Kurt Timmermeister has never been afraid of trying new things, but when digital photography overtook traditional film, the author, dairy farmer and former restaurateur of Seattle’s Cafe Septieme was uncharacteristically obstinate.
“I don’t have an interest in digital — there’s nothing about it that’s serious to me — but I love shooting film,” said Timmermeister, who landed on Vashon in 1991 while searching for a proper homestead to commit his roots. Seattle’s ever-climbing cost of living had priced him out of home ownership in the city, the first of many experiences later recounted in his acclaimed 2012 memoir, Growing a Farmer.
“I just stopped and I never picked up a camera again until this project,” he said, talking about the series of recipes, photographs and reflections gleaned from life on his Beal Road farm, now included in his newest volume of work released on June 4, Farm Food II: Spring & Summer.
“[Film cameras] slow you down and make you experience moments certainly better than with a digital camera,” he said. “Now I’m seeing my farm in a new way, and I think that’s kind of profound and interesting and rare. After decades of being in the same place, you can see it in a new way.”
According to Timmermeister, many of the enterprises at the farm are readily misunderstood, from the slaughter of animals to the amount of time and effort needed to make a piece of cheese. Farm Food attempts to demystify his occupation while capturing the character of what Timmermeister unmistakably considers an increasingly rare and thus exceedingly special life. One spent during the spring and summer months, as he describes throughout Farm Food II, in the bright joyousness of nature — and in the kitchen, too, where he creates the dishes found throughout the book. But Farm Food also makes mention of the world beyond the farm, in excerpts where Timmermeister recalls the past, as well as the human moments he considers most affecting.
In the chapter titled April, Timmermeister describes the company of good friends who were assisting in the slaughter of a pig, the grisly work providing time for the otherwise busy men to spend together.
“Instead of a spectacle, it was something we needed to get done. With great care, certainly, but it was still a chance to hang out and talk for the two hours it took to do the hard work. The three of us are rarely together for that long without an interruption. None of us checked our emails or texts,” he writes. “What made this slaughter different was that Andrew had never seen an animal killed for meat. Matt and I have a fair amount of experience butchering animals. Today we watched Andrew and remembered when we had been in his shoes.”
Timmermeister said that he wanted his Farm Food series to deeply explore the background of his food, and what it means to take a recipe from the raw ingredients of the farm all the way to the table.
“To actually cook dinner is, to me, tremendously about context and less so about the actual meal, and most cookbooks deal with the actual meal. I want to know where this comes from, and why this is interesting, and what you’re making with it. That’s a way more interesting story to me. I hope I contribute to those areas the most,”