If anyone can make farm life look charmed its Andrea Bemis. But make no mistake, even though there are idyllic moments, the farmer and food blogger behind Tumbleweed Farm in Hood River County, can tell you it’s tough work getting food from field to table. Thankfully, her new cookbook Dishing Up the Dirt highlights the very best of seasonal vegetables and none of the recipes are hard to cook. Andrea will be at Elder Hall in June for Book Fete and she talked to us about how she developed the recipes for her first ever cookbook and what her guilty pleasure foods are.
Q; How did your love of food evolve?
AB: We started farming 8 years ago at my husband’s family farm in Massachusetts. I thought it would be a romantic, slow-paced life but it was a really big organic vegetable operation and it was hard work! When we moved back to Oregon, we started our farm and we were growing vegetables like beets, turnips, and kohlrabi that I wasn’t really eating. I thought I really needed to learn how to cook all this awesome food. My recipe ideas come from when we’re out in the field. I’ll be weeding fennel near the beets, which is also near the dill and I’ll start creating recipes in my head.
Q: Your recipes feature a great mix of flavors, like harissa, za’atar and dates.Was it a conscious decision to offer up more than the usual vegetable recipes?
AB: For me it’s about experimentation because when something is in season, customers will get one ingredient multiple weeks in a row. So I like to take one ingredient and think of lots of ways of preparing it. Keeps people excited about their food.
Q: How was the cookbook writing process?
AB: Because I cook freestyle, I had to buy measuring cups and spoons for the first time. I always used recipes as more of a guide. At first it was daunting measuring everything out but I get into a groove while developing each dish. Even if someone is new to cooking, it’s pretty hard to mess up these recipes. They can get an idea about flavor combinations
Q: What was your experience when you and your husband first started farming?
AB: It was baptism by fire. We got thrown into a working farm and you learn there are so many hours of daylight so you have to hustle. It’s financially stressful, it’s weather dependent, and you can’t leave your farm in the growing season so it can be a little isolating. The farm is your boss. What has kept us going is the idea that you can look at your food and know who contributed to your meal, what the journey was from the field to your plate. It’s powerful.
Q: Are you ever able to take a break from life on the farm?
AB: We get a solid 2 to 3 months off and I’m always grateful to get a break for a full season. When we gear up, it’s manageable because it’s a gradual build.
Q: Do you have a favorite food or guilty pleasure you can share?
AB: My favorite vegetable are beets, my spirit vegetable! I like them raw, roasted, steamed, mashed. I love them. As far as guilty pleasures, Reese’s peanut butter cups and anything with butter.
Don’t miss Andrea’s visit to Elder Hall to cook up some food and fun. She’ll share her favorite recipes for making the most of your CSA haul and she’ll sign her new cookbook Dishing Up the Dirt. Get your tickets here.