The snow started in Pennsylvania around Thanksgiving, and we’ve had a decently steady supply of it since, so it seems appropriate to feature snowy photos for this weekend’s pairing. Lucky for me, I’m holed up on my parents’ farm this weekend getting a ton of work done and visiting with old friends. It seems a little strange to be here on a mini-visit between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when it feels like I was just here and will be back again so soon for almost a week. The prospect of seeing wonderful friends made the trip back worth it. We’ll be having a murder mystery party and catching up over fake intrigue and snacks.
I hope your weekend is equally pleasant and productive, and that if you’re snowed in too, that you’re stuck somewhere wonderful during the storm.
A few weeks ago, Chad and I went back to the farm to spend Easter weekend with my family. My little brother really wanted to go on a hike, so we went for an easy one on the Back Mountain. It was just finally starting to get a little warm. It was warm and sunny on the gasline when we got there, but there was still snow on the way there.
Belleville, PA, otherwise known as “Home.” If you look real close, you can see the farm where I grew up.
My childhood home is a cover girl. Please excuse the egregious use of Comic Sans or something like it on the cover. It’s definitely not the first time the homestead has appeared in this publication; a couple years ago my dad was interviewed as part of a feature on high tech farms in the area.
It’s hard for me to say how long I’ve loved this place. Since high school, at least. I would wander through looking for vintage scarves, bags, and costume jewelry, admiring furniture I had nowhere to put and no money to buy.
I once dragged Chad through it, stopping to show him a ring I really loved. We were 18. “I think this would be the perfect engagement ring,” I told him, totally without agenda.
He went back to Dairyland the spring I was in Spain, with his parents. The ring was still there. Marked down by now, just waiting. He bought it and brought it with him the second time he came to visit me. He carried it with him from State College to Philadelphia to Madrid to Salamanca to Granada to Barcelona, where he gave it to me. I then carried it from Barcelona to San Sebastian to Madrid, back to Philadelphia, and with me ever since. That was almost six years ago.
Later, I went with my mom to Dairyland during a winter break. She hadn’t bought me anything for my birthday yet, so I asked for a $17 full-length vintage wool coat. It’s still one of my favorite pieces of clothing. Some of the jewelry I found there is among the most-complimented things I own.
A few months ago, a fire broke out in part of the building. The antiques were all okay, but there was structural damage to the building and the owner decided to demolish it. The antique co-op’s last day is December 15.
I made it home a couple weeks ago and spent some time in the musty old space. I plan to go again over Thanksgiving.
It is huge and inviting. It used to be packed full of old things, but looks more sparse since the announcement. If I’m able to manage to tune out Rush Limbaugh’s incoherent babbling in the background, Dairyland is a totally delightful, almost meditative experience for me. I’ll miss it a lot (but not so much the talk radio that the vendors listen to all day).
I am almost daily uninspired about what to make for supper.
And yes, I say “supper.” Dinner, to my farmer dad, is the meal that happens sometime around noon. Hence, supper.
It is the eternal question.
But I have a few go-to options.
One of them is 4H Special, named such because my mom learned to make it as a little girl in 4H. Also, it has four ingredients, which is why it is one of my go-to uninspired supper options.
The coolest thing about it is that whenever I make it, two of the four ingredients are straight from my parents’ farm. I didn’t realize how rare and cool that is until moving to the suburbs and being exposed to the trendiness of expensive local food, that was, you know, actually farmed by a person the consumer has met. Even the applesauce, which frequently accompanies 4H Special, is from my hometown. We get the apples from Zooks’ Orchard, a Belleville staple, and make a whole bunch of applesauce and freeze it.
I can’t tolerate store-bought applesauce.
This is going to be a seriously expensive problem whenever I move out of easy driving distance of the farm.
4H Special doesn’t really look like much, but it is pretty delicious.
A Vague Recipe:
One pound ground beef
Ziploc bag of frozen (thawed) corn
2-3ish cups of cooked rice
2 cans tomato sauce
Mix it all together and bake at 350 for 40ish plus minutes, or until it looks like you want to eat it.
If I wanted to be really hardcore about it someday, maybe I’ll can my own tomato sauce.
The real creativity about this is the amount of imagination it takes to pretend I’m eating it at home, on the farm, rather than my almost-railroad suburban apartment, surrounded by the living spaces of others. To pretend I’m sitting next to the sliding glass door, my family in front of me, my childhood kitchen behind me, and the fields and the farms and the sunset to my right.