Susie Middleton's life on the farm inspires a new cookbook

Susie MiddletonSusie Middleton is likely familiar to many of our subscribers. She is the former chief Editor for Fine Cooking magazine, and has previously published two cookbooks dedicated to vegetables, Fast, Fresh & Green: More than 90 Delicious Recipes for Veggie Lovers, and The Fresh & Green Table: Delicious Ideas for Bringing Vegetables into Every Meal. These cookbooks have earned Susie the nickname of 'The Vegetable Queen.' In addition to giving away five copies of her new cookbook, Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories, we asked Susie to discuss the inspiration for the book:

Six years ago, when I left my fancy suburb and my job as chief editor of Fine Cooking magazine to move to an island and write, I think there were probably more than a few folks shaking their heads at me.

"Crazy, that girl!" I can hear them say.

But I knew. I knew deep in my soul that I needed a change. And that there was something waiting for me.

I didn't know exactly what-just that I wanted to be more connected to the source of my food. And to grow a few vegetables.

Mind you, I didn't want to be completely irresponsible, so I wrote a proposal for a cookbook. A straight-up technique cookbook, full of useful recipes based on smart techniques I'd developed over the years. The proposal sold, I began work on Fast, Fresh & Green, and I could honestly tell people I was doing something constructive while settling into a new life on Martha's Vineyard. As it happens, that book sold pretty darn well, and my publisher asked me to write another one. (Again on vegetables, only this time, in The Fresh & Green Table, I scooched vegetables from the side of the plate to the center).

Meanwhile, in my new rural home, I fell in with some farmers. And made friends with some people promoting local food. Then I met a handsome carpenter with a green thumb. And pretty soon, we had a rented community garden plot on a local farm. Then the carpenter and I found a rustic old farmhouse to rent, and it came with a little piece of land.

So we planted a bigger market garden, built a simple farm stand, and started selling our veggies. Then we got a few chickens. And it just grew from there.

And, well, it is safe to say now, with 500 laying hens, a hoop house, a bigger farm stand, and a lot of vegetables, that I figured out what the thing was that was waiting for me-farming.

I'm pretty sure, through all my years of office work, that I secretly harbored some warm and fuzzy associations with growing vegetables and the farming life (time outdoors, time spent with my Dad, fresh juicy delicious tomatoes and strawberries and sweet corn), and that memory stuck with me stubbornly. And I think I also knew that my overactive psyche could really use some physical activity, some time outdoors-every day. Even if it meant long hours, difficult work, and even lower pay than being a cook or a writer. (I can really pick the careers!)

But I honestly had no idea how stimulating and challenging and rewarding this new life would be. Or how the farm life would influence my writing and my cooking. One day I realized that my blog, sixburnersue.com, had gently segued from a vegetable cooking primer into the whole story of our adventures on the farm-and the story of my new life with the handsome carpenter, his little daughter, our rescue dog Farmer, and a bunny named Cocoa.

One day the carpenter said to me, "Your next book should be about the farm, you know. With recipes for all the vegetables we grow all year round, and lots of pictures and stories." So, yeah, you'd think I could have thought of that idea myself, huh? (Well, of course I had thought about it a bit, but I let him think it was his idea.) And actually, like every cookbook author knows, the really cool finished book that is Fresh From the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories, wouldn't exist without the wonderful work that my publisher-my editor, the art directors, the marketers-did to package my words and recipes, as well as 200 beautiful photos, into something incredible. (Do I feel really lucky? Hell, yes.)

I will, of course, still take full responsibility for the delicious recipes. This time around I got to do everything from breakfast to snacks, dinner to dessert: Farm House French Toast with Backyard Berry Syrup; Breakfast Tostadas with Scrambled Eggs, Sweet Corn, Cilantro & Fresh Salsa; Roasted Tomato Rustic Tart; Winter Market Meat Loaf; Summer Veggie-Palooza Paella; Spicy Thai Shrimp and Baby Bok Choy Stir Fry; Little Pear Crostatas; Gingery Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp with Brown Sugar-Pecan Topping to name a few.

And guess what? Even the carpenter got in on the game; he designed four garden/farm projects-including a small chicken coop based on our very first one-for an appendix in the back of the book. Very cool.

We've also included some growing tips, some of our favorite vegetable varieties, and a few of the farming lessons we've learned along the way. In the end, I think there's something for every cook and gardener-and for everyone who dreams of getting outside and growing a little of their own (delicious) food. 

3 Comments

  • boardingace  on  2/12/2014 at 7:43 PM

    What a cool interview - Susie writes very well and feels like such an approachable, likeable person! Neat life, too :)

  • Rinshin  on  2/13/2014 at 8:03 AM

    Lovely interview and now I have another blog I can follow.

  • rmshores  on  3/1/2014 at 8:54 PM

    Thanks for the interview...Susie, you are an inspiration.

Post a comment

You may only comment on the blog if you are signed in. Sign In

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!

Archives