In Field to Feast: Recipes Celebrating Florida’s Farmers, Chefs and Artisans, authors Pam Brandon, Heather McPherson and Katie Farmand travelled thousands of miles across their home state of Florida gathering stories of the farmers who grow our food and culling their time-honored family recipes. This is a book that is as much about the stories of farmers who grow our food as it is about the food that is prepared in our family kitchens. It’s a wonderful connection to make.
Pam Brandon is a food and travel writer, author of numerous books and managing editor of Edible Orlando magazine. Katie Farmand is editor of Edible Orlando magazine, author of the blog The Thin Chef and an Orlando-based recipe developer. Heather McPherson, past president of the Association of Food Journalists, is a food editor and restaurant critic for the Orlando Sentinel.
We chatted with co-author Pam Brandon about their newest cookbook and what she discovered from the stories about the farmers and their families.
NPB: How did you come up with the idea to write Field to Feast?
Pam: It started as a book of recipes. But as the three of us got on the road to visit the farms, we were
enlightened and overjoyed with the stories of the farmers: multi-generational, young farmers, organic farmers. The stories became as important as the recipes.
NPB: Why do you think stories of farmers appeal to readers?
Pam: With the accessibility of food from all over the world, most of us don’t have any idea where our food is grown. To realize that there are faces and families behind the food on our plates is a wonderful connection. For a child to know that a carrot comes out of the ground and then eat it – it’s a beautiful thing! To know and to appreciate the farmers who grow our food is such an important connection. We recognize the need for big farms and for transporting food to feed millions, but, on a daily basis, if we can be aware of what we are eating, and be grateful to the farmers who work year-round, it’s a
NPB: How did you decide which farms to visit and how did you choose recipes to include?
Pam: The biggest challenge was narrowing down the farms in Florida (there are hundreds!) to fit in a book. So we decided to visit the farms with the “best practices” in taking care of their crops and soil –those who are making the environment a better place. If the farmers had a family recipe to share, we included it in the book; if they didn’t, we developed a recipe that used their crop. But most of the recipes came from farmers and their families.
NPB: What surprised you most about farmers and how our food is grown?
Pam: We didn’t know much about growing crops, so we learned a lot. We met farmers who grew on small plots in downtown Miami and corn farmers who are feeding the world. We walked away so humbled by the hard work of running a farm, big or small. And the fact that farmers work seven days a week. In Florida, some farmers can take off time in July and August; but, other than that, they work seven days a week. And the weather can wreak havoc . . . too much rain, not enough rain, hurricanes, freezes. It is a hard day’s work.
NPB: You include a peanut farmer in Field to Feast. Tell us what you learned from the peanut farm.
Pam: This was one of Katie’s farms: “We visited Holland Farms in Milton,” Katie says, “the nicest people you’d ever meet.” Farmer Bruce Holland scooped out boiled peanuts for them to taste, then sent them home with a giant bag. Rocking chairs on the farm porch beckon visitors to sit for a while and nibble the steaming, salty boiled peanuts. They also farm watermelons, butter beans and more. We share their recipe for Cajun-style boiled peanuts.
Cajun-Style Boiled Peanuts
“According to the Hollands, the peanuts only soak up the flavor of the boiling water as they cool, so they recommend cooling the peanuts completely before digging in.” –The authors.
Makes 2 ½ pounds
2½ pounds green or raw peanuts
1 small white onion, peeled and cut in half
1 green bell pepper, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
2 to 3 jalapeño peppers, fresh or pickled
2 tablespoons rock salt
2 tablespoons spicy crab boil
1 lemon, sliced
Combine peanuts, onion, green pepper, granulated garlic, red pepper flakes, cayenne, jalapeños, rock salt, crab boil, and lemon in a large stockpot. Add enough cold water to cover by three inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a vigorous simmer. Simmer for three hours, or until peanuts are soft. Cool completely in liquid. Rewarm before serving, if desired.
Book cover and recipe photo by Gary Bogdon© 2011