a little grit.

I didn't think I'd have a problem getting dirty. That's where it all started. I'd hardly consider myself a 100% indoors kinda gal, although if I had my choice I'd rather be in the kitchen than in the barn. But in my short lifetime I've almost skinned a deer - I watched that poor little Bambi get strung up by its legs and gutted all over the ice cold ground without too much flinching, so I gave myself a high-five for that much. I've fallen in mud, been tossed into a lake fully clothed, and I even stepped in you-know-what barefoot not too long ago. All in all, I thought I could handle a little grit. So when Justin asked me to come to his family's farm in Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving this past week, I could hardly wait to bring my jam-making prowess to the country. I grew tomato plants once. Peppers, even. I've been to Lancaster. How bad could this be?

Well, let me tell you. I've never felt such a slurry of emotions in such a short amount of time. I felt warm and cozy and welcomed; exhausted from late nights and early mornings; paranoid at the Alfred Hitchcock sparrows that swooped down to kamikaze into the side of my head when Justin slid the barn door open;  wide-eyed at the idea of walking out back to the chicken coop to get my own eggs for breakfast; and entirely too excited at the feeling of bullets flying out of the .22 Justin was crazy enough to set me up with.

Let me just say - those people work hard. They rarely sleep, they're always moving, and I loved every second of staying in their home. Except for the part where I played outside all day long only to come back inside, covered in God knows what, to the smiling faces of some very lovely people where I stood gap-mouth and mortified that their first impression of me was a filthy one. Sigh. I would've killed for a shower. I could tell you about how smart Uncle Bill is, how after 48 hours under his roof I can tell you the difference between sous and scrapple; I can say I've driven a 1940's vintage Farmall tractor; I know why eggs can be green, brown or white; I know where to go to get whoopie pies and that raw milk will make your children chubby - but since we are in the business of talking about food 'round these parts, lets get right to it.


I eat banana bread all the time, of all the sweets in the world, all the quick bread recipes I have piling up, banana bread will always be my ultimate go-to, the heart of my hearts. I brought a walnut-studded loaf to the farm (you know, just in case I got homesick and needed a little love) and Justin and I ate big thick slices of it, slathered with butter, alongside coffee (for him) and tea (for me). It was such an ordinary breakfast, but something about sitting with your elbows on a well-loved wooden table in a chair that squeaks every so slightly when you sit down, close enough to a man who still smells of sleep, makes it tastes so much better.


I brought along a tin of chocolate caramel crack(ers) that ended up under lock and key once Uncle Bill decided nine o'clock was not too early for such a confection. That's when I knew we'd get along just fine. I put on my favorite jeans and a sweater vest despite Justin's desperate attempts to get me to wear flannel (I told him a hundred times, I don't own flannel) and we went to the farmer's market and whiz-bang let the over stimulation begin! We drank cold apple cider alongside spicy sausages with onions and bright yellow mustard; snacked on horseradish cheddar cheese and smoked bologna; I fondled more produce than is normally socially appropriate to do in public; and stood with my jaw on the floor at the size of the carrots and turnips. That was all fine and delicious and made me loathe the fact that I have a desk job when I could be selling pumpkin and chocolate whoopie pies, but nothing could've prepared me for the garlic pickles. I weep just to think about it.


I can't tell you how they're made or where she got them or why I am still crying myself to sleep knowing they are gone, but Aunt Cindy brought home garlic pickles from the market and sliced them up into darling bite sized pieces and, wanting to be polite, I slid a few slices onto my plate alongside my pasta salad and cheeseburger and passed the plate along. One bite into their vinegary, garlicky snap and I was hooked. Ravenous, even. I don't know what it was, I eat pickles all the time, but these, these were something else. They were perfect and now, nearly a week later, my mouth still waters to think about it. Oh, it hurts.

Then there was the turkey, which Uncle Bill took care of himself and despite my pleas, his brother in the backyard refused to run for his life. Stubborn bird. And on the second day, I rolled out of bed and still groggy with sleep, Justin took me out to the chicken coop to get fresh eggs, fried them up in a huge cast iron skillet, and we ate the runny pumpkin-colored yolks with sweet butter and warm English muffins. Aunt Cindy set a jar of homemade strawberry jam in front of us and I nearly tipped off the chair in a state of drunken happiness.

I'm happy. I'm full. It doesn't get much better than that.

Chocolate Caramel Crack(ers)
Adapted from David Lebovitz

4 to 6 sheets unsalted matzohs
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup packed light brown sugar
Big pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup toasted sliced almonds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil, followed by a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit. Line the bottom of the baking sheet with the matzoh - you may have to break them to fit.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and light brown sugar together over medium heat, cook until the butter is melted and is beginning to boil. Boil for three minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, add the salt and vanilla, and pour over the matzoh - make sure you spread it as evenly as possible and all the way to the edges.

Put the pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. It will bubble up as it bakes, so check it every few minutes to make sure it isn't burning.

Remove the pan from the oven and immediately sprinkle over the chocolate chips - let stand for 5 minutes before spreading evenly with an offset spatula. If you wish, sprinkle with toasted almonds, sea salt or crunchy walnuts.

Let cool completely - I pop it in the freezer to speed things along. Cut into squares and serve. The candy will keep in an airtight container for up to a week, but I would be shocked if it lasted that long.

1 comment:

  1. I was so excited to see that I had six comments on my recent post (that never happens!) and even more surprised and excited to see a few were from YOU! I love your blog and photography! And I'm so sorry I didn't mention anything about match.com . . . I have never even mentioned it to Tim's family . . . I actually don't even know if they know that's how we met. Crazy. It was great meeting both you and Justin and I think you two look like you're made for one another.


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