Home, Home, Soup

31 Oct

I was a good 30-something daughter and went Upstate to visit my mother this weekend, therefore, there’s not much food in this post. But don’t despair! From what I can gather, you guys seem to like my pictures of pretty things and there’s lots of that in this post! So, without further ado, may I present some beautiful scenery from a blustery, wet, Upstate weekend.

My mom met me at the train station and we immediately went over to the place where she works, the Watervliet Shaker Heritage Society, as it was the first day of their annual Christmas Craft fair.

This is the meeting house.

Watervliet Shaker Heritage Society

There’s three doors on the front when there should be only two. The city of Albany owns this site and they originally removed the two wooden doors, which were the entrances for the Brothers and Sisters, and stuck the one in the middle there. They also clad the exterior in brick, which has thankfully been removed in a recent restoration which also put the original doors back.

An interior staircase. Aren’t the colors beautiful?

Watervliet Shaker Heritage Society

The creamery.

Watervliet Shaker Heritage Society

The barns. There’s turkeys and chickens and quail over there. They make a lot of noise.

Watervliet Shaker Heritage Society

This is the herb garden that my mom is in charge of. The Shakers used herbs to flavor their foods, but also as medicine. They were also the first people in America to sell packaged seeds. Prior to the Shakers, seeds were sold in bulk and often got moldy over the winter. There are many Shaker cookbooks available out there, grab one if you see one. Their recipes were wonderfully simple and soul satisfyingly good.

Watervliet Shaker Heritage Society

And here’s what you were really waiting for, right? Oxen!
Shaker Oxen

The brown ones are Swiss browns, and the little black one, Kerry, is a heritage breed from Ireland that I’ve forgotten the name of.

Shaker oxen

And in case you didn’t know, oxen are always castrated males.

Shaker Oxen

I can’t remember which of the brown oxen is which, but their names are Freighter and Liner, and for good reason, they are HUGE.

Shaker Oxen

While both sects are Anabaptists, the Shakers differed from the Amish in their use of technology. The entire idea behind the Shaker religion was to become closer to God through perfection, good works and simplicity.

Shaker Oxen

Thus, if an invention came around that made their lives simpler and more perfect the Shakers would adopt that.

Shaker Oxen

I bring this up because over time these gorgeous guys were replaced with Studebakers and tractors.

Okay, let’s drag ourselves away from the oxen.

homeWe had a lovely dinner with my step-sister and her family; lambchops, sautéed escarole and puréed butternut squash. The mixture of garlicky greens and sweet delicious squash is one I hope to recreate here this week.

Here’s my nephew. Doesn’t he look like he’s about to do something evil?

After some shopping and general carousing, it was time to head back downstate to my other home. It’s hard to decide which home is home anymore, so I guess it’s just best to think of them both as well, home!

The sky was amazing, so I took some pictures of my favorite river in the whole world through the train’s windows.

Hudson River

Those are the mountains where Rip Van Winkle took his famous nap off in the distance there.

Hudson River

Because of the end of Daylight Savings and the massive storm we’d had, the sunset was brearthtakingly gorgeous.

Hudson River

The colors got even more intense than this if you can believe it, but there wasn’t enough light for me to continue taking pictures, so I turned back to my book.

And what did I find when I finally got home? The boy had made soup. One of the most wonderful, tasty, most deliciously simple, healthy and perfectly amazing soups I’ve ever tasted.

Perfect Soup

It was a cauliflower and mustard greens soup flavored with ginger, tarragon and harissa. Doesn’t sound like it could possibly work does it? But oh by did it! It tasted simultaneously healthy and hearty, it’s the kind of soup the Shakers probably would have made, and it was exactly what I had been craving.

What a great weekend. It’s so good to go/be home.


10 Responses to “Home, Home, Soup”

  1. bloglily October 31, 2006 at 1:29 pm #

    Oh, I love the east. The oxen are spectacular and I really enjoyed hearing about the Shakers. (And that soup! MMM.) Thank you for this lovely essay.

  2. sher October 31, 2006 at 2:00 pm #

    What a fabulous post! I will return to it again and again to look at the pictures. My goodness your mom is certainly lucky to work there. I’ve always been fascinated by the Shakers and envy you getting to go there. I never tire of looking at your beautiful pictures. Thanks so much.

  3. s'kat November 1, 2006 at 9:11 am #

    You know, it ain’t a party ’till the oxen come out!

    Looks like a fun trip, and your nephew merely seems full of mischief…. welcome back!

  4. Julie November 1, 2006 at 10:28 pm #

    What a great place to go to work everyday. I love those buildings, particularly the creamery and the barn. And the oxen!

    Your nephew is adorable and I interpret that expression as Stop Already With The Pictures Of Me. I think it’s the same look Sean Penn gives the paparazzi. My son gave me that look from about that age until fairly recently when he started wanting me to take pictures of him — for his MySpace page and that sort of thing..

  5. Chris November 2, 2006 at 6:31 pm #

    I went to my parents this weekend too . . .your mom is an herb gardener? How cool is that. No wonder you loved Bert Greene’s herb book.

  6. Tiny Banquet Committee November 2, 2006 at 8:04 pm #

    I agree, that is a *great* place to go to work every day! Also, a lovely post, with lovely photos – and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it right now, having recently arrived home after a particularly crowded and, um, fragrant commute on the F train.
    There was an interesting article about Shaker design in The New Yorker not too long ago, by the way; it’s here. I’ll definitely have to read more about them, and seek out some of their recipes!

  7. ann November 2, 2006 at 9:05 pm #

    bloglilly — thanks! the west is pretty spectacular too!

    sher — isn’t she?? she foregts sometimes, but i’ll have to tell her to look at this post, and kinda remind her, right?

    s’kat — he is! but he’s my favorite mischief maker in the whole world :-)

    julie — you are one perceptive mom! that was about the 6th picture i took of him. i can’t wait til he gets that old!

    chris — she is, isn’t that cool? so when i starting blabbing on about herbs, now you know why ;-)

    tbc — i remember that article, it’s fabulous! and yeah, i hear you about the F train, it’s really been raising my hackles lately!

  8. Tim November 3, 2006 at 5:38 am #

    What a fabulous place to spend the weekend – I would be seriously inclined to stay longer!

  9. Ulla November 11, 2006 at 9:55 pm #

    Anna! I love the oxen. I went to SUNY Albany, I wish I had taken advantage of the surrounding towns. Lovely!

  10. karen l. kirsch October 30, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    Just a small correction regarding oxen. Most always oxen are steers that have been trained as draft animals. They are not considered oxen until age four and on rare occasions cows (as in female) have been trained as oxen.

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