The Heart of Ohio

raneyfarms.jpgIt's not a common occurrence for me to be hit with something that rocks the fabric of my gastronomical universe so unbelievably hard that I'm forced to reassess all that I believed to know about food and my own taste buds.  Quietly hiding in the heart of Ohio, I had come upon what I can only call a culinary A-bomb, and it came in the form of a deceivingly plain post dinner pie. Encased by a simple crust, peaches purchased from Amish neighbors lay nestled in gooey fruitiness, cold vanilla seeping in from the sides. It looked harmless enough.

The first bite stops time. Holy smokes! Where has this been all my life? Had I really been eating pie before? As I continued to devour bite after bite I realized the entire goodness of this pie lay in the fact that the peaches, perhaps the best I'd ever had, were fresh, locally grown and home baked.  I was beginning to question the origins of everything I've eaten before. Where had it been coming from and why hadn't I ever tasted ingredients that were this good?

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But wait, what the fuck am I doing in Ohio one wonders, on a farm, no less? People who know me would know that certainly I did not go to Ohio in search of new culinary heights. In fact, I was hired to work on a film and I was staying with the director’s family - who happened to live on a small "hobby" farm. I was told by my friend Keelen Monihan, who also happened to be the lead in the film, before I arrived, that the Raynes grew and cooked their own produce. Astounded by their pie (as well as their beautiful beefsteak tomatoes), the Raynes kindly gave me a quick tour of the farm and had a few words to say about growing their own vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruit.

farmemmy.jpgEmmy grew up on a farm. In North Dakota. So, not surprisingly, she is accustom to the particulars of farming and gardening. Really, she's an expert. Bill, her husband, sells insurance. As he guided me around the farm he casually plucked mint and raspberries from their bushes and offered me some. About 60 feet away was their front porch, where their, THEIR, tomatoes, pears, onions and apples were ripening.

All in all this extremely pleasant week on the Raynes farm opened my eyes to what I was missing out while living in New York. Not just the quality of produce, but their entire style of living. The food, the land, the air, everything comes together to produce an exquisitely simple and incomparable dining environment. From crab apple jam to raspberries eaten straight off the bush, everything is made to please body and mind. Who knew that such luxuries were hidden in the Midwest?

Finally, I've truly realized the importance of the freshness, and the source of ingredients impact the quality of a dish beyond imagination. That isn't to say you cannot find a great meal in your local supermarkets, but it does make a world of difference, especially when you get down to simple, good, Americana.


Raney Acres farms by Chris Low