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The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook and an Interview with Co-Author Brent Ridge

By admin | October 11, 2011

By: Cyndi Amaya

For Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, their philosophy varies a bit from others’; “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. [For us,] when life gives you goat’s milk, you make soaps and cheese.”  As two city dwellers who bought a vacant farm in upstate New York, this new philosophy came into play quick, shortly after adopting 60 homeless goats from a ‘down-on-his-luck’ farmer. With the task of making their newly-purchased farm sustainable, their lives and writing soon turned to helping others achieve their dreams of living a simpler life. Josh and Brent’s new cookbook The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Recipe Cookbook features exactly those tips and recipes for simpler, comfort food cooking.

I caught up with co-author of the new cookbook, Brent Ridge and asked him a few questions about the book, their story, and Beekman1802.com. Here’s what he shared with us…

Tell me a little bit about yourself and Josh. What made you decide to get a farm?

We were two city dwellers who bought a vacant farm in upstate NY thinking it was going to be a weekend getaway and an eventual home once we retired.  Shortly after closing on the property we were approached by a down-on-his-luck farmer and his heard of 60 homeless goats and just like that we became accidental goat farmers.  8 months later, we both lost our jobs in the city and had to stop playing the role of gentleman farmers and figure out a way to make the farm sustainable.

Our website, Beekman1802.com allows people to follow along with us with life on the farm as well as share their own tips and ideas with everyone else dreaming of living a simpler life.

Tell me a little more about your new cookbook. What inspired you guys to write it?

The recipes we create when we pull things fresh out of the dirt have always been one of the most loved parts of Beekman1802.com.  We enjoy coming up with different dishes and LOVE our library of cookbooks, but when we started thinking of doing our own cookbook, the first question we asked ourselves was:  Does the world actually need another cookbook?

All of the products inspired by our life on the farm are designed to be worthy of passing along to the next generation, just like the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Recipe Cookbook.

The meals we love and that have been passed down through generations of family members are heirlooms in and of themselves and the book includes over 100 recipes that we’ve adapted from our family archives, each given our own little Beekman 1802 twist.  The recipes are both simple and ingenious.  Comfort food has to be as easy to make as it is pleasing to eat.

Every family has one (maybe many more) treasured family recipe that is hauled out at every family celebration.  Often written on index cards and spiral bound notebooks, sometimes existing only in the recesses of a matriarch’s memory, these dishes serve as retrospectives of our lives.

We’ve also made special room in this keepsake volume for you to include your family’s own heirloom recipes.  You can print off additional recipe card templates for free any time you need them by clicking here. The idea is that once the book joins your collection that it is no longer “our” book, but truly becomes “your” heirloom cookbook!

While most are creating cookbooks with new and innovative ideas, why did you two want to focus on heirloom recipes?

We all have cookbooks on our shelves that seduced us with exotic ingredients or pretty photos and once we got them home we never cooked a single recipe from them.  We wanted to create a book that had recipes that were simple and comforting and delicious enough that you would go to them over and over again.  We want them to be a part of your seasonal repertoire.

I see a general shift in a lot of cooking towards more traditional styles and a more rustic Americana-style of cuisine, as well as in other aspects of art like music, writing, etc. Why do you think this is? Does your writing, cooking, and way of life fall into that same movement back to the traditional?

Yes.  This is definitely rooted in the country’s current economic climate.  For so much of the 90s and first decade of the 21st century, our culture was focused on quantity over quality.  The return to tradition artistry and craftsmanship is really about added value.  We need things that are tested and have longevity.

What tips can you give for those who want to start their own heirloom recipes?

The holiday season is when so many treasured heirloom recipes come to the table.  When you’ve got your family gathered, it’s a perfect time to share these recipes and the stories behind them.  One thing we are encouraging people to do is use the blank recipe cards you can download for free from beekman1802.com and have people record the recipes and stories as part of the holiday festivities.  You could even use the recipes and stories as name cards around the table.

There’s an entire section of beekman1802.com devoted to the cookbook, and cooks are encouraged to share their adaptations to the 100+ recipes.  Recipes are really living cultural documents.  They evolve based on the tastes and norms of a particular era in time, and we want to capture that. We also want to develop a community of cooks who want to share tips and ideas on how they have used our recipes as a starting point.

Each recipe in the book has a column for writing your own notes.  You can then visit that recipe’s page and contribute your ideas to the online community of cooks who are all using the cookbook.  In this way, each recipe becomes a thousand different recipes. You can even upload a photo of your own version of the dish.  We want you to brag!

For more information about Brent and Josh’s new cookbook, click here. You can also purchase it here. 

To read more interviews on MarcusSamuelsson.com, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks) for updates. 

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