Fleur-de-Rhapsody

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You know I love writing about food, farming, feasting, family, and friendship.  Today I want to expand this a little bit to encompass what I consider the center of all good communities – the public library.
Kutztown has a gem: The Louisa Gonser Community Library. When we first moved to town, the kids and I would visit the library’s cramped quarters in the cellar of the borough building. In 1998, when the library was built at 70 Bieber Alley, the kids and I would often stop in on the way home from school. In 2003, our family opened our doors for the library’s Holiday House Tour. In the last several years I’ve snuck away from the farm on many a Saturday morning for a quick trip to the library’s “back room,” where used and donated books are sold for a song.
As with all libraries, it’s not just the books, it’s the people. Janet and Jane are always so helpful and pleasant, but in Sarah Edmonds, I have found not just a librarian, I have found a kindred soul. The other day I returned a book and was telling Sarah how much I enjoyed it. Well, she said, there is another by the same publisher that you must read. She couldn’t remember the title, but she went to her computer, typed a bit, searched a bit, and after a minute or so told me she had placed a request for me.
A week or so later I got a call that “Gourmet Rhapsody” by Muriel Barbery, had arrived.
First things first. Sarah Edmonds works at the library, but she and Anton Shannon also have started a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) business called Good Work Farm. It is located near Vera Cruz on three of the 480 acres owned by Lehigh County as part of The Seed Farm. Last year Sarah and Anton were among the first apprentices with the agricultural incubator program, farmers-in-training in both the classroom and the fields. This year, the first for Good Work Farm, Sarah and Anton are starting with a 70-member CSA and a few smaller markets. They will have veggie drops in Kutztown, Bethlehem, and in Vera Cruz. Check out details at goodworkfarm.com.
But before the CSA and the library, I came upon Sarah at another lovely Kutztown event, an art studio tour. I can’t remember who sponsored the tour or why, but I do remember visiting the home and art studios of Sarah Edmonds and her husband Daniel Leathersich, a painter, writer, musician, and graphic artist. (He designed Good Work Farm’s business cards). No offense to Daniel’s many talents, but what I remember most from the tour was Sarah’s beautiful Brussels sprouts stalks on the porch! And inside in the kitchen (Sarah’s studio) was a display of Sarah’s art, which is all about canning and preserving. Talk about culinary masterpieces — edible still lifes!
So, back to the book.  “Gourmet Rhapsody” is true soul food, but rather than rushing into its pages as I did, I would suggest reading Barbery’s first novel, “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”. The characters you meet will only enhance “Gourmet Rhapsody”. But, until then, let me tempt you with a short excerpt, a tribute to our garden favorite, the tomato:
 “ … Sprawled on the bench beneath the linden tree, lulled by the low murmuring of the leaves, I woke from a voluptuous nap, and beneath this canopy of sugary honey I bit into the fruit, I bit into the tomato.
“In salads, baked, in ratatouille, in preserves, grilled, stuffed, cherry, candied, big and soft, green and acidic, honored with olive oil or coarse salt or wine or sugar or hot pepper, crushed, peeled, in a sauce, in a stew, in a foam, even in a sorbet: I thought I had thoroughly covered the matter and on more than one occasion I wrote pieces inspired by the greatest chefs’ menus claiming that I had penetrated its secret. What an idiot, what a pity … I invented mystery where there was none, in order to justify my perfectly pathetic métier. What is writing, no matter how lavish the pieces, if it says nothing of the truth, cares little for the heart, and is merely subservient to the pleasure of showing one’s brilliance? And yet I had always been acquainted with the tomato, since the time of Aunt Mathe’s garden, since the summer when an ever more ardent sun kissed the timid little growths, since the moment my teeth tore into the flesh to splatter my tongue with the rich, warm and bountiful juice, whose essential generosity is masked by the chill of a refrigerator, or the affront of vinegar, or the false nobility of oil. Sugar, water, fruit, pulp, liquid or solid? The raw tomato, devoured in the garden when freshly picked, is a horn of abundance of simple sensations, a radiating rush in one’s mouth that brings with it every pleasure. The resistance of the skin – slightly taut, just enough; the luscious yield of the tissues, their seed-filled liqueur oozing to the corners of one’s lips, and that one wipes away without any fear of staining one’s fingers; this plump little globe unleashing a flood of nature inside us: a tomato, an adventure.”
Through those words, I can taste summer. Laurie Lynch
Speaking of Tomatoes and Books: The library has a copy of the new cookbook “Harvest to Heat” by Darryl Estrine and Kelly Kochendorfer. Another Kutztown community connection: Tim Stark and his heirloom tomatoes are featured with NYC Chef Daniel Boulud (photos and recipes too) throughout the book.
Speaking of Words: Cousin Rebecca has a new kitten, product of an all-in-the-cat-family relationship. I hear it’s as cute as can be, with a brilliant name, given the circumstances: Oedipuss.
No Peeps: We will not be renting peeps this Easter. Scratch that. I will not be renting peeps this Easter because I need to disperse my egg-laying flock, not replenish it.  And how to do this while still offering customers Fleur-de-Lys eggs for as long as possible is the quandary in which I find myself wallowing. So, at this point, what I’m thinking is that I will offer all of you (as well as any of your friends) our 1-, 2-, or more-year-old hens for $5 each if you would like to raise your own hen fruit at home. Please reserve the number of hens you would like now (or in the coming weeks) for pickup in early June.
A Different Kind of Peep Show: I’ve been trying to illustrate these blogs with scenes of Fleur-de-Lys Farm … and then the family hand-me-down camera died. So, I invested in a new point-and-shoot to record these last few months. For this blog entry, Maxatawny’s Eyes of March (my apologies to William Shakespeare): snowdrops in the “hobbit garden,”  a view of winter aconites from the family room window, daffodils poking up near by front steps, and a photo taken several years ago by my daughter Marina of Hottenstein Road’s yearly visitors – migrating snow geese.
Written on Slate:  “I had a dog. Or rather, a snout on paws.” Muriel Barbery (She likes dogs too!)

One thought on “Fleur-de-Rhapsody

  1. Now we can also talk books when I stop by for eggs! Thanks for this recommendation, Laurie! I love books about food (duh) but with GOOD writing. And I wish I'd known about Sarah's CSA earlier since she drops in Bethlehem…I joined one for the first time a few weeks ago. Oh well, maybe next year!

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