“What do you do?”
I used to dread this question. I wasn’t fulfilled with how I was spending 40+ hours of my week, nor was I really sure how I would rather be spending 40+ hours of my week. Like a neon sign unplugged after closing time, I wanted to turn off my title, not explain it. Once I dove (head first!) into more creative roles, my title became more complicated, but that whole work-life divide became pleasantly fuzzier.
I no longer dreaded the “what do you do?” portion of the conversation, nor did I find myself living for the weekends. I don’t have hump days, and in these summer months, I actually really like Mondays. On Mondays, we harvest and deliver the food for the Urban Farmer’s CSA’s. I can’t say I have my creative, freelancing world completely figured out, but in the very least, I’m pursuing what inspires me. In doing so, I also spend a lot of time with my fella, my dog and a fair bit of sunshine.
Wendell Berry, the poet/farmer/writer/activist/academic, observed this “what do you do?” and Monday dread ever so astutely in his book, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food:
“We can say without exaggeration that the present national ambition of the United States is unemployment. People live for quitting time, for weekends, for vacations, and for retirement; moreover, this ambition seems to be classless, as true in the executive suites as on the assembly lines. One works not because the work is necessary, valuable, useful to a desirable end, or because one loves to do it, but only to be able to quit- a condition that a saner time would regard as infernal, a condemnation. This is explained, of course, by the dullness of the work, by the loss of responsibility for, or credit for, or knowledge of the thing made. What can be the status of the working small farmer in a nation whose mottos is a sigh of relief: ‘Thank God It’s Friday’?”
The Urban Farmer once told a group of agriculture enthusiasts, “[Farming] is a lot of work, but I’m fortunate to love the work.” Long after the chairs and people shuffled away, his earnest words lingered in my ear. To see a man live his values, to be a solution to a growing problem, to take pride in his work, to enjoy it, all of it, is rare. I felt immensely privileged to have front row seats to his endeavor, and in watching and participating, I’ve been exposed to a slew of men and women on similarly inspiring paths.
Back when the farm rows were freshly formed, and the seeds were still emerging in the hoop house, a group gathered to lend a hand. This particular group, meets regularly to share their efforts and help each other in their respective urban agriculture endeavors. Everyone smiled. Everyone made an effort. Everyone cooperated, took instruction and shared their insights without ego or vanity. It was beautiful!
As that volunteer evening progressed, the farm transformed with progress, and I could see a fulfillment in the Urban Farmer’s eyes like I had never seen. As I interacted with all these kind souls, the ones with dirt under their nails and tan lines on their arms, I felt a new sense of community and a motivation to think beyond my own life questions, career insecurities and your typical cocktail of early thirties anxieties. It was on this powerful evening I met Hanna.
Hanna Mosca, like the Urban Farmer, doesn’t just work for a paycheck. She works to be part of a solution to the growing problems in our food system. She works to teach kids and adults the importance and the fulfillment of working with our hands, of digging in the dirt and of eating what we grow. She is the Garden Program Director for the YMCA, which means she oversees garden and education programs at four different YMCA’s in Pittsburgh- also a lot of work! I will dive into her role in more detail in a future post (because her work merits a dedicated post!), but for now, suffice it to say, Hanna also takes a lot of pride in her work.
It’s very fitting that both Hanna and the Urban Farmer found Sig Figs whose appreciation for food, earnest food, borders on obsession. Hanna’s boyfriend Drew is a food writer, cocktail connoisseur and a farm volunteer. For years, the two of us have been paralleling each other in social and work circles. With so many overlaps and shared interests, it was high time for all of us to celebrate the season and the fruits of the farmers’ labors. It was time to gather together, to dine and to enjoy each other’s company.
As the last hose droplets hit the crops, we switched gears to grilling the harvest, toasting cocktails, gathering around a fire as the hot day transitioned to a cool night and simply enjoying the farm. It wouldn’t have been a Quelcy gathering without a theme, so this summer/farm/farmer/food celebration’s menu was an ode to mint!
A Mint Themed Dinner on the Farm
Grilled Eggplant, Onions & Potatoes with Mint Pesto
Cucumber, Tomato, Roasted Beet & Mint Salad with Greek Yogurt
Grilled Beet & Beef Burgers with Roasted Peach & Mint Salsa and Bleu Cheese
Zucchini & Beet Bundt Cake with a Mint Vodka Glaze
Ginger Pear Tea with Lemons & Mint Syrup (and a splash of bourbon)
Mojitos (disguised as Campari) à la Drew
plus a bonus Panzanella because now is the time to celebrate tomatoes!!!
We weren’t escaping our work. We were celebrating it, one deliciously minty sip and bite at a time. Stay tuned for recipes from this mint menu and for more on inspiring food growers, movers and shakers.