Monday, March 28, 2016

Our Visit to P. Allen Smith's Moss Mountain Farm (And All About Our Upcoming New Cookbook!)

Earlier this year, we decided to plan to visit Moss Mountain Farm for a tour and their first-ever Easter brunch; we'd been talking about going for a while, and finally, we made it happen. Looking forward to the trip to Little Rock on Saturday and then driving 40 minutes or so outside of the city on Sunday to where the farm is located got us to thinking. We have a great deal of respect for what Moss Mountain Farm founder P. Allen Smith is doing to shine a light on Southern agriculture and the importance of conservation, and we learned so much during our visit this past weekend.

Our journey started two years ago when Allen and his awesome crew came to our house in East Memphis and filmed two cooking segments with us (our Grilled Watermelon and Tomato Salad with Honey-Lime Vinaigrette was featured and also our Mushroom Tamales). Allen conducted a radio interview with us in our living room, and pretty much made sure that crazy-fun summer day in 2014 was one for the memory books. Later, we grew ingredients in a container garden for Allen's Patio to Plate Challenge and ended up creating a new dish, Thai-Inspired Green Curry with Eggplant and Peppers with our surprisingly impressive little crops.

Almost two years later, here we are gearing up for our new project, and we're so thrilled to be able to tell you more about it now. The same day this year that we took the leap and signed up to make the trip to Allen's farm, something inspired us. We started dreaming about maybe, possibly asking him to write the foreword for our second cookbook. The new book is set to be released in November 2016 by Susan Schadt Press, and we'll be in some pretty remarkable company there, not to mention having the invaluable gift of Susan's admirable expertise and style as our new editor.

So we crossed our fingers and asked Allen to write the foreword for our new cookbook via email the very day that we made our plans to go to Arkansas. Guess what? He said yes, and now we can't wait to see how it all turns out!

And oh, Moss Mountain -- what an experience we had there this past weekend. Never in early 2016 did we as a couple imagine we'd soon be sitting together silent in the light wind one morning while hearing intermittent rooster crowing and lambs baaaaa-ing as we sat together inside a house made of daffodils. Where we end up sometimes through this serendipitous adventure that's built on our cooking and our writing is quite surprising at times.

The classical planning of Allen's garden with its symmetry, origins in history, and surprising details is one of the most pleasing things we've seen in a very long while. We felt so at peace there and grateful for all the work and vision that goes into such a monumental endeavor. Once we thought we'd been curious and intrepid enough and discovered every corner of the gardens -- upon arrival we'd all been set loose to explore before Easter lunch in the barn, and wow, did everyone love the sense of freedom and trust inherent in that -- someone would ask, Did you see the vegetable garden? Did you see the chickens? And we'd set off to discover more.

That Easter meal, by the way, was spring perfection with dishes made from Allen's cookbook. We made friends with the sweet south Louisiana folks sitting across from us and admired the tiny white dog they brought with them. We enjoyed a magnificent spread of chilled asparagus-potato soup, deviled eggs, sweet and citrusy kale salad, roasted brussels sprouts, mashed sweet potatoes, pecan chess pie, orange-vanilla frosted cake, and slices of spiced carrot bundt. The barn where we had lunch was replete with beautifully set tables, fairy lights, barn doors that were also Dutch doors…yeah, it seemed like something out of a daydream. Being included in the celebration of a place we'd heard so much about for so long from our neighbors and friends made us happy beyond measure.

This is a day that came with an abundance of realization and resolve for us. And also a question: How does one transform a beloved passion into something everyone else can join in to celebrate?

Well, quite an excellent example has been set for us…

"I believe in the transformative power of beauty," Allen remarked in his talk to guests after lunch under a huge oak tree with reaching branches, the tree that's right in front of his house. The two of us recognized ourselves in those words; we glanced at each other. It's something we've appreciated lately more than ever. We both love the beauty of a shared meal, the simpler the better; certain relationships with friends and family that weather all of the unexpected surprises, happy or not so much, that are bound to happen in life; a garden at any stage; the beauty of tapping into our creativity every day; the beauty of love.

So we are writing a new cookbook this year. It's going to have recipes in it from all over the world and reflect more of our usual home cooking, not just our Southern, Memphis roots like we highlighted in our first book, the one that taught us everything we know about writing a cookbook, The Southern Vegetarian. Like last time, we are thrilled to have so much genuine support from people around us and so many folks wishing for us to just absolutely kill it this time around.

We appreciate you reading here, and we hope to make all y'all and everyone who's involved in our new endeavor so very proud later this fall!

1 comment:

Mandy Shoptaw said...

It was lovely meeting you all at Moss Mountain. We are so pleased you came on Easter and took home inspiration. Looking forward to seeing the cookbook on your next trip to the farm. -Mandy with the Moss Mountain Wedding & Event Team