking with her (as long as one of us is the head chef and the other is the helper – you can’t have two head chefs, heh), and I’m really happy with the lifestyle change to mostly organic foods.
Part of me, I guess, has always loved crafting. My problem was, I had no skills. The death of my father when I was young meant that no manly tool-using skills were imparted to me (although I don’t know if he had any either, to be honest), and I didn’t really spend much time in the kitchen when I was young. I learned a few things, but not much beyond how to cook an omelet and heat up french bread pizza (The Delicious Destroyer of Mouth Roofs).
Maybe that’s why I liked crafting in video games like Everquest or Horizons so much. I liked making stuff from raw materials, even if it wasn’t something I needed. Just the pride of creating something was enough for me. Lady Aravan couldn’t understand the pull (hell, neither did I) of creating useless digital items when we could be, you know, playing the game. But there it was: I baked bread and smithed ingots virtually.
Over time, I did start to learn one craft, and that was cooking. My best friend since I was 12, Jimmy, was an Italian who loved cooking and whose dream was to one day go to culinary school and become a chef. We ended up as roommates for a while when I was in college, and I became his sous chef, chopping veggies and trimming meat for his creations. I started learning then, became adept at following recipes, and started to know enough to be able to branch out on my own, with the skills I had picked up from watching and helping.
As the years went by, I got married and continued to cook. I could do a good dozen or so meals off the top of my head easily enough, along with some variations. I could grill well (it must be in the blood or something, since it just seems to come natural), so I was a good asset in a family kitchen for meal variety. Lady Aravan was a baker more than a meat-maker, so our skills complimented each other nicely.
Over the last year, though, we’ve both become more adept and more willing to go way outside our comfort zone. We’ve made some awesome things, and had surprisingly few failures. Eventually, we got more daring, and started asking ourselves about, say, making our own yogurt. Every new challenge was fun.
So when Lady Aravan saw that cheesemaking classes were available from a farm we’d gotten some excellent artisan cheeses and free-range beef from, it was a no-brainer: she signed us up and surprised me with it for an early Valentine’s Day present. I couldn’t wait.
In Part 2, the journey begins.