Vegatable Prep
All hands are busy prepping veggies for the soup pots. Photos by Danielle Zerbonne

Soulful soup from the FARM

By Danielle Zerbonne - February 22, 2006

The FARM Institute in Katama hosted a flavorful evening of "Stock Making and Soup Tasting" last Thursday night, a soulful soup-making workshop held in the warm FARM Institute kitchen. Local caterer Jan Buhrman lent her considerable knowledge to a small but eager group of women gathered around a large table laden with huge red onions, sticks of butter, shiny green apples, thick stalks of celery, and long, skinny carrots.

The stocks themselves were made by Ms. Buhrman ahead of time, because a good stock takes 8 to 10 hours to prepare ("Don't stir, don't rush, don't cover," was the advice on the handout). About a dozen plastic containers filled with golden stocks sat on the table amid the vegetables. If workshop participants took away one lesson, it was that great soup starts with great stock.

Robyn Hose
Robyn Hosey stirs a fragrant pot of mussels in preparation for her bisque.

Fresh vegetables, not tired ones that have been languishing for too long in the refrigerator, are another key. "I don't use canned products," Ms. Buhrman said, "and I hope after tonight you won't either."

The conversation soon turned to flavor combinations. "I say trust your instincts," Ms. Buhrman said. "If you think it'll taste good together, it probably will."

En garde

Before long the women were wielding knives and peelers, prepping their ingredients. They shuffled around the large kitchen, rinsing, measuring, stirring, and chatting. Ms. Buhrman walked people through slicing techniques, talked about the difference between green and golden olive oil, and stressed the importance of thyme.

"Thyme is key. If you don't have a garden, get one just so you can grow thyme," she said. As the ingredients were broken down into pieces, the gorgeous scent of fresh produce mingled with the already richly herb-fragranced air.

A large, rust-colored bag of saffron threads that Ms. Buhrman had purchased abroad was passed beneath noses, to be used for the "Saffron Mussel Chowda Bisque." Dark rooster meat from the Farm Institute's own birds was used for the "Yucatan Lime Chicken" soup, and the scent of roasting onions soon joined the mix in preparation for the old classic, French Onion Soup.

Nora Kennedy and Anna Edey
Education Manager Nora Kennedy and Anna Edey carry on a friendly conversation as they prepare butternut squash for Curried Butternut Apple soup.

Little went to waste as potato peelings, squash innards and other scraps were tossed into a bucket for the Farm Institute's livestock. "The piggies will be hungry tomorrow," said Melinda DeFeo, the Farm Institute's enrichment manager. "They'll eat anything but onions and citrus."

Spreading the message

Education manager Nora Kennedy, in between preparations for Curried Butternut Apple soup, explained the idea behind the workshop. "We started playing with the idea of adult programs, and cooking came up immediately," she said. Jan Buhrman came to mind as a knowledgeable local chef/teacher, "who is interested in using local products. We want to promote that."

The FARM Institute embodies all the ideals it promotes in the community: sustainable, responsible use of the land, with as little waste as possible.

Workshops like these help spread that message while producing some fantastic food at the same time.