By Emily J Weitz
Pike’s Farm Stand, which overflows with the season’s harvest right up through Halloween, is a Hamptons institution. If you were to stop by in season, you’d find Jennifer Pike talking with loyal patrons, or Jim Pike delivering another batch of the freshest local produce available. And this past season was a fine one indeed, with the weather conditions lining up just right to ensure lots of sunny days. Not only does this mean that “the crops were sweet and grew well,” says Jennifer Pike; but because of the Pikes’ location just down the road from Sagg Main, a lot of beach traffic means a lot more people driving by, unable to resist the look of the melons, which according to Pike, were “exceptional this year”.
Now that the pace of the East End is slowing, the Pikes have closed up shop to focus on the quieter details of farming: finances, equipment maintenance, and yes, of course, cooking. Jennifer plans to share her favorite cooking ideas, inspired by the farm, with the community on Wednesday, November 17 at the Rogers Memorial Library. Come at noon with a bagged lunch to hear about what’s in season and what’s on the table Thanksgiving Day at the Pikes’ place.
When Jennifer Pike was approached by the library about giving a talk, she wasn’t sure what topic to choose. Memorable Meals for Everyday Cooks is designed to give people ideas for “easy Thanksgiving sides you can make ahead,” says Pike. With people often traveling to get to their holiday festivities, it’s nice to have something you can bring with you, especially when it will bring a taste of your own home to the table. Since we live in a place so rich with local flavor, it only makes sense that we’d bring something from our own backyards.
Some of the recipes she’ll be sharing include corn pudding, stuffing (which is more like a bread pudding, it’s so moist), and a caramel nut tart.
“That’s an alternative to pecan pie,” Pike explains, “which I hate.”
At this time of year, there’s still plenty of produce coming out of the earth to use in our cooking.
“There’s lots of broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, salad greens and winter veggies like kale, turnips, and parsnips,” she says.
Mostly, when Pike cooks up these ingredients, it’s “really simple. Broccoli with butter and salt is just right.”
But she also incorporates these ingredients into other dishes, like the stuffing, which features local spinach, or of course, the corn pudding, which she usually uses corn from the farm frozen at its peak in summer.
And then there’s the produce that may be “a little past its peak. These veggies still taste better than something shipped from far away and a lot better than what you’d find in the grocery store…”
And on top of the taste and health benefits of eating these locally grown vegetables, buying local is politically important.
“It’s really important to support the local farmers that work to stay open,” Pike says.
“There are a lot of very slow days. People want them to be open on Thanksgiving, but it’s important to support them in between… Eating local is as much about supporting the farmers as eating healthy, especially at this time of year.”
Not only are we supporting the farmers, but we’re supporting the earth by reducing our carbon footprint. The shorter a distance your food has to travel, the less fuel is used on getting that salad onto your plate.
Pike reminds that “just because summer ends doesn’t mean the idea of the carbon footprint disappears… It’s harder to remember to stop at the farm stand when it’s forty degrees, but we need to continue to make that effort.”
Pike’s talk, which will provide inspiration for the Thanksgiving table, fits right into this idea of supporting the local farmer. For the Pikes, there’s a strong connection between the Thanksgiving holiday and the philosophy of farming.
“This is a holiday devoted completely to food,” says Pike. “And trying to get as much of that food from as close as you can is turning into the whole point in our generation. Thanksgiving is a time to appreciate food. And we are certainly thankful for another successful season under our belt, and being able to provide food to our neighbors.”
Jennifer Pike will present “Memorable Meals for Everyday Cooks” at the Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton on Wednesday, November 17 at noon. Recipes will be shared and she will also discuss the local vegetables coming out of the ground at this time of year. For more information or to reserve your space go to www.myrml.org or call the library at 283-0774.