Follow-up to “Foot in the Garden and Some Words about Mark

Posted on August 3, 2009


Since my last post, I’ve been edified on the matter of the farfahina that I found in the Wadi Nisnas market.   My esteemed friend Mark Rubin, who is very wise on matters of local foods, informed me that it’s English name is purslane and it commonly grows on the East Coast of the US.  Not only is it edible, but it is a preferred food of chickens, who enjoy the high moisture content in its succulent leaves.  I personally observed this on a visit to Mark’s home/garden/goat farm where he reached down into the garden, pulled up a vast Medusa-head of it and gave it to me to toss to the chickens in his chicken coop, who pounced on and devoured it.  

The occasion for visiting Mark was to try out a culinary tour at his farm – I was there with a lovely family from my old neighborhood of Chevy Chase – mother and three children.  We got to Mark’s at about 6 in the evening and immediately set to work making bread dough – using Mark’s untried innovation of mixing spelt, rye and whole wheat flours, with sourdough starter.  Then we continued on to the chicken coop and collected four warm eggs, and down to the garden, where we picked tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and green onion – then we built a fire and roasted wheat kernels to snack on, and sesame seeds to grind in a mortar and pestle to make tehina.  Then everyone helped Mark milk the goats and from the milk, made goat cheese.   

This kind of experience, and the food that comes out of it, goes way beyond gastronomy.  The senses are delighted – no doubt.  But in fact, it’s a true feast for the spirit.  Mark has a magical way with children, animals and food, and I’m blessed by his, and his equally talented wife Amira’s friendship.