Kitchen table talk. Review: Farmstead Chef


Inn Serendipity Innkeepers Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko. Photo:

I’m somewhat hesitant to recommend Farmstead Chef, a combination cookbook/narrative from couple John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist.

It’s not because the book isn’t good. Quite the opposite, really. It’s just that I can’t be responsible for how your life might change once you read their inspiring story of ditching the corporate scene for low-impact organic farming, combining that passion with cooking all while running the eco-friendly (and award winning) Inn Serendipity Bed and Breakfast.

Tune in, turn on, drop out

Cover of Farmstead Chef

Farmstead Chef by John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist, New Society Publishers, 256pp, $13.50.

Ivanko and Kivirist make it sound easy, fun, and life-affirming to drop out of the rat race, turn on to the simple but sensually satisfying aspects of existence and tune in to the processes by which people make and do things by the sweat of their brow.

“I could do this,” I kept thinking, as I read the snippets of their own story in between pouring over mouth-watering recipes. After which I started obsessively looking at properties in my region where my husband and I could shift gears, cranking out Transition Voice in between tending chickens, rigging off-grid power systems, harvesting herbs and cooking up my world famous breakfasts.

But as I’m sure you can imagine, too many of us are in no position in this economy to just drop it all for the great rustic barn. I won’t give up the dream, but for now, I’m still just in fantasy mode.

Good eats

Fortunately, Farmstead Chef is chock full of tasty recipes easily explained that can keep you inspired whether you own that eco-Inn or merely inhabit a Manhattan brownstone or dwell deep in the ‘burbs. I particularly loved their Baked Omelet Roll, Winter Squash Fritters, and Stuffed Roti with Chickpea Filling.

What’s also different about this oh-so-local take on eating is that it hasn’t inhibited the couple’s fusion imagination, creating dishes like Casablanca Couscous, Indonesian Asparagus and Pasta, and Latvian Pirages. In other words, locally-grown doesn’t have to stay confined to local culture (though there are recipes a-plenty from the Amish, Shakers, and driven by the melting pot of their Wisconsin locale, the ingredients of which translate well to many North American regions.)

Inspired living wherever you are

Throughout Farmstead Chef, readers are treated to many essays, asides, and sidebar commentaries that fill out the story of organic foods, eco-principles, frugality, consciousness, and joy as it all relates to food.

But the authors also appear to “get” peak oil, and the terrible implications of climate change. Not belaboring the point, they obviously take the positive tack by being pro-active in their own lives and focusing on what they can do in a concrete way, such as using solar panels on their Inn. Still, that such awareness is present, strengthens the urgency of their message.

A declaration of American interdependence—among farmers and diners, city slickers and country folk, people and the land —may hold out the greatest promise and hope for tomorrow, as energy costs soar ever higher and climate change makes it snow in Mexico, flood in Australia and leads to massive forest fires in China. Soon, we may all be eating more farmsteadtarian, not by choice, but by circumstance. We’re in it together now on our common home: Earth.

Farmstead Chef is the perfect hybrid book: It’ll be a delight to any local foodie convert, providing scores of imaginative recipes and tidbits of information in line with the whole relocalization vibe. But the book’s disarming nature also makes it a perfect choice for those intrigued by local food, and aware of the predicaments of our time, yet not taking definitive action to radically change their lives. This book might make them want to. The old velvet glove approach.

“The best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” So goes the old saying. It may yet be that the best way to spur a shift in consciousness (and touch the heart) of everyone is through the very same organ. And some very good recipes!

–Lindsay Curren, Transition Voice

You might also enjoy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *