Among other things, I left a pair of hiking boots in the French mountains. While the others are distinctly less material, I miss these boots. I wouldn’t even say they are a good pair of boots, but they served me as well as they could. I met these boots when I started my internship with the National Park Service last fall, part of my park issued uniform. They took me up and down the hill on Alcatraz countless times, but by the spring they were already coming apart only to be replaced. I brought these along with the intention of leaving them. Even knowing all along that these boots had a one-way ticket, I was a bit sad to leave them. Actually, everything about leaving the farm made me a bit heartsick—only a bit though, as there is so much to look forward to. These boots were coming apart at the edges, missing pieces, and probably flea infested. However, these boots took me up and down mountain peaks. They walked me through my first full time job. They supported me while I chased down unruly goats and canyon sunsets. Basically, we went through a lot together in the past eleven months. Hopefully they serve futures WWOOFers just as well through manure and up trails they’ve got a bit more kick left in them.
I’m coming out of this experience short a pair of boots, but I think it’s a fair exchange for all I gained in these six weeks. I ate as much goat cheese as I could have dreamed (is it ever enough though?) and learned more about milking goats that I ever thought to. I got to know every trail of that mountain. I spent more time in my own company than ever before, and enjoyed it. I also met some pretty wonderful people and animals around the farm. This only begins to cover it, but those weeks will stay with me for a very long time.
Of course I also came out of it with a few good recipes under my belt. One of those, a standby the whole time, was ratatouille. I made a ratatouille at least once a week on the farm. The first time was at a suggestion by my fellow wwoofer, who called his mom to check up on the process. It is also one of those recipes that is forgiving. Meaning you can make it without bell peppers, or with less onion and so on as the contents of your cupboards allow. Reheat it in a pan with chopped up ham and rice, frying it all together in olive oil. It is even better on the second day I think. The end product isn’t particularly beautiful to look at, so for that reason and my poor lighting I have no pictures to share.
Cook Time: 1 hour
6 Tbsp. olive oil (divided)
1 eggplant, cubed
2 zucchini, chopped
2 bell peppers (any color), seeded and diced
3 tomatoes, diced
2 small onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 sprigs thyme
To start with wash and cut all your vegetables. Separate the garlic, onions and tomatoes from the eggplant, zucchini and bell peppers. Over medium-low heat, heat 4 Tbsp of olive oil in a large pan. Add the zucchini and eggplant and stir to cover in olive oil. Cover and stir occasionally, add more oil if the pan goes dry. At the same time heat the rest of the oil in a medium pan. When hot, begin to cook the onions until soft. When soft and translucent add the garlic and tomatoes, continue to cook over low heat. After 5 minutes or so add bell peppers, salt and thyme to the eggplant and zucchini. When zucchini pieces begin to soften add the tomato pan to the eggplant pan and continue to cook with a covered lid until the zucchini are softened through. (The whole cook time should be 30-45 minutes). Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve with pasta or rice.