Tess on the Town: From N.Y.C. to ‘Mesa’s Edge’
I’m bringing up the rear, here, but I just read a fabulous book that people who love food will find fascinating.
“At Mesa’s Edge” was published in 2004 by food writer Eugenia Bone, so many of you might already know of it.
Bone, who splits her time between New York and the North Fork Valley, has written for The New York Times Magazine, Saveur, Food & Wine, Gourmet and Martha Stewart Living magazines. She’s written several books — “At Mesa’s Edge” being her first — and currently blogs and shares her recipes with The Denver Post.
Bone was living in New York City when her husband, a Western transplant, came home from a fishing trip in the Rockies with a lusty, crazy idea: Buying a 45-acre ranch in Crawford.
She gave a hesitant “yes,” not quite knowing how radically this would change and grow her life.
What bloomed from that experience is “At Mesa’s Edge,” a beautifully written book full of Western characters, city girl angst and the discovery of the food bounty found in the North Fork Valley.
The book is part memoir, part travelogue and part cookbook, and starts with the author’s first summer on the ranch with her husband and two children.
She wandered the valley, discovered country auctions and spent most of her money on mountains of fresh local produce: Olathe sweet corn, vine-ripened tomatoes, Black Friar plums, anasazi beans, peaches, chile peppers and cantaloupe.
“The vegetables are so cheap and fresh that I buy way more than I ever would in New York,” she wrote. “I just keep pulling over at roadside stands and shoving another load into the back of the car.”
Her cooking began to shift from dishes made with sardines and tuna from the delis of New York’s Little Italy to fresh creations borne of the fertile soil in the North Fork Valley.
Bone found a source for zucchini blossoms after a few tentative attempts.
“Hi, my name is Eugenia Bone, and I’m looking to buy zucchini flowers. I’ll pick them myself, and I can assure you that I will not damage your plants. Please call me at ...” No one called her back.
Next time she said, “Hi, this is Gena from Crawford calling. Can you tell me how to get to your farm stand?” Thus she found a farm in Olathe with orange blossoms as far as the eye could see.
After a run-in with swarming bees (she was wearing an orange Broncos cap), she returned home, calmed her frazzled nerves with a couple of beers and made beer battered blossoms with cilantro mayonnaise.
When her architect husband, Kevin, returned to New York for work, the solitude set in, and Bone began to miss lunch dates, Campari cocktails and the frenzied pace of life in the city.
Eventually, her clock adjusted to the rhythms of the country. She watched her kids playing on the ranch, planted a huge garden and discovered a circle of friends.
“I am slowly becoming inspired. It is a strange, sneaking-up-on you kind of inspiration. Not a hit, punch, or blow, but a kind of awakening,” she wrote.
Bone’s book is an elegant collection of memories, rich with stories of locals such as Hippy LeRoux, and a primer to anyone developing a deep connection with the land.
After you are entertained by her prose, turn the page and find half a book of that will send you scurrying to the kitchen.
Buy the book, or check out the book from the library.
In the meantime, here are a few of the recipe titles to pique your interest: eggplant and porcini mushroom dip, refried bean crostini, zucchini flowers stuffed with smoked trout, game bird broth with cilantro crespelle, sweet pea and mint soup, ranch Carbonara, egg pasta with elk Bolognese and steak with chimichurri sauce.
QUOTE: “What has happened to me? In just a few months, my life has turned into a yuppie version of ‘Green Acres.’ ” — Eugenia Bone