Creating a feast for friends from the bounty of your farm takes a variety of skills and plenty of dedication. In his second memoir, chef and author Timmermeister (Growing a Farmer: How I Learned to Live Off the Land, 2012) chronicles the long journey of a farm-to-table meal.
The author’s farm on Vashon Island, Wash., produces plenty of vegetables, but the stars of the show are the butter and cheese created through the teamwork of Timmermeister and his herd of beloved Jersey cows. The author begins with the birth of a calf, whose butter and cream will become ingredients in the feast two years later. “The idea that this calf, this young Alice, will produce rich, fatty cream that I can churn into a golden, grassy butter seems unfathomable today,” he writes. Timmermeister counts down the days until the meal, tracing the origins and preparations of the foods his guests will enjoy. He explains the process involved in making homemade hard cheese, planting and harvesting fruits and vegetables, breeding and milking cows, maintaining pastures, butchering a steer and preparing the meal for the author’s 20 guests. “The menu is neither arbitrary nor capricious,” he writes, “but it is casual. It reflects what is available for this time of year—the second week of October; the beginning of autumn—and what I had preserved from the past months of growing at the farm.” Timmermeister admits he is a perfectionist narrating the smallest details for readers, and this is most delightful during the author’s account of the final hours before the meal, including the reasons for the various utensils used, his attitude before and during the meal, and the multitude of steps involved in each recipe.
A treat for anyone craving a point-by-point narration of how living off the land plays out for this former urban restaurateur–turned–cheese maker/farmer.