Tag Archives: Ashlee Kleinhammer

From Yogaville to Cheeseville

Hannah Inglish

When Hannah Inglish interned at the North Country Creamery in Keeseville in far northern New York near the Canadian border for six months she didn’t know it was the penultimate step in her transition from Cleveland, Ohio, yoga girl to cow herder maven and cheesemaker.

She also didn’t know that a year later, eight years after she began studying pre-Christian non-theism, rolling out a yoga mat, and changing her eating habits, she would be making arrangements to move away from where there were 5000 people per square city mile to 15 people per square country mile, with only her boyfriend in tow, and take up farming.

“I didn’t know it was going to happen so quickly,” she said.

“But when I was at Yogaville” – a teacher training facility and retreat center in Buckingham, Virginia, at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains – “I read Shivananda’s writings, especially the parts about adapting, adjusting, and accommodating, so the change has been kind of easy.”

Born in Oklahoma, she and her sister grew up in Lakewood, an inner-ring old school suburb of Cleveland, and graduated from Lakewood High School. In her senior year she started reading Alan Watts, the British-born philosopher and populariser of Zen Buddhism in the 1960s and 1970s.

“He was an awesome philosopher, trying to explain the deeper meaning of things, the underlying energy you always feel,” she said. “It makes the unexplainable easier to explain.”

After high school she experimented with raw foods and vegetarianism and began commuting across town to Cleveland Heights to the Atma Center, a holistic studio dedicated to Satyananda Yoga. “They taught traditional yoga, with pranayama and chanting, not your typical soccer mom hot yoga. I wanted that.”

Satyananda Yoga professes an integrated approach to the practice and is known as the yoga of the head, heart, and hands.

The next year she signed on and went to Yogaville for three months to train as a yoga teacher.

“It was a great experience. I cut my long dreads and went by myself. All of a sudden I looked and felt different and I was around completely different people, waking up at 6 AM and meditating.”

Once back home in Lakewood, certified to teach the hatha style of Integral Yoga, she freelanced, teaching around town, but was disillusioned by the high cost of classes at studios and the prevailing focus on yoga as a workout.

“For me it’s more of a lifestyle, and the benefit of yoga is being present in the body and learning to relax. That isn’t really taught in a lot of classes.”

The next summer, with her boyfriend Max, she returned to Yogaville for another three months, but this time as an intern cooking for the ashram’s community.

“We worked in their big kitchen, cooking for hundreds of people, buffet-style, vegetarian and organic. It was another great experience.”

Returning home that fall, inspired by her kitchen work at Yogaville, she found employment at the Root Cafe, a local vegetarian restaurant, organic bakery, and espresso bar doubling as a community clubhouse featuring local music and art.

“It was my first serious cooking job,” she said. “I was the youngest person there. It was tough, although I got the hang of it. It was a lot of fun.”

But, the next summer she broke her wrist while crowd surfing in the mosh pit at a heavy metal concert and was unable to do kitchen work for several months.

“It was bad, really dumb, but I feel like it was almost like life telling me to slow down.”

After her slam danced wrist got better she returned to work, but her job at the Root Café having been filled, she instead found a new job at Earth Fare, an organic and natural food market in neighboring Fairview Park.

“I was doing my own thing at first, with the fruits and vegetables, but I kept getting transferred all over the store, and the managers were really rude, and it was just unfulfilling.”

Destiny has been described as the opportunities that arise to turn left or right when coming to a crossroad. Sometimes it takes karma to work out the windings on the road from Yogaville to Cheeseville.

“I was looking for another job, and not having any luck, but I had been thinking and looking at farm internships when I found an organic farm website I liked.”

It was the website of the National Young Farmer’s Coalition. Hannah Inglish filled out an application for an internship, posted her resume, and sat back to wait. She didn’t wait long.

“Steve Googin from the North Country Creamery in Keeseville called me the next day, even though I hadn’t applied there. There are only a few little organic farms in Ohio, but when you look at New York state it blows up.”

According to the National Young Farmer’s Coalition, most of today’s young American farmers are first generation farmers, primarily interested in growing organic foodstuffs and grass-fed dairy and beef.

“He told me I was accepted. I made plans right away. My mom drove me up there, and it was so much more than I expected, all the young farmers and the movement that is going on there.”

Steve Googin and his partner Ashlee Kleinhammer, co-owners of Clover Mead Farm and the creamery, bought and rehabbed a small trailer for Hannah to live in. They tore out its thin carpet, replaced it with hardwood flooring, and parked it under the stars. A stray cat showed up. She went to work milking the twenty cows, feeding the calves, and doing the many odd jobs that farms have an endless supply of.

“All the cows have names, like Nellie, Petunia, Trillium. Trillium was my favorite. I would pet her and she followed me around, sticking her neck out, looking to be petted. They were all such gentle giants, except for Ida, who was cranky, not so gentle. If you got too close to her she would head butt you. Once, I didn’t realize she was right behind me and she got me, which was a big pain in my butt.”

No sooner than she had gotten the hang of herding and milking the shorthorns and Jerseys in her care than the plans Mr. Googin and Ms. Kleinhammer had been making to open a farm café to sell their milk, yogurt, and cheese bore fruit. They hired a cook with experience at New York City’s Blue Hill at Stone Farms to manage the café and put Hannah in charge of the cheese.

“I think Steven really wanted to make cheese himself, and he did a few times, but they’re so busy doing everything else so they asked me to take over the cheesemaking.”

Cheese is sometimes seen as milk’s leap towards immortality, although age matters when you’re a cheese. Making cheese turned out to be the fulcrum that would take her back to Keeseville.

“Making cheese is 90% washing dishes and cleaning everything so it’s sterile, but I loved it, and besides, I really like cows. When you’re milking them they get so relaxed. I’ve seen them fall asleep right on the spot. It’s funny hearing a cow snore while you’re milking it.”

By the end of October her internship was over and she went home again to Lakewood, saying, “I was ready to come back and see my boyfriend.” No sooner was she home, though, than she started making plans again.

“I want to be a farmer,” she said. “But I can’t go out and do that anywhere. I have to go where I can learn from people, and Keeseville is where I decided to go. Even though I asked them so many questions when I was there, they weren’t saying there’s this dumb city girl, and all that. The community there is so attractive to me, the people actually doing it. Whatever it takes.”

With her mother’s help she bought a house in Keeseville and when spring comes is moving there with her boyfriend. She will go back to work at the creamery, milking cows and making cheese, and raise chickens and keep bees on the side  on her own. “There’s a beekeeper across Lake Champlain in Vermont who breeds Northern Survivor Hybrids that do really well in the north country. I’ll see what I can accomplish.”

“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field,” Dwight Eisenhowerwhose forebears were farmers, once said.

Farming is hard work and farmers are compelled to start over again every morning, very early in the morning, valuing their work, love of land and water, and their communities. It’s early in the sack, early to rise, no black limos for getting to work.

“The farmers around Keeseville, at Clover Mead and Mace Chasm Farms and Fledging Crow, they’re all young and it’s inspiring to see them doing that,” said Hannah.

“It’s hard, hard work, but super rewarding. Eventually I want to own land and build my own cob house. That’s the plan.”

From farm to table is the cheese way. From city girl to cheesemaker to farmer is the way Hannah Inglish has made for herself. When a cow crosses her path it means the animal is going somewhere. Here comes the cheese.

Once your plan has been signed sealed but not yet delivered what remains is bringing home the cows and getting them all on the tune of om on the milk machine so they can slumber away on their feet happily snoring.

147 Stanley Street (short stories and non-fiction). If you enjoyed this story, consider supporting the site by clicking here to donate. 

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Home on the Farm Cafe

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“It starts with the cows,” said Marla Gilman, her hand tracing an arc across shelves of cheese. “They make good, good milk.”

At the top of a big slate board behind her was written in chalk: “All dairy comes from our farm and creamery.” The creamery is North Country and the farm is Clover Mead. The counter where Marla was standing was the Clover Mead Café and Farm Store.

When asked where the cows were she pointed to a dirt path across the street.

“Just up there” she said, “where there’s a bunch of poop and some electric fences.”

The farm-to-table eatery in Keeseville, NY, which had been shuttered after its owners retired, re-opened in May 2014. Ashlee Kleinhammer and Steven Googin, co-owners of the farm and creamery since 2013, worked with Ms. Gilman to bring the café back to life, expanding and refreshing it.

“They decided to amp it up,” Marla said. “We busted our butts to get this place in shape.” She became the cook and manager.

“Great flavors,” said Jean-Audouin Duval of Keeseville, by way of 40 years living in New York City. “After eating there I take home some insane cheeses and yogurt to die for. I’m in heaven!”

The 25-year-old Marla Gilman, a New Jersey native and University of Vermont graduate of the Department of Agriculture, whose kitchen work includes NYC’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Lake Placid’s Liquids and Solids, moved to Keeseville in the spring.

“All my friends and boyfriend were here,” she said. “I wanted to live here.”

Her boyfriend, Dylan Badger, who opened the Ausable Brewing Company with his brother Dan in September, described their malted grain wares as “unfiltered beers from unfiltered brewers.”

“They re-built a barn that was falling to the ground and turned it into their brew space and tasting room,” said Marla.

The café, farm, creamery, and brewery are all on Mace Chasm Road, as is Mace Chasm Farm, whose chickens, pigs, and cows are rotationally grazed on 60 acres of pasture. Just down the street is Fledging Crow Vegetables, a Certified Naturally Grown farm.

The nascent resurgence of farming up and down Mace Chasm Road is reminiscent of Vermont’s ecologically minded “Back to the Land” movement of the 1970s. Just across Lake Champlain from Keeseville, Vermont today ranks first on the Locavore Index for its commitment to local food, which is part of the state’s economic growth strategy.

“There’s a food scene happening here,” Marla said. “It’s not big, but it’s definitely starting. I don’t think Mace Chasm Farm has ever seen as much action before. They even did a taco night this summer.”

Dylan Badger of Ausable Brewing agreed. “On this road alone there are four farms. We want people to enjoy what we have to offer, just this whole incredible scene here.”

Ms. Gilman is emblematic of Millennials taking up farm work. “I felt this thing going on here, super cool young farmers and motivated entrepreneurs starting something, and I totally wanted to be a part of it.”

Farm internships have skyrocketed in the last five years, according to the National Agriculture Information Service.

“If you talk to any really good farmer they’ll tell you that they’ve had a doubling and tripling of the applicant pool over the last few years,” said Severine von Tscharner Fleming, an upstate New York farmer activist who founded the National Young Farmers Coalition.

Even though farming can be notoriously dogged work, working one to the bone, and midsized farms, which account for most people who try to make a living off the land, have been increasingly marginalized by agribusinesses, many young people are taking up the mantle of farming, often specializing in the local, organic market.

“New England is now home to young kids becoming farmers – not the old back-to-the-landers type with political or religious missions, but focusing entirely on food,” said Helena Worthen, a retired professor from Berkeley, California.

After eating at the Clover Mead Cafe she praised the food, especially the “Cheeseville” cheese, but explained that outdoor seating meant the picnic table. “If there’s room,” she added.

Clover Mead features all things locally grown on the area’s farmlands. “It’s elevated comfort food,” said Stephanie Fishes of nearby Au Sable Forks. “It’s totally worth a menu detour.”

The café’s coolers brim with cheeses, yogurts, and milk, and the menu features Marla’s homemade breads, breakfast, and lunch foods. The egg sandwiches are a favorite, as are the Camembert Panini’s. The Camembert is theirs and the apples come from a neighboring orchard.

“Our chicken salad sandwich is definitely number one for lunch,” she said. “I roast whole, organic chickens, pick all the meat off, chop it up, and all the goodness in the pan goes back in. The moisture comes from that and then I add a bunch of spices.”

It isn’t plain Jane chicken mixed with mayonnaise. It’s chicken salad spreading its wings.

“I’m surrounded by really awesome farms, so the point is to create really good food,” Marla explained.

Off the beaten path, even in the off the beaten path town of Keeseville, re-opening the café was a risk. “It was scary at first,” said Marla. “It’s so unassuming here. But, this is a really cool place.”

People will go far and wide for good food. “We haven’t met our goal business-wise just yet,” said Ashlee Kleinhammer. “But, we’re close.”

Ms. Gilman has been buoyed by the community’s support.

“Keeseville has been great,” she said.

“They could have been, what are those young idiots doing? But, I think they’re happy to see it coming back. It used to be a booming, fun town back in the day. And then it plummeted. I think they’re happy to see something happening again with the town they grew up in.”

When asked what her plans were for the North Country winter she explained the café would be closed for a month in January.

“I’m going to San Francisco and eat a bunch of food. That’s what I like to do when I’m not working, try new things, and develop my palette.”

She pointed to the bottom of the slate board, which said: “We proudly source organically, locally, from scratch, and always with love.”

“We’ll figure out our plan from there,” she said. “Five years from now this is going to be a totally happening place.”

147 Stanley Street (short stories and non-fiction). If you enjoyed this story, consider supporting the site by clicking here to donate. 

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Kitchen Work: A Year on the Line at Liquids and Solids

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“It took me awhile to understand the vibe that makes Liquids and Solids so special,” said Marla Gilman, a summer removed from her year working in the kitchen of the edgy earth-bound gastropub in Lake Placid, New York.

“I was visiting friends in Keeseville and they kept talking about this great little restaurant,” she said. “You would love this place, my friends kept telling me, and the food’s awesome. They kept talking about it, and so, finally, during another visit, my boyfriend Dylan took me to eat there. It was awesome.”

A graduate of the University of Vermont, the 25-year-old Ms. Gilman began her college courses focused on business and ended them in food and drink.

“I took a farm to table class, just kind of randomly, where we read Michael Pollan,” she said. “That’s where the whole thing started. I realized I needed to re-think the way I was eating.”

She went from being conscious of food by counting the calories in her mouth to getting in touch with sun soil rain through the taste of what she was eating. She learned to eat food rather than think about it.

After graduating from the College of Agriculture at UVM with a degree in Community Entrepreneurship and a minor in Food Systems, she spent the summer backpacking in Italy, Germany, and France. Her last stop was at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, where she had enrolled to dovetail with her traveling.

“I was on that side of the ocean, anyway,” Marla said.

The 12-Week Certificate at Ballymaloe, a one hundred acre working organic farm west of Dublin, is an intensive immersion-cooking course. Its track  proceeds from fundamental skills to increasingly practiced techniques, training its graduates to become ready-to-go cooks able to pursue a culinary career.

But, it didn’t prepare her for Liquids and Solids.

“I was the first girl to work the line there, with the guys, with their raw, sarcastic stuff, and I was just this little girl from New Jersey who cared about local food. I couldn’t keep up at first. I didn’t talk for a while, at all. I just kept my mouth shut.”

It was at Ballymaloe that Marla cultivated her own palette for food.

“I learned to taste by eating. I simply ate a lot of locally grown fresh food. I learned the difference between something tasting alive and something tasting dead.”

However, since she knew little to nothing about wine, learning to drink took more patience.

“People would talk about wine and I didn’t get what they were tasting. I couldn’t understand how wine could taste like apricots.”

One of her friends at the school came to the rescue. The friend parsed a book about wine, cataloging essential flavors, and filled the small holes of eggs crates with those flavors

“Anna blindfolded me and I had to smell each one and be able to say what it was,” she said. “It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. It pulled it out for me. I learned what I was smelling for.”

After returning home she wrangled work at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

Blue Hill in New York’s Greenwich Village, melding fresh local sources with inspired preparation, has been described as a go-to dining destination since it opened in 2000. The restaurant at Stone Barns, opened four years later in the Hudson Valley, has no menus. Instead, diners are proffered a Grazing, Rooting, and Pecking bill of fare, featuring the farm’s best from field and market.

“I was obsessed with Stone Farms for years and years, so I staged there. I mean, I worked for free,” Marla said. “A stage is usually a week long, but I wouldn’t leave. I ended up working there for more than three months.”

In the meantime her boyfriend-in-waiting moved to the farmlands of Keeseville, on the New York side of Lake Champlain, going to work for Fledging Crow Vegetables, an organic farm based on the Community Supported Agriculture model.

“Dylan and I had been friends for 6 years and were just starting to see each other,” she said. “I thought I’d like to move there, but not right there, where my boy was. I didn’t want to do that.”

Instead, Ms. Gilman made plans to move farther south, to the Keene Valley, known as the home of the High Peaks in the Adirondacks.

“At first everything was just a thought in my head, and then, literally, within a week-and–a-half I had a place to live and a job. “

The job was at Liquids and Solids

“I shot Tim Loomis, the head chef and co-owner, an e-mail, and I just said, I’m friends with Dylan at Fledging Crow, and I ate at your restaurant, which I thought was amazing. Just curious, any work opportunities?”

A week later she got a return call.

“Your resume looks awesome,” said Tim. ”We’ll be looking for someone soon and we’d love to have you.”

“Whoa, you don’t even know me!” she said.

“But, Tim is close with Fledging Crow. He buys so locally. If he could everything would come from local farms. So, when they dropped the good word about me, Tim being trustworthy about his friends, when they said this girl is cool, he was pretty much OK with it.”

It was Marla Gilman’s first real job in a kitchen.

In a kitchen just bigger than a minivan, serving hundreds of exactly orchestrated plates a night, she worked alongside a dishwasher, a sous chef, and the head chef.

“I was the pantry person, although we rotated. I would do sous chef some nights and wash dishes other nights, and the sous chef would do the pantry some nights. Tim was always Tim.”

At Blue Hill everything needed to be accounted for, from where ingredients were stored to the preparation and presentation of dishes.

“I had to show them every cut I made, and if I wasn’t sure about something, they expected us to ask. At Liquids and Solids the flavors are all high-end, it tastes so eloquent, and I was always asking, is this all right, is that cut OK?”

“Yes, it’s fine, you don’t have to ask me,” Tim told her.

She wasn’t sure how to take the no-questions rule, although she understood he wanted it done as well as she could do it. Nor did she understand the organization of the kitchen.

“The kitchen was so disorganized,” she said.

The organization of the pantry and walk-in made sense in practice to those in the know, but didn’t make any sense to her, at first.

“It’s such amazing food, but we would forget to order chocolate chips for weeks and have to run to Lisa G’s, the restaurant across the street, to get some. The spices on the shelves were all shoved together. If there’s something on a shelf below where I originally put it I freak out. For me, a thing has to have a spot.”

At Liquids and Solids salt and pepper could be in any one of six places.

“Tim always knew those six places.”

When she asked where something was, she heard, “Stop asking me where things are.” She was expected to know, like the rest of the kitchen, which was more interested in what everything was organized for, that purpose being the end result.

It was the plating of the food, and the appreciation of it in the dining room, which was the proof of the pudding of the kitchen’s happenstance organization, just like electricity is organized thunder and lightning.

“Tim doesn’t call himself the head chef,” said Marla Gilman. “He will laugh at you if you call him that.”

As Alton Brown of the Food Network has pointed out, a cook who calls himself a chef one day will probably make the worst food you have ever eaten.

“Tim’s food is so well put together you would think he has every little detail worked out. He does, in a way, but it’s a super laid-back kitchen. He puts a lot of trust in his staff.”

She recounted days when Tim Loomis, on his day off, would nonetheless turn up in the kitchen and ask that she create a new offering.

“I’ll do something with it tomorrow,” he said.

“I was essentially the lowest person in the kitchen,” she said, “and for him to tell me to create something, and I have enough trust in you that I will apply it to a special that will be on the menu, that was really cool for me.”

We are often made trustworthy when someone puts their trust in us. It is the glue of life, like eggs, flour, and breadcrumbs.

The kitchen at Liquids and Solids was not entirely prepared for her, partly by design. She worked on a small table on top of a lowboy fridge behind a wall.

“They didn’t bring tickets to me, either,” she said. “They would yell out the order and I had to write it down, in the right order, for the right tickets. It was totally new to me and super stressful.”

Working in close quarters with the tight-knit Liquids and Solids crew unnerved her, as well.

“They would listen to a country station, and the songs were all about sex, and they would make every inappropriate joke in the book,” she said. “I had no idea how to handle it. It took me a long time to realize it wasn’t real, it was just jokes, and appreciate that raw form of theirs.“

In some kitchens saying “Sancho” to a co-worker means someone is at their house being carnal with their husband or wife. The proper response is, “I’m not worried about Sancho.”

“There were never any hard feelings. It was just me having to adjust to that environment.”

In the meantime Marla was learning to work quickly and safely, be organized when preparing food, and stay responsible for holding up her end.

“It was really hard for me at first,” she said. “I had pretty much never done line work before.”

Line cooks need to be strong, both physically and mentally. Anthony Bourdain, a chef and author, has likened the work to being in the trenches of a war. They are the foot soldiers in any functioning kitchen.

“When the rest of the world is relaxing you’re working harder and going crazier than you ever have before,” said Ms. Gilman. She was compelled to do her best in the face of sustained effort.

“I found out if you over think it you will drive yourself insane,” she said. “You have an order board in front of you, you’re trying to coordinate with the other chefs, and working on something else in the oven, too. You have to train your brain to take all that in at once and not forget any of it.”

Memory separates what you know and don’t know. In a kitchen it’s like a rail yard with trains coming and going all the time, emptying and filling up, working their way into and out of the yard. The kitchen swing doors at restaurants like Liquids and Solids never stop revolving as wait staff tack tickets to kitchen boards and deliver orders to diners.

“I can barely remember what I did two days ago, but in a kitchen I can have four things going in the oven, be doing six other orders at once, don’t forget about the carrots, plate those two desserts, oh, here comes a new ticket, a charcuterie plate and an oyster, write that down! and, Oh, shit! the carrots are still in the oven, grab them, and handle the heat without passing out. That’s strictly from my experience there.”

Two ovens and eight burners burning all the time were where liquids were brought to a boil and solids were baked, roasted, and broiled in the small kitchen.

That’s why shouts of “HOT BEHIND!” are frequently heard as pots of burning liquid are being moved.

“It was hot back there,” Marla said. “You’re moving faster with hot objects than you’ve ever moved in your entire life. It was easy to get upset, get angry, because we were moving so fast and it was so hot.”

Except for Tim Loomis.

“He was always moving fast, and sweating like the rest of us, but there was a calmness about him. His friends came into the kitchen all the time, shooting the shit with him. I always thought, if someone were talking to me right now I would freak out.”

It wasn’t all noses to the grindstone, however.

“They are really good at having a good time in the kitchen,“ Marla said. “Sometimes I thought they shouldn’t be having such a good time, but they definitely knew how to have fun.”

One night in July, on the 3rd anniversary of the opening of the restaurant, despite it being the height of their busy season, they threw a party in the kitchen, a crew from Fledging Crow helping with the work.

“It was a great night while we were all still working, and then we drank a little bit afterwards.”

The life of a kitchen is making lemonade from lemons. Afterwards it’s refreshing to have a lemon gingerini at the bar.

Over the course of her year at Liquids and Solids she grasped that Tim Loomis was sourcing and cooking food like what her teachers at Ballymaloe, where she earned her cooking certificate, had recommended.

“Tim’s cooking is fairly simple. It’s just picking good, fresh ingredients and doing it really well. We had a beet dish. It was just roasted beets with the skin peeled, with avocadoes and carrot and lime vinaigrette on top. It was so simple. I never would have thought of it. People loved it. Even beet haters loved it.”

Tim Loomis didn’t brainstorm his ideas verbally. When Marla asked him what inspired him, he said, “I don’t know.”

She discovered he was being full of air with her whenever the menu changed. “He would sit at the bar all day, talking to farmers, finding out what was on the horizon.”

She found out how many local ingredients he was using, the attention he paid to their provenance, and how good he was at seasoning them. “He came up with a sauce for fried Brussels sprouts that is awesome,” she said.

Brussels sprouts have been almost universally disliked for much of their history. Parents urge their children to eat the mildly bitter vegetable, saying, “If you keep trying, you will probably like them in the end.” One reason they are misunderstood is most people don’t know how to cook them. At Liquids and Solids they were transformed into a godly creation that has become a staple on the menu.

“Tim’s mind works in a very different way than mine, and I think, from a lot of other chefs. Learning how to create his kind of food, his style, and his sauces was really special for me. That’s what was very satisfying about working there.”

But, when the winter of 2013 became the spring of 2014 Marla Gilman began to think she was ready for something new. One clue was her dreams. Marla’s monsters came in the form of cremated duck and shriveled asparagus.

“The hours were really hard for me,” she said. “You work at such a high energy until one in the morning, and I’d stay wired until three. When I finally chilled and got to sleep I’d have weird dreams, kitchen dreams, of everything going wrong. I’d wake up in the middle of the night in a panic.”

The work itself took a toll on her, too.

“I had back issues to begin with, and you’re always hunched over, on your feet, and my feet would be killing me. Your whole body just hurts. I don’t know how people do it for twenty years. I literally don’t get it.”

Many cooks endure sore backs from repeated heavy lifting and bone spurs in their feet from constantly standing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics they are affected by more injuries than the average American worker. Falls on slippery floors, cuts, and burns are common mishaps. Cooks suffer the highest number of work-related burns of anybody in any industry.

She also felt out of sync with her friends, especially her boyfriend.

“I felt like I needed a normal schedule. I was getting bug-eyed, and I wanted to be closer to my friends and boyfriend in Keeseville, too,” she said.

“When you’re a chef you never get to see your friends. Dylan was farming, so he was up at six in the morning, while I was working nights and living almost an hour away. I wasn’t aligning with that.”

As spring turned to summer she moved to Keeseville, taking over the Clover Mead Café and Farm Store, an off-the-beaten path eatery with fresh-from-the-farm flavors and creative food combinations, as well as artisanal cheese and yogurt made from their own cows.

Liquids and Solids posted a help wanted on its Facebook page. “Our pantry cooker Marla is leaving us for something new. We need to replace her. An appreciation for punk rock, classic country, and 80s pop culture is useful, but not necessary.”

At the farm café she is the menu planner, cook, and manager, as well as the face at the front counter.

“Marla’s a great baker and cook,” said Clover Mead Farm co-owner Ashlee Kleinhammer, “She was excited about starting her own thing.”

“When you’re cooking you never get to see anyone enjoying the food,” said Ms. Gilman. “You sweat and cut your fingers and burn yourself and then it just disappears. I wanted to see the satisfaction that people get from my hard work.”

By the end of summer the café was beginning to meet its business goals and Marla was already planning for the next year, including adding meats from Mace Chasm Farms, a neighboring farmstead butcher shop, and beer from the newly opened Ausable Brewing Company down the street.

She still eats at Liquids and Solids.

“I hate how far I live from it, but I drive the fifty minutes to Lake Placid because it’s so great,” she said. “I love the food there and I love going back.”

What makes the long drive worthwhile is she doesn’t have to sweat like a sailor, either, to get a plate of homegrown, subversively creative, and expertly prepared food. She leaves that to somebody else.

147 Stanley Street (short stories and non-fiction). If you enjoyed this story, consider supporting the site by clicking here to donate. 

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Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.