All good food has a story.
As a new-age consumers, the statement previous has become increasingly hard to argue with. Twist round the label of your favorite small-batch chutney to find why: first-name allusions to the faces behind one’s food stock have become a mainstream staple of good marketing practice. In fact, the immortalization of US farmers, canners, and bakers in some form of vintage-inspired typeface, can more-or-less be counted on with the same consistency as FDA-enforced ingredient lists or nutritional facts. The rate by which we are rarely let down on this count no doubt signals progress for the farm-to-table movement, but there’s still a wide gap to be closed.
Nevette Previd is a Vineyard Haven locavore dedicated to this task on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Her best whack is a ‘culinary adventure program’ in its second year of operation known as Farm. Field. Sea. (FFS) FFS aims to provide unparalleled access to-- and experientially learning about—the MV food shed. Participants can not only expect to meet the characters featured in commodity labels, they must write themselves into the food story altogether, in so doing “sing for their supper”. Allow me to share excerpts of Nevette’s most recent program:
8:00 sharp, guests are greeted by the day’s fortification: Chilmark roasted coffee and a homemade frittata over steamy stone-backed focaccia. Introductions are made as participants step into multi-colored muck boots. The metaphor of it all is almost too easy. In two hours, participants cover all six acres of the family farm, harvesting squash blossoms, rotating chicken tractors and handling the hardwood logs, from which North Tabor grows their famous shitakes. Whilst passing the pasture in which the family mule grazes, Owner Rebecca Miller articulates “my children have always excelled in Biology, because they live it: we allow them to skip school on goat breeding day and stay up late when the kids come five months later… when a chicken dies we cut it open to see what happened...it’s an amazing opportunity.” Today Rebecca’s gained 25 new children and they’re all treated to the same chance.
Muck boots turn to waders as 11 o’clock strikes and the guests are escorted down towards the fog-covered fishing village of Menemsha. Nic Turner (Honeysuckle Oyster Farm), Mike Holtham (Menemsha Fish House) Rick Karney (MV Shellfish Group) and Emma Green-Beach (MV Shellfish Group) are waiting to provide a dockside panel on the skill and science behind farming the Island’s Great Ponds. The backdrop to their acumen is a blue one, it is also the source of a salty feast to come. For a moment, the notion of “hands-on learning” translates directly to the lobster in front of you, then the oysters, the chowder and the leafy green takeaways from a morning well spent. As the day’s fog burns off so does haze around subjects once unfamiliar. I can hear childhood notions demystifying around me as student interacts with teacher. “Regardless of what your father says, you can shuck the oysters and eat them 20 minutes later equally fresh. You just have to keep them on ice!”
2 PM: With farm and fish market ingredients gathered, the FFS focus turns to the meal ahead. Chef-Farmer Chris Fischer asks the twenty-five new faces in his kitchen: “how do we turn this morning’s spoils into a this evening’s spread?” The answer is a mouth watering one. Homemade fettuccine will accompany this basket of shitakes under participant Sydney’s left arm, Mike Holtham’s bluefish and Matthew Dix’s chives can combine to make an appetizing crudo, those more carnivorously inclined gather on the patio for a nose-to-tail butchering demonstration (lamb loin and pork shoulder are to come out of this). The Beach Plum is buzzing.
7PM: Refreshed from a late afternoon’s respite, guests re-emerge from the bustling restaurant they left only hours ago, to a glowing celebration the day’s labor. Warm light from the Edisons strung above dances between sparkling glasses of Offshore Ale, Thirst Wine and the eyes atop each. Every face at this long wooden table is a familiar one: farmers, guests, satisfied sponsors, even cuisine. The choice to plate family-style feels more than appropriate to the group of once-perfunctory eaters, now transformed. Together. Each part and parcel has been tactually engaged and tastes all the better for it. A fairytale ending to FFS’s robust food story.
Article written by Abbie Rogers of West Tisbury.
For more information about Farm. Field. Sea visitffsmv.com. Nevette in currently taking reservations for events scheduled August 2nd and/or October 25th & 26th. Custom full day or dinner only adventures are also available.