Saturday, March 13, 2010

Full of Life Field Trip

It was an unexpectedly stunning faux-spring day today, with the clear sunny sky betraying the bitter-cold wind whistling through the valley. Perfect for a drive in the toasty Corolla. We set the Garmin to a desination I've been meaning to get to since seeing them at last years' Villebois Farmers Market - the Full of Life Farm in St. Paul.

Following the gentle voice of Garmin, we wound around the lush green fields that make up our expanded backyard, flanked by gently rolling hills framing drool-worthy farmhouses, old and unwavering orchards, a charming state park and BABY GOATS!!! Not 15 minutes from our front door did we pull into the Farm's mud-path entrance (slightly before Garmin said we would; thankfully, the Corolla has a great turn radius).

As I learned last summer, lusting shamelessly after the pasture-meandering broiler chickens, all of the animals on the farm are treated with dignity and respect. They spend their lives the way nature intended them to - eating grasses and clovers, and roaming free of space constrictions and constant stress. The inspiration and ethical model of the farm was inspired by Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm, the diversification paradise that Michael Pollan dedicated 1/4 of The Omnivore's Dilemma to exploring.

Although you're able to pick up the farm's chickens, beef and pork cuts, and chicken eggs at several 'scene' markets around Portland during the season, there is one deep, dark secret you have to trudge into the mud and country to discover...

That's right, people. I am talking about the illicit, dirty, underground world of:


Unpasteurized, or raw milk, is legal to own and consume in Oregon. It's the distribution that is tricky. Under state law, commercial dairies are "prohibited from distributing raw milk. The only exception is for small operations with three cows or less, which are permitted to sell raw milk on-site but cannot advertise sales or ship off the premises." These small dairies, like Full of Life farm, are not allowed to personally market their controversial wares. But crazy fringe bloggers can yak about it all day long. There's a sort of underground railroad in the Portland area of Meetup groups and recycled Bell jars, with the au natural lait lovers trading availability tips and pick-up dates. It's like an Ecuadorian drug cartel. With less grisly murders. And more cheese.

My dealer, Hayden, packs me up some suspiciously-colored eggs.

Leaving, I saw a HERITAGE TURKEY! Not a very common sight, although the Local Heirloom Foods movement is proving their saving grace. Many breeds are, or are near, extinct. I better start saving now for Thanksgiving - the beasts don't come cheap. He may have sensed my intentions; he totally flexed on me when I jumped out of the car for a picture.

Getting the goods home, I was a little nervous. I haven't actually had a straight-up, Kahlua-less glass of milk for about 15 years. I only have it on hand for recipes, and usually end up throwing most of it away week after week. But a special (and legally dicey!) treasure like this deserves to be experienced straight-up, no chaser.

Gracelessly pouring myself a small glass (I spilled :( ), I took one last apprehensive breath, and tipped the foaming cup to my lips.

It was thicker and creamier than any milk I can ever remember drinking, without being sticky or cloying. The taste immediately on my tongue was the familiar taste of milk, but pure and clean and distinctly fresh. The real flavor came as a sort of aftertaste, after the gulps had washed smoothly down my throat. It was grassy and floral, like the aged raw milk cheddars from Fiscalini in California. The farm essence harks back to childhood and departed decades, when you didn't need a homeland security badge to get into the facility where your family's food comes from.

The wealth of dairy inspired me to break out the ice cream machine and marry my local milk and eggs with my St. Martin Orange Blossom extract. The result? Orange Blossom Gelato with Candied Orange Rind. It's in the fridge chilling out; I'll put it into the Cuisinart tomorrow morning to come together.

Collecting my 4 necessary egg yolks, I decided not to be wasteful and use my last remaining Safeway egg. I knew there would be a difference, but when you crack 'em neck'n neck, it's truly striking.

Anyway, we will see what happens tomorrow when my foreign and fresh ingredients meet. Until then:



  1. This place sounds fabulous! Just what I've been looking for... cruelty free food!

  2. You should go! It's not any more money than you'd spend at New Seasons or Whole Foods, but it's much more local. They're open Saturdays from 10-3.

  3. I looked at their website. It was a bit of a shock for a regular Freddie's customer (I have never shopped at NS or WF), and I doubt I'll be able to afford more than a once-in-a-while treat. That is, until I sell my first book and make millions, muahaha.

    I'm definitely going. I *LOVE* milk, and am very intrigued as to this raw milk phenomenon.