Pros: A view of farm life that was accurate for the most part.
Cons: stories timeline was convoluted and hard to follow and aspects of the story were very repetitive
How Chasing a Dream on a Vermont Farm Changed My Life
By Angela Miller with Ralph Gardner Jr.
Silence of the Goats
Written by Pam Grant
It is the dream of many city dwellers to give up all the hustle and bustle of the inner city lifestyle and move to the country. Ah yes, the country, where life is simple and the living is easy and slow. Well, this book is about one couple who did just that. Angela Miller and her husband Rust left the high stress world of NYC and Angela’s full time high stress job at a prestigious publishing firm, for a sprawling farm located in Vermont and started what today is thought of as one of the premiere Artesian goat cheese making businesses in New England, if not the whole U.S.
This couple has accomplished what thousands of city dwellers try and fail at. They took a rundown antique farm house and grounds and turned it back into a productive working farm. They are to be applauded for this accomplishment. Unfortunately, I had to endure a pile of insignificant tattle tales on community members, continuously repetitive sexual exploits of the farm animals and farmhands, and endless prattle in various topics ranging from employee management to hobnobbing with celebrities to find out how well this couple had done
When I first looked at Hay Fever, I thought it would make a lovely diversion from that little rut I had made for myself reviewing recipe books. Rather than being a cookbook, Hay Fever is about a personal exploration of the underside of one aspect of the cooking world. And, in truth, the premise---risking it all by leaving the city behind and starting from scratch on a Vermont farm to become one of the country’s premier artisan goat cheese makers in the worst economic downturn of the century---was a good one.
This book does, indeed, have a good story to tell. Unfortunately, the author and editors chose to tell it in a convoluted manor that seems to bury the important facts and highlight those trivial items that just didn’t contribute anything to the story. For example, the author chose to relate information about their goats being a “closed” herd. That means that they inbreed the stock with males from its own ranks, rather than bringing in another “outside” sire goat.
Good enough. But instead of just saying that, the reader is regaled with chapter after chapter about which goat sired which kid, and why this goat got more action than that goat, and how the kids were taken from their mothers and either raised as milkers or slaughtered (for the males), a fact that apparently weighed heavily on the author. Not only one or two times but in almost every chapter there was at least some reference to this procedure.
Now I have no doubt that this is an important factor in goat herd management. However, as a reader of a book about the goat cheese industry, in general, and this farms rise to fame and economic success (even through the tough economic times of recent years), I didn’t need to hear an explanation of this more than once.
I also found myself feeling sorry for the male half of this married team, who seems to be more of a handyman than a partner. The book paints a picture of him as a stubborn, perhaps less than ambitious Brit, who seemed to be around only to fix things that break and design ways to get more government grants for energy efficiency, and pick up rich guests at the airport.
I truly admire this couple for the brave step they took which, luckily for them, paid off. Many, many city folks think they will take the easy way out and “get back to nature” only to find out that farming and living off the land is anything but easy.
What these people did, and it took stepping back from the book and thinking about this in order to lose the clutter and get to the facts, was to hire good people who knew what they were doing and provide them with the space and raw materials they needed to do the job required. Oh the author learned a bunch along the way but they were smart enough to know they couldn’t do it on their own. They started small which made a huge difference too.
There are recipes in the book, eight to be exact. One is for a cheese platter of the cheeses they produce on their farm. One is for a simple type of cheese you could make at home---providing you have a source of raw milk nearby. Another recipe is for mac n cheese, of course using their home grown cheese. There is a recipe from chef/restaurant owner Jean-Gorges Vongerichten that the author found in the New York Times and put her own variation on using (you guessed it) cheese from their farm. There are also two dessert recipes that the author made in her other business venture, the Fish and Game Café, also mentioned in the book---although somewhat out of order in sequence of events.
None of the recipes listed in the book jumped out and screamed “make me!” In fact, none of the recipes even whispered. But in the tradition of Cheftalk reviews, which test recipes, I decided to make one. I initially wanted to make something using the goat cheese from their farm Consider Bardwell Farms. I researched it on the internet and found the only place it could be bought was in a small specialty shop some 50 miles away. Wouldn’t you know it; the day I got down there they weren’t open. I have all the luck. So I decided to make one of the recipes which didn’t call for Bardwell Farm cheese. The recipe was a simple tart. It was easy to make and was enjoyed by the whole family.
Is this story worth the read? The best answer I can give is perhaps, depending on your tastes and your desire to learn about the goat cheese industry. The book does provide a good insight into how and what it takes to really make it in that type of business. And there are places where they really humanize what they went through. One of the best tales related in the book was the short story about taking their first few goats home across state lines, illegally they were to discover later, in a rented van. Imagine the pungent odor of that van for the next folks that rented it for their family vacation.
On one hand, this is a must read for any city dweller who thinks the grass is greener in Vermont, or any other rural location. But I found the book to be so full of non-essential and distracting bits of information, and the author jumped around in the timeline so much, it was difficult to pull out the relevant facts. So, unless you’re into goats or thinking of giving up your cushy city desk job to live in the country I would pass on this one.
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
¼ cup ice water
2 pints fresh raspberries
½ cup water
1 pint heavy cream, chilled
- Make the pastry crust: In a food processor, pulse the flour sugar, and salt until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.
- In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolk and ice water. With the machine running, pour the egg mixture in a steady stream through the feed tube, processing until the dough just holds together when pinched, 10 – 15 seconds.
- Divide the dough in half. Flatten each half into a disk; wrap in plastic. Refrigerate the dough at least 1 hour or overnight, or freeze up to 1 month.
- Make the tart: Preheat the oven to 400 F. Wash the berries and dry gently.
- Put one pint of berries into a small saucepan with water and sugar. Mash the berries while stirring over medium heat until the jam mixture is thickened and spreadable. Set aside to cool.
- Whip the cold heavy cream in the bowl of a mixer using the whipping attachment for about 2 minutes. Set it aside in the refrigerator.
- Roll out one of the sweet pastry crust dough disks to 10 inches in diameter, then lay it over the rolling pin and transfer it to the tart pan. Fit it into the pan and crimp the edges. Poke holes in the bottom with a fork. (The other half of the dough can be frozen for later use)
- Lay aluminum foil over the dough and use pie weights or dried beans to weigh it down. Bake for 10 minutes. Take the crust out of the oven and remove the pie weights and foil. Bake uncovered for another 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the tart crust cool on a wire rack. To remove the tart from the pan, gently set it on a large can; the outside will release down. Transfer the tart from the base to a decorative plate.
- Spread the cooled berry jam on the crust. Place the individual berries on top in concentric circles from the inside out. Dress the tart with peaks of whipped cream.