A (WEDDING!) CAKE FOR JULY

 

Last summer when two of my closest friends got engaged here on the farm, I immediately started dreaming about making their wedding cake. Not because I had the wherewithal to do such a thing—more like, I love cake, and our little group of friends had all grown accustomed to mini cakes for special occasions, and I love cake. When I was actually invited to make a mini cake for what would be their gorgeous, down home farm wedding, I knew I needed to get practicing. Vermonters are a discerning bunch, especially when it comes to food. Thus, I started my Cake-A-Month project. I pored over cake recipes for the first few weeks of 2017. Then, in classic fashion, I got busy and thoughts of cakes left my mind entirely. In the end, despite my lackadaisical approach, the cake was baked and the bride and groom loved it.

The wedding itself was one of the most beautiful affairs I've ever been present for. Pete and Abi are remarkably un-extravagant and very special. Nothing was contrived and everything was authentic. Yes, they were married on an idyllic Vermont hay field called The Hogback, but Pete was the one who baled all of the hay. Abi was a vision in an ivory linen dress and a wildflower crown, but it was the same dress she wore to her high school graduation and the flower crown was whipped together an hour before the wedding. I was honored to bake a simple cake for two of my best friends. Cheers to baking mini cakes for everyone you love! Hooray! 

This was my second wedding cake. I baked a last minute funfetti mini cake for my sister's wedding. (By "last minute," I mean I flew home two nights before the wedding with a cake stand and sprinkles in my carry-on, put it all together the morning of the wedding, and scribbled a decorative rainbow pennant flag with crayons right beforehand. I told myself I was a good little sister for ensuring they would eat cake, but never again.) For Pete and Abi's wedding, I went with a lemon yellow cake that was super delicious and everything I love in a cake: dense, moist, not overwhelming. I topped each layer with Maine blueberry preserves, and decided to use American buttercream because it's simple, sturdy, and more stable than its lighter (and superior, in my opinion) cousins, Swiss and Italian. My main consideration with frosting was keeping it stable and un-melting, as it was going to sit outside on a hot summer day. A few things went awry as they are oft to do. Overall, I loved the process so much that I am almost willing to offer my unprofessional (dare I call it down home?) cake baking services for your next low key affair. Emphasis on low key. 


—S

CLOSURE

 

Last summer, still fresh to our farm roles, we took in four baby goats. If you've been reading our blog since then (and to that point, if you have: wow, and thank you), you know that we raised them for meat. You saw their faces, and maybe you felt something personally—positive or negative—about our decision. They were our pets for a time, but their roles in our lives always carried more weight. We have a catalog of memories to do with Satchmo, Smithers, Dill and Tuna — from bottle feeding each one while we renovated and outfitted a home on wheels, to weeping in each other's arms at midnight after petting and uttering words of consolation to Satchmo and Smithers as they died of illness. My fondest memories are of winter, when Dill and Tuna were fluffy with winter coats, and seemed to love nothing more than to show off their incredible jumping skills, going so far as to use our legs as catapulting props in their obstacle courses.

Winter was an imminent time, as soon their lives would end. We would shortly close the final chapter on this book—a book that taught us so much about love, farming, and how you must, must, must feel the first if you are to be any decent at the second. Processing Dill and Tuna was a very difficult day. We did everything ourselves; they never left the farm. We made an eleventh hour decision to cure their pelts and have them tanned so that we could truly use every single element of their precious bodies. We toured the tannery (the only environmentally responsible tannery in the country) and spoke of our desire to see their pelts treated with care. After six months away we have them back, and how glad I am that we made that eleventh hour decision. I am proud of us, and I am grateful to Dill and Tuna. Mark and I witnessed life and participated in death, and made ourselves a part of every step in between.

Their pelts are not objects of interior decoration; they are not show pieces to be mounted and admired; they are not luxurious furs. Their pelts are a reminder of what animals can and do provide for us every day; they are warmth for when it is needed; they are utilitarian and natural; they are here because they worked, and so did we, to symbiotically give and take from one another.

Mark and I have deeply appreciated the support, and even the opposition, we experienced during this first journey in raising animals for meat. This was a learning experience — and a deeply moving one — that we hope you were able to experience in some capacity alongside us. Whether you strongly agree or vehemently disagree with our approach to farming and our choice to eat meat, we hope you respect our transparency and our desire to steward both land and animal with dignity.


—S

A "CAKE" FOR JUNE + HONORING GRANDMA

 
swedish scones

For the last week I've desired simple food — broths and lemony rice and jammy-buttered scones. This morning I enjoyed a rare moment of pause in the milk parlor to squeeze goat milk into my cup of coffee. Sustenance of any kind is welcome, but especially the simple sort. This diversion from my love of spice and onions on everything is not from nowhere; I know exactly where it comes from. Last week my grandma died. Her impossibly warm embrace is no longer ours for the taking, as she's left for a new life.

I've been recalling my Uncle Jay, a beloved family member of superhuman proportions who passed away several years ago. He would famously say, "Love to stay, but got to go."  And in those words I find my grandma, too. Because, truly, she would have loved to stay. She would have enjoyed nothing more than to hug her family and pray her daily rosary and have her morning oatmeal. In the last years of her life that's precisely what she did, and she cherished it. I know this. I grew up five minutes from her and spent every day of my youth at her house. I was blessed to live with her for a year before Mark and I were married, and in the last year of her life we became pen pals. And now, I miss her terribly. But then there's the second half of Jay's saying, "but got to go." . . . She did. To experience a natural death after a long, deliberate, marvelous life — who would I be to want for a different outcome?  I talk to my mama every day (my gram's youngest child of seven!), and we reiterate over and over that there is no despair in her death, only sadness.
Mourning, yes. Grief, yes. Despair, no. Imagining where she is now, I am filled with joy.

So, back to food. One of the ways I am coping with mourning is through eating—and even imagining—foods that remind me of her. Let's just say there was no coconut oil, almond milk, or chia seeds in her pantry. She drank whole milk her entire life and did not bat at eye at buttering a muffin. A muffin. My queen. This morning I made a very basic, shaggy Swedish scone (svenska) recipe that is less of a scone and more of a biscuit that came out shaped like a cake. Thus, in honor of my grandma's simple kitchen, it will sit in as June's Cake-of-the-Month. Food is, without question, the way I honor the ones I love. And I loved Mariellen Zaleski a lot. There is much honoring to do. Cheers to many simple buttered recipes in all of our futures. Anyway, love to stay, but got to go. 


—S

BACK (DOWN) HOME

 

It is hot. It is so hot. Our thick Vermont blood was nary prepared for this. With the snap of Mother Nature's fingers, the slow, plodding spring turned suddenly, trading its gentle and cool breezes for the humid, utter stillness of summer. It feels... like Ohio. Convenient, because we're headed back to Ohio. One of life's funny ways.

We didn't exactly see it coming, though we'd be fooling ourselves if we espoused that moving home hasn't always been a Real Possibility. We are Midwestern to our core. Whatever it means to be so, we are it. Last night we were defining aloud the idiosyncrasies that make a Midwesterner middle-western, a New Englander northeastern. While hardly an expert of New England, it surprised us to feel pretty familiar with its kind. For all the reasons we have loved and needed this adoptive landscape, now we need Home more. Sojourns here and explorations there, the taproot of our heritage remains rooted in Ohio. Sam's great grandparents immigrated to Ohio from Poland one hundred years ago, and in Ohio their offspring remained. Though the branches of Mark's family tree are more far-flung, Ohio is, and always has been, home.

And, come August, home will actually be home again. When that oppressive late summer heat wraps itself around us, it will be a familiar (if unpleasant) embrace: a welcome back. Like a casserole dish of cheesy potatoes or a whole Saturday spent watching football—it might not be for everyone, but to us it just feels right. 


—M&S