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Jun 29
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Bringing the World Inside

Karme Choling garden

Karme Choling garden

Column: Kitchen Wisdom
A Karme Choling Kitchen Retrospective

In an effort to share the wisdom and experience of our daily lives, meals, and our own kitchens, this column explores all aspects of the culture around food, eating, cooking and community. In the coming months, we will be including voices from around the sangha, so please continue to join us as we expand our view and hear the many voices of Kitchen Wisdom.

article and photos by Lisa Harris
Shambhala Times Columnist

At Karme Choling, the kitchen wisdom begins in the garden. It was Jan Enthoven and his crew who opened up endless possibilities for the kitchen to offer fresh, organic herbs, fruits and vegetables to the staff and program participants.

The garden also provided on-the-spot opportunities daily, as we took what the land and weather offered us.

A few sprigs of the first herbs would not season enough food for a meal for 150 people, but it could be used for the tea snack – a creamy dip, perhaps, or edible garnish for deviled eggs.

A handful of raspberries, still warm from the sun, would be set out for anyone to try.

Some days the garden would fill the cooler downstairs with the most ephemeral, buttery lettuces. And we would only have about 80 people to feed for the next few days. Offering huge salads every meal was not an option. So we came up with a lettuce soup that was surprisingly tasty, and used up much of the greenery sitting on the shelves.

the daily checklist

the daily checklist

There were times when the garden had a new crop ready – but not enough to feed the current crowd of, say, 250 people. This happened more than once when the corn was in it’s early stages of harvest. Unfortunately, we couldn’t serve corn on the cob for everyone, but we could make soup with it, or slice it off the cob for a fresh salsa type salad.

I remember when the pole beans started coming into the kitchen. I wasn’t sure if people would like them, but we prepared them anyway, and they were quite popular for a while by themselves and in soups.

The kitchen was also challenged with an overabundance of produce that was well received in the beginning, but as time went on, many lost interest in eating the same thing every meal, every day. We had to be creative, and were successful often enough to shift the flavors and textures to make the abundant vegetable seem new.

One of the best things about having the garden on site, is that even though we often had an overabundance of produce, if the humans weren’t able to consume it, the compost pile would, and it would complete the cycle to feed the garden that feeds the people. Having to let go of those beautiful plants was a lot less painful knowing that a hungry compost pile was waiting.

Elfin with ramps

Elfin with ramps

I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing the kitchen staff become creative with the fresh goods. Linda made some of the best salads, as she used up many leftover meats and grains combined with fresh produce. Elfin shared his infinite wisdom of flavorful soups and vegetarian entrees and brought out the best of the fresh flavors for everyday and special dinners. Derek often prepared the fresh greens and vegetables in simple ways that allowed us to taste the flavors on their own, as well as taking recipes and adapting them to what was in season. Anemone would come in from the garden and bake bread into the night, incorporating things like kale, squash, and herbs into her wonderful fresh baked breads. Rob showcased the herbs and vegetables in fancy hors d’oeuvres and appetizers for tea or special event meals.

Another favorite time for me in the kitchen during the summer was working with the rota shift. We would sometimes have eight people come in at once, looking for guidance and instruction on what to do. Somehow, I was able to do a quick triage to see who was familiar with food and cooking, and who would be very happy cleaning greens at the sink or peeling carrots. There were many moments when I would let a program participant follow their whims to create a salad, side dish, or a dip for tea. It was magic.

It was a powerful experience to have that umbilical link to the garden. There was so much freshness overflowing in the sinks and on the tables, the connection to the earth and sun and rain was immediate.

I truly love the meeting point between kitchens and fresh local food. The food brings the world inside.

Lisa HarrisLisa Harris is a free-range chef, freelance writer, and consultant. She is always on the lookout for seasonal, local foods, and the farmers who provide them in Northern Indiana, where she currently lives, and wherever she travels. You can find more of her experiences and stories in her blog, earthskybelly.wordpress.com and other food related publications. Contribute your voice and have a conversation with Lisa about how you live kitchen wisdom! Lisa can be reached at [email protected].

To read other entries in this column, please see: Kitchen Wisdom.

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