I was blessed to know a gentle soul named Floyd Maurice Carver, my grandfather. PawPaw was a dairy and vegetable farmer who understood that the community of life on earth was not for the benefit of humans alone but instead included the whole family of living things wherever they might be found, on or in the the ground, in the air, in the water. His 60 Jersey cows each had a name and he and his lifetime assistant, Lucius, addressed them by that name. So when he and Lucius decided it was time to retire, PawPaw sold his "girls" to one of the big milk companies. The day came when the owners-to-be showed up at Fair View Dairy to claim their new milkers. (Fair View and Jolie Vue are the same name in different languages.)
PawPaw told Lucius to oversee the loading; he would stay in the house, unable to watch the departure of his old friends who had served him so well for so long. It was a sad day for both of them. But the sadness was interrupted when Lucius came bursting into the farmhouse - "Mr. Floyd, Mr. Floyd, they're whipping our cows!" Sadness quickly turned to anger as PawPaw and Lucius rushed to the loading pens, grabbed the whip from the whipper and gave him a taste of his own medicine. "You will treat my cows with dignity or you will answer to me". Then he and Lucius saw to the gentle loading of his girls onto the trailer of Big Milk. It is said that they both wept softly as the truck pulled away forever. Mammam watched through the screen door as well, and is the reporter of this day. An era had come to a close at Fair View Dairy, but it was a day that ended humanely.
Can we call ourselves human if we do not live humanely? Mother Earth brings us sustenance everyday. Let's be sure that we accept those gifts respectfully and sustainably.
Jolie Vue Farms
We add a one-time heading only because our lives have been so hectic since the previous publication that our state of being will likely reflect on the quality of this particular newsletter. It has been crazy busy at the farm and all over the planet for the Boudreaux family. It started with the October delivery weekend which is always hectic but usually followed by 2 days of rest and recuperation. Instead, we immediately went into preparation for our Outstanding In The Field event, a dinner for 200 in the pasture of the high hill of JVF (we enjoyed seeing so many of you there). Did we then rest? No. Because our baby-boy, John Henry, was to be married in Austin 2 weeks later and we had forestalled most of our tasks needed for that event until the dinner in the field was complete. So, it was on to Austin, the headquarter hotel, the rehearsal dinner, the wedding, and the wedding dinner. Did we then rest? Not yet, for it was our duty to care for the 4 grandchildren for 4 days while the rest of our children hosted a wedding celebration at Jolie Vue.
You may find all of this irrelevant, but maybe this is the takeaway. Glen and HoniAnn can still bring it! JVF has a long life. And this newsletter may just be the most discombobulated one ever published. Life happens.
This is the sweetest time of the year, a time when people of goodwill, regardless of their persuasion or position, reflect on their blessings. A healthy farm contributing to healthy people is one of our blessings. That would not be possible without you. And we never forget that. Thank you.
Some of you have heard this before, but I am of the belief that it should be repeated often because it says so much about the importance of Real Food in our lives. My maternal grandparents were dairy and vegetable farmers in South Louisiana. Paw Paw delivered fresh milk, cream and butter to his customers every morning but his last duty each morning before leaving was to wake Mammy with a large glass of Jersey cream (the richest cream in the world). That was her daily breakfast, and probably his though I never asked him. The rest of the meal-day consisted of yard eggs, grass-fed beef, free range pork and chicken and lots of vegetables. Fruits consisted of melons, pears and figs. Fair View Dairy was organic before it was cool. The family of 7 was sustained almost entirely from the farm.
Mind you, these were people who were born in the late 1800's when the average life span was about 48 years. Mammy died with all of her faculties at age 94. Paw Paw was not so lucky, living only until age 89.
By the way, were they fat? No. Nor were they skinny. They were of perfect weights. As an interesting aside, Mammy was no farmer herself - that was left to Paw Paw and the 2 sons. She and the 3 daughters were politicos and social organizers. Started the first soup kitchen in the Depression and built the first Catholic Church in Westlake on land she convinced a Methodist friend to donate. So it wasn’t manual farm labor that kept her and her daughters trim, fit and pretty. It was just the good food.
Go back a century earlier. Thomas Jefferson ate the same way. He lived well into his 80's and was still composing letters when he died. Look at the French. Heaviest consumers of fats and oils in the western world, but great believers in fresh unadulterated food and diversity on each plate. They live a lot longer than we Americans.
What’s the second point here? Stop omitting things from your diet and start today by adding them!
What more do you need to know about food?
In his latest book, Cooked, Michael Pollan chronicles his entry into the kitchen where he, and ultimately his family, share lessons in cooking and eating, not as islands but as a family. By happy coincidence, my sister just discovered a poem by our mother who passed away at age 93 a little more than a year ago (are you ever prepared for that milestone, the loss of your mother? I wasn’t.) Her poem exemplifies what Pollan is talking about in Cooked. Here is a partial rendition of Mom’s poem:
A Very Simple Joy
by Shirley Boudreaux
What is so sublime as the aroma
of fresh baked apple pie?
When it permeates and mixes
with an indiscernable feeling of love
Within the interior walls of a home.
Where family members
have experienced small and
large triumphs and defeats
The triumphs heightened by
The defeats softened by the caring
of the others.
O, I tell you, nothing equals it.
Mom expressed the family harmony rendered through our gatherings in the kitchen and at the table. Pollan tries for the same message and explains why he hopes to revive the art of cooking with quotes from a food consultant who I think is a bit harsh in his assessment, but here goes. We don’t cook at home because “we’re cheap and lazy and the skills are already lost. Who is going to teach the next generation to cook?”
If you’re reading this, the answer is probably “you”. Take a bow. You are the solution.
As usual, Pollan is not satisfied with simply learning to cook and share; he wants to understand the process down to the last molecular change wrought over the fire or in the stew pot. A remarkable example of that is his reporting of the thousands (no exaggeration) of new compounds created when you put smoke and fire to meat. Fire’s effect on the simpler constituents of meat is nothing short of amazing. You will enjoy the book and learn a lot about the how and why of cooking in the process.
Cooking remains one of my most tranquilizing endeavors. Not to mention the dining among family and friends that follows.
Why would we give this up? It “heightens the triumphs and soften the defeats”, right? Shirley said so, and you can take that to the bank!
From the Pit to the Pot
When Pollan goes from open fire to the stew pot, he starts with the mirepoix (mir-a-pwah), a diced fresh vegetable base that is the foundation for almost all good stews, soups or braises. The point of mirepoix is twofold; it adds complex flavors to your pot and it provides a cushion at the bottom that prevents whatever meat you are cooking from sticking or burning in the pot. What I didn’t know was the many variations in vegetables and herbs which distinguish food cultures. The classic French mirepoix is always onion, carrot and celery sauteed in butter. But if you add garlic, fennel or parsley and saute’ in olive oil, you have an Italian soffritto. Change it again to onion, garlic and tomato and you have a Spanish sofrito. In my home state, it was onion, bell pepper and celery, known in Creole South Louisiana as the holy trinity. While I was originally taught that vegetable oil was the medium (way back there when we thought hydrogenated vegetable oil was a good thing), I now use olive oil and butter combined.
The mirepoix continues to transmute as one moves progressively east, but the point is the same - all pot-cooking starts with an aromatic vegetable/herb base, no matter your food culture.
Add one more step which I found counter-intuitive but spot on after trying it at the suggestion of my youngest, John Henry, repeated later by a famous Italian chef. When warming up the pot with oil and butter, wait until the butter or oil begins to smoke before adding the vegetables. I always thought of this as a bad thing - I’m burning it, right? Turns out the extra heat represents one more of those molecular changes Pollan talks about -it adds a nutty flavor to the bottom of the pot without losing the taste of the fats. It’s another layer of flavor.
Many years ago I attended a retreat presented by a theologian who coincidentally was a Ph.D of Nuclear Physics. This Retreat Master said something that has and will always stick with me.
As an introduction to the human relationship to our Planet Earth, he explained his most favored theory of the Earth’s origin, the Black Hole. A Black Hole is a point in the universe where the gravitational force is so strong that all matter, including light, is drawn in and cannot escape. At its center is all of the matter necessary to make our Earth and all living things. Crowded together into a ball smaller than the head of a pin. At some point, a Force causes gravity to let go and explode with a “big bang”, evolving into everything we know on our planet. His point? There is nothing and nobody on Earth that was not at one time so closely aligned with the others on that head of a pin as to be unrelated. We all come from the same collection. We are relatives of everything around us.
I was reminded of this concept last weekend at the farm, joined by my daughter’s family including the 3 grandsons. The little guys always spend some time racing around the all-encircling porch of the hill house. The cattle were in the pasture which surrounds the house. As we enjoyed the boys running and laughing in continuous circles, we see movement in the pasture. The mother herd, everyone one of them, mommas, bull and calves of all ages, were running in the larger circle as the boys were on the porch, matching them stride for stride. When the boys stopped to catch a breath, the cows did the same. When the boys resumed, so did the cows. When the boys quit it and went for water, the cows returned to their grazing. Fascinating to watch.
Maybe the retreat master had it right.
As 2009 draws to its end and we all begin to lean back a bit and reflect on another year’s passing, all of us at Jolie Vue send our very best wishes to you and yours for a faithful holiday and a happy new year. We have all survived what has been called the worst recession since the Great Depression. While it’s not over yet, I think that makes us survivors, don’t you? Congratulations - let’s say the same at the end of 2010.
See you in ‘10, and thank you. We’ll never forget that you make it happen for us, and so we’ll never take you for granted.
Glen, HoniAnn, Clay and Julia Gay, and the whole family and crew of Jolie Vue Farms, deep in the bluebonnet hills of Washington County, Texas.