Monday, August 3, 2009

On the nature of square dancing and potato salad

When we set out to throw our barn dance, we had many goals in mind; we wanted to have a big party in the big barn; we wanted to fundraise; we wanted to raise awareness about the farm and the institute, we wanted to bring our community together.

Now, having lived through the exciting event that was our barn dance, we've decided that it was that final goal that was really the dearest to our hearts. We wanted people to get to know us and the farm, perhaps see why we love this place so much, yes, but we also wanted those same people to meet one another. It is rare, after all, to really meet with one's neighbors these days.

That is where square dancing comes in. For our barn dance, we had a caller named Tina, who stood with her band at the end of the barn and told us uncoordinated chickens what moves to make, when to hold hands, bow to our partners, and do-si-do. We formed long lines, held hands with complete strangers, and skipped down the length of our barn like children. There is something about square dancing that makes you put your guard down. For one thing, everyone looks just plain silly and so no one feels silly alone. And for another, the dance goes on whether you know your dance partner or not, and if you don't grab on to someone, you'll be left behind.

We read, recently, a beautiful account of that night that really brings to light this community-building aspect of our dance, and asks some really great questions about the relationship between communities and nature in our culture today; go here to see it:

Now, at the barn dance we made a special dinner for our musicians, that we designed to be friendly and familiar, because we wanted them to feel like our neighbors too. Only one dish would do. We firmly believe that many a neighbor has bonded over this ubiquitous dish, that graces the table of every American summer block party and bbq: potato salad. It brings people together, especially if you buy the potatoes at your friendly neighborhood farm stand. Try some!

Potato Salad with pickled onions

Serves 8-10
  • 10-12 large potatoes, washed and cut into 1 1/2-2" cubes
  • 2 cups of green or yellow wax beans, washed with the stems cut or broken off
  • 1/2 cup pickled onions (or more if you like), recipe follows
  • 1 batch mustardy mayonnaise, recipe follows
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
  1. Put cubed potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Cook over high heat until they come to a boil and add a tablespoon or more of salt to the water (just enough so that you can taste the salt). Turn the heat down so the potatoes are at a very low simmer and cook until they are tender but not mushy.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, put a small pot of water on to boil, and add salt to taste again. Have a small bowl of ice water ready, next to the stove. When the water in the pot is at a rolling boil, add the beans and cook until they are tender, but still a little crisp, then add them to the ice bath to stop their cooking. When cool, drain the beans and cut into thirds; set aside until the potatoes are done.
  3. When potatoes finish cooking, drain them and put them, still in the collander, in an empty sink to dry out and cool, covered with a dish towel.
  4. When potatoes are barely warm, toss with the mayonnaise, pickled onions, blanched green beans, oregano, and 1-2 tablespoons of the onion pickling liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss to combine.

Pickled Onions

  • 4 medium sized onions
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon chili flake
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
  1. Peel, halve and thinly slice onions and put in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Combine all other ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Take hot pickling liquid and pour over onions. Allow to cool and refrigerate at least overnight before using.

Mustardy Mayonnaise

  • 2 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place yolks in a medium sized bowl with a damp towel underneath it, to keep it from sliding around while you whisk
  2. Beginning just one spoonful at a time, alowly add the oil to the egg yolks in a drizzle while constantly whisking, waiting until each bit of oil is absorbed before adding another spoonful. Eventually the mixture will begin to be a more pale yellow, and will thicken. At this point, it is okay to add the oil straight from the container in a steady stream, whisking all the while. It should continue to thicken until, when all the oil has been added, you need to add a few tablespoons of water to thin it out.
  3. Grate or finely chop the garlic and add to the bowl along with the mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper and taste. Adjust seasoning if you need to.

1 comment:

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