Team Seasonal AF: The Show
Bill Koepke is back. In addition to his regular podcast, he’s running a series called Seasonal AF, which focuses on seasonal eating and promotion of CSA farms through a series of recorded cooking shows and farm video footage. Rising Sand was fortunate enough to be the featured farm for July, so Fanni, Kelly, Ella and I met at Farmshed with a CSA box, to participate in the class.
We showed up around 4, as Bill lounged with a beer and the video crew got started setting up. He brought up his laptop and walked us through the plan.
“We’re going to have a full house tonight. I think we’re serving 15 total, including us. So, John and Holly from Liberation Farmers are coming with two whole chickens that I’m cooking in the Instapots. One of them is going to be a dry-rubbed beer can chicken, and the other is going to have the fennel, basil, and some rhubarb shrub from Siren. Then, we’re going to use the lettuce, radishes, peas and green onions for a fresh salad, make a Green Goddess dressing out of the herbs and scallions, and roast the beets and zucchini, with a Maple Vinaigrette finish. I’ve got fresh mozzarella, so we’ll make a Caprese salad with the cherry tomatoes. I love Caprese salad.”
“So, what is our role in all of this?” Asked Kelly, somewhat anxiously.
“Just go around and help people cook, and talk about the farming side of things.”
He was impressively prepared and seemed very much at ease with the situation, given the fact that I’d only sent him the veggie list the day before. After getting the dining area and kitchen set up, we coalesced in the courtyard, picking plump, juicy black-cap raspberries. We chatted and ate to our desire, while filling a bowl for the dining room table. Fanni brought in some gooseberries from the front side of the building as the community attendees trickled in and we got started.
Bill employed his characteristic ease – getting a kitchen full of uncertain participants started in classic fashion.
“Does anyone need a beer?”
From there, we got into introductions, plans and stations. “Okay, so who wants to be with John on the chicken station? How about Holly on the salad? If you don’t have a preference, I’ll just start grouping you.”
I raised my hand for the chicken station, but ended up by the beets in short order, in spite of myself. I talked a couple of ladies through the peeling, chopping and seasoning of beets, while John spoke on the integration of chickens around his farm, and the cutting, carving and preparation. The video crew worked their magic around the perimeter – lights bright and mics loaded – sneaking in for opportune closeups.
“So, what are we going to season the beets with?”
“Well, first let’s drizzle them with this oil – yep, just a nice easy coating – and then maybe use… turmeric, salt and white pepper? That’s really all that’s here. It’ll be good”
Recipes went out the window in favor of function cooking, and we got the beets and zucchinis in the oven, as my excited partner chattered enthusiastically. “I love seeing what you guys do; it’s just incredible… I don’t even think that I like beets, but I don’t know because I’ve never tried them… Really, it’s that simple?”
The energy was welcome, and the kitchen was alive as we moved on to salad dressing. I explained the simple balance of salt, sweet, and acid as we decided on ingredients and searched for a blender. “Alright, how about we just use all of the fresh herbs we’ve got… Hmm, since there’s no blender, I guess we’ll just do it the old fashion way. You wanna start chopping these green onions, and you chop the basil and fennel? Mince it as finely as possible; here, put your hand on top of the knife like this.”
I freehanded a base of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt and honey, and whisked in the herbs. “Alright, now we’re gonna have to taste this at least a few times to balance out the flavor characteristics.” I watched my new friend’s face as she tasted.
“Mmmmm! Honestly, I think it’s perfect!”
Her companion agreed, and I tasted it myself.
“Hmm, sometimes you get lucky.”
Beets roasted, chickens cooked and salads prepped, we set up a classic shot of the procession into the dining area, where Bill facilitated some discussion around CSA participation and we fixed our plates. By now we were all friends, and the comfort in the space was tangible as we dug into colorful plates of local goodness.
The bounty of the feast surprised me. With only a CSA box, two chickens and some fresh berries, 15 people ate to satisfaction, as a true sense of community formed around us. I’m grateful that Bill is doing what he’s doing. By extending his own boundaries, he facilitated a space not only for farm promotion, but for the sharing of delicious food, vital knowledge, and community connectedness. I walked home with my wife and daughter, elated and riding the high of time well-spent and food well-cooked.