Dear Friends of the Berea College Farm,
This past weekend, the Berea College Farm Store Butcher, Nathan, and I trekked up to Michigan to attend an event organized by one of our friends called BizarreBQ. Now in its seventh year, this annual event is held on a different farm each year that exemplifies sustainable farming methods and animal husbandry. It brings to the table an unlikely cast of people and food items that are both diverse and delightful if you’re an adventurous sort. Though most of the attendees were relatively local, this amalgamation of chefs, farmers, butchers, restaurateurs, promoters, foodies, and even a Mangalitsa pig breeder from the Netherlands gathered together in the perfect blend of camaraderie and collaboration.
John Patterson, event organizer and one of the moderators of the artisan pork curing facebook group, the Salt Cured Pig, has big dreams and aspirations of cultivating a community that connects every link in the food chain from farmer to butcher to chef to home cook. In opposition to over-produced, factory-farmed meat that is run through an assembly line to your nearest big box retailer or corporate chain restaurant, John believes that the best tasting food comes from people who care enough to cultivate real relationships with the people that put food on your table. These aren’t the folks looking for shortcuts to the cheapest food with the highest profits. These are the farmers who take the time to let their pigs forage on nuts and barley, ethical processors that treat the animals with respect, butchers that carve meat to the highest standards and refuse to waste anything, chefs that look for the freshest ingredients from local farms, and home cooks that don’t want their children to eat additives and antibiotics.
Naturally, the key to getting all these people in the same place at the same time to discuss the best ways of changing our food culture is through a meal. Not just any meal, mind you, but a meal that stretches the imagination of ingredients, flavor combinations, and methods of preparing and eating. Just to leave you with some ideas of what possibilities are out there, here are just a few of the highlights that came across the plate this weekend (you may need Google for some of these!): crawfish bread, duck ham, pickled purslane, banana bread and cake made with cricket flour, chicken gizzard rice salad, tea eggs, pig face rillette, and chocolate peanut butter buckeyes with grubs.
However, I think the most favored dish of the night was saved for the stalwart few who stayed late enough to enjoy John’s slow-smoked Barbacoa Cow Head. All manners and utensils were left at the door and no piece of this animal was wasted as tongue, cheeks, and all parts meaty were devoured with gusto. Eating the bizarre may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s a world of flavor that awaits the brave. Perhaps we can convince John to bring his show on the road to Kentucky!
Until next time, eat well!
Jessa Turner – Manager