Posts Tagged ‘amish’

The Devils Bidding

Two weeks ago, the Chesterhill Produce Auction got underway with a bang!  It is run fabulously by Tom Redfern and Bob Fedeski of Rural Action. Despite a few thunderstorms, everyone was in great spirits and looking forward to a great growing year. I was looking for ingredients to make a killer pie! I bid on some fresh asparagus, French breakfast radishes, multi-colored Swish chard and spring garlic. This is the pizza I made, but first a little psychological ditty about bidding at an auction. And it ain’t pretty.

If you’ve ever been to an auction of any kind, you’ll know that the little aggressive pilot light inside your unsually calm and empathetic soul starts heating up.  At first, the auction looks daunting but as long as you follow the few rules of etiquette, you’ll have no problem. Rule number one: NO ONE IS YOUR FRIEND AT AN AUCTION.

This is an experience I (my auction number is 186) had last summer:

 A flat of bodacious Mortgage Lifter tomatoes is held up by an Amish guy. These are the most wonderful tomatoes I’ve seen in my life. I am salavating already so I start the first bid.

” I have two, two, two dollars?” The auctioneer says and I look around daring anyone to bid against me. These tomatoes are mine.

A sweet old woman raises her hand extending her little pinky and smiles innocently; she instantly becomes my worse enemy.

“Humma-na-humma, two-fifty, two-fifty, do-I-have-a-three?” the auctioneer looks at me pointing his arm. I nod and grit my teeth hoping to look like a mafia hit man.

“Three-a-ma, Three-a-ma, humana-humana, do I have four-four-four-four dollars?” The auctioneer senses blood in the water now as he arm-points to the woman. She looks trepadacious and I think she’s gonna cave in soon. Then she nods and raises her pinky.

 In my eyes, the bidder is not a nice old woman anymore, she is Beelzabub, lord of darkness and is trying to reek havoc upon my world. She is going for my throat and will crush me with that little pinky she keeps waving. Therefore I must  counter her childish bidding with strength and the full might of my two years experience here at this auction. My next  trumping bid is gonna be an ugly upper-cut to her psyche. 

“Four-fitty, do I have four-fitty, fitty, fitty, four-fitty to you?” He says with an arm point. I nod an aggressive yes.

Now Beelzebub is turning and talking to others gathered around her for guidance. They back off, not wanting to help, or hinder this fight. She looks down, worried. She is going down like the Titanic. I smirk in self-admiration for vanquishing Miss Pinky.

“Humana-humana-humana, five, five, five, do I have…”

“Shoot, I’ll pay eight dollars.” The woman says, upsurping the process. She looks in her purse at the cash she has. The auctioneer looks puzzled but smiles at me and shrugs his shoulders.

 My mouth drops and I wanna complain about her not following protocal. She has now cast me into a pit of doubt. My mortgage lifters have sprouted wings and are flying away like some 70’s cartoon. I look to the auctioneer for guidance. No help there because he loves when the price to goes up. The Amish guy who raised these tomatoes is smiling also. A sinking feeling drops from my chest to my feet.

“Ah, I guess we have eight, eight, eight, humana, humana. Are you in, number 186?”

It’s decision time for me now and all 50 people eye me, the poor bastard that got out bid by an old womans pinky. Or, I could still carry on and bid $8.50 for this flat- but that would make me a chump, paying too much at the height of the summer tomato glut.

I nod my head no. I am finished. Beelzabub won.

“Yay! I got those beautiful tomatoes? For only eight dollars? Yay!” says the woman over and over.

I shuffle away from the bidding and look at the other vegetables feigning a laissez-faire attitude. I know that I have been whipped but must keep my cocky composure or this flaw may be taken advantage of by other bidders.

 The auction continues and I bid and win everything I need to make some glorious pizzas but all the while, I keep an eye on her, my arch-nemesis.

 I had hoped for bidding redemption someday but I haven’t seen her again.

 Below are the fabulous vegetables to be found at our little auction.So you think I’m being a little hypersensitive about vegetables, well just check these out.

Local Spelt Pizza Crust

Whole grains of the spelt.

The spelt is here. I have been waiting for this day since the summer of 2009. Back then I drove to my Amish friends in Chesterhill, Ohio to get some late season asparagus and stawberries. As I popped over the roller-coaster road that was being slowly strangled by undergrowth, I came to Joe Hirshberger’s sprawling farm.

The hilly panorama around Chesterhill is like a Grant Wood painting. Undulating hills and steep ravines bottom out into small farm ponds used by horses, cows and sheep. Joe’s  farm is always worked the old fashioned way; with huge hairy-hoofed horses, carriages, buggies, peach trees, drying timber, sheep, chickens, dogs and steel-wheeled contraptions to capture the oats, wheat, spelt and corn. Barefoot kids in straw hats come and go past my window. Off to my right I see the fields where farmers grow, cut and stack all the corn and grains for the season. Closer in, near the road, some Amish women and kids kneel mosque-style (bad analogy.) They look like big black boulders slowly making thier way along the earthen potato rows.

Brandon in the foreground and Joe in the distance, guiding draft horses as they cut the spelt.

Then I see the Hirshberger house over the next hill, and there’s Joe, guiding four huge draft horses as they pull a cutting device through his field. He’s being followed by a dark haired guy stacking up the bundles that joe has cut.

“That job sucks.” I thought, and got out of my air-conditioned comfort to greet them.  Joe halted the horses and flies buzzed around in a moving cloud of chaos. I now regretted getting out of my car, as the air felt like a sauna. A horsefly bit my neck.

“Hi, my name is Brandon,” the dark haired guy said. His shirt was covered in sweat and field debris. “Who are you?’ he asked.

“I’m John, from Avalanche Pizza. Just stopped by to say hi to Joe.” I said, pointing at Joe. I wondered if Brandon was a migant worker. Then realized that I had seen him in the paper. He was that back-to0nature, seed-and-wheat guy who the paper said was bringing back the old-world style connection between local markets and local farmers.

Brandon gathering the spelt after Joe cuts it.

“How do you know Joe?” Brandon asked, just as Joe walked up and shook my hand. Joe’s white collared shirt was soaked but still pulled tight around his neck. His black felt jacket,  black pants, and beard were coated with beige wheat debris. Joe had no shoes on, and as he walked around (he never stands still), I cringed at the thought of those sharp 3-inch stalks stabbing my feet like punji sticks.

“Hello John,” Joe said, stroking his long beard.

“I buy some stuff from Joe every so often,” I explained to Brandon.”It’s a hot one, huh?” I said to both, and realized instantly how stupid a question that was.

“Are you interested in this spelt for your pizzas?” Brandon said.

“What’s spelt?” I asked. Both Brandon and Joe looked at each other quizzically then they both laughed. I thought they were gonna fall down in shared hysterics then realized I was standing in a field of spelt.

Well, that’s how this all started.

Spelt “on the vine” from Joe’s farm in Chesterhill, Ohio.

From then on, it’s been a great partnership. Joe Hirshberger still puts up with my ignorance about his religion, plants, vegetables, culture, and farm animals. He has taken a big chance on me and has planted part of his valuable acreage for my handshake promise to use his spelt and corn flour.

Brandon and Michelle Ajamian (His partner in Shagbark Seed and Milling) have come though in spades with their new mill and plans for the future. They have ground this hard-shelled grain fine enough for me to work into a crazy-good nutty pizza dough.

Moist local spelt on the right and the stone ground whole wheat from Con Agra that we had previously used.

This truly local flour has been incorporated into Avalanche Pizza’s menu-mix for a week now.  We’ve sold over 100 pounds of spelt pizza crust and breads in seven days!

Thank you Brandon, Michelle and Joe.