A few weeks ago, I went to Nezinscot Farm in Turner to interview their chef, Ashley Wiencek, about her work in their café kitchen. I had been to Nezinscot Farm before and had missed the intrigue and magic I found on this June day. Wiencek was young, delightful, and happy to talk about food. I also met farm co-owner, Gloria Varney. Bright, energetic, and industrious, Varney makes the magic happen at Nezinscot Farm. Not only a trained herbalist, Varney can make bread, milk cows (and goats), grow fruits and vegetables, can and preserve food, and likely a multitude of other life-sustaining tasks.
I visited the farm three times in the course of my research. My last visit was after the Sun Journal story ran and I wanted to take a closure look at the canned products for sale. I picked up a small jar of “Cordial Jam.” It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I had paid fourteen dollars for the little jar of jam. Such simple ingredients. Mixed cordial-infused local berries, organic sugar, lemon juice, and pectin. That was it.
I tried just a spoonful of jam on one of Varney’s homemade graham crackers. The delicious and hearty combination was profound. The secret must be in the cordial. Have I ever had a cordial? I found a recipe for a “Blackberry Cordial” in one of my old cookbooks and it sounded like a lovely elixir made with blackberry juice, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and French brandy.
Oddly enough, the snack filled me with a profound sense of loss. The loss of friends, our loss of connection with the good earth, and a loss of heritage skills like making jams and cordials. And yet here is Gloria Varney, a woman of about my age, making and doing and being all these real things. Not just writing about doing them, but actually doing them.
Curious, I sent her a quick e-mail and asked her how it was she accomplished so many things. “Dear Gloria…it seems like there must be some kind of magic going on up there or at least a magical spreadsheet, because I could not possibly keep up with you.”
To which she replied:
“As for how it all happens, it is a skill that I master and possess; multi-tasking and efficiencies.”
Just like that. That is how the magic happens…mastery and confidence. But we know it’s not “just like that.” Mastery is not magic at all. It’s practice, practice, practice. And maybe a predisposition for some skills over others. And some natural abilities.
I’m nursing this Grandpa Ott morning glory plant along. It fell on “stony places, where they had not much earth.” Growing things have a disposition to grow. Vines want to climb. During this peak summer season, everyone and everything is busy.
I remain cordially yours…