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“Back Forty”

  Occasion: Cuisine: Area: Cost: Rating:
  Night Out New American East Village Moderate Good

I want you to close your eyes for a minute. Really, go ahead. No one’s looking. And even if they are, they’ll just walk past your cubicle and report you to your boss for napping early Monday morning. No biggy, right? Okay, so close your eyes and imagine this scene: America’s heartland in the late 1800s, a weathered old farmhouse on a 160-acre plot of land. Oh, and that would be your plot of land. You see, you’re a farmer in this scenario. Every morning you wake with the sun. The days are hot and the air is dusty and dry. Your mouth is always parched. The day starts as you tend to your chickens and milk your cows. As you till the soil and nurse neat rows of vegetables bedded down in the warm earth, you meet the afternoon. And as the afternoon becomes evening, you head to the riverbank where you spend a few quiet hours fishing, pulling wiggling trout from the white water. And then, after your long day is done, when the air has turned cool, you return home and head out to your back forty—the rear forty acres of your 160-acre plot—for a little down time. Perhaps you sip a cocktail of rye over ice. Or maybe you just kick back and look up at a wide-open night sky blanketed in a hush of stars. The rye starts to ease the stiffness in your back and you feel your muscles begin to loosen. You walk home and sit down to a supper cooked in a pot belly stove and fashioned from the fruits of your labor—chicken and potatoes, perhaps a stew of vegetables. You eat heartily and retire to bed early. After all, sunrise is coming.

Whadayathink? I kinda like the sound of this imaginary life. It’s a simple, nurturing life that changes only with the seasons, when the days grow shorter, the temperatures drop lower, and the vegetables pulled from the ground are more gnarled. I don’t know, maybe I’m completely idealizing it (I tend to do that), but for all its backbreaking work, there’s something that sounds so appealing to me about this life—it’s very basic and uncomplicated. And with all the “advancement” we’ve seen since then (crackberries, pods, cells, and various other miracle machines that process just about everything from thoughts to grains), the idea of a return to that pared-down formula is sweet and seductive in some Little House fairy tale way. In any case, this simple farmer’s life is the vision for Back Forty, chef Peter Hoff ... [more, click below]

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