It’s a splendid day. The spring sunshine warms my back as I turn the garden beds, readying them for this season’s fava bean and pea seedlings. It was a bright sunny winter’s day in February when I seeded them, before all of this chaos. The soil is dark and rich; it smells promising as I transplant the stout seedlings, a ritual I’ve been part of for 30-odd years. It’s an optimistic act that reminds me of the seasons’ cycles, of cooking, and of the myriad relationships between our farmers, customers and ourselves here at Higgins.
For the first time in the past 26 years, this week I won’t be unlocking the door, checking the reservations, planning menus or sharing Higgins cuisine with our cherished clientele. All these years of conversation, teaching, and exchanging ideas about the bounty of Oregon’s farmers, ranchers, fishers and food artisans is on pause.
I’m certain we all are experiencing a similar detached surrealism, a sense that we’re adrift with no clear path or timeframe. The planting makes me feel better as it progresses. My gratitude to all the remarkable folks that we’re entwined within this web of our food community comforts me. It’s never just been about the cooking; rather, it’s always been about the people – and I sincerely thank you all – diners, cooks, growers, vintners, brewers, bakers, fishers … the list is lengthy.
We don’t know how long this pause will be. Initially I was confused and fearful. After some positive rumination I came to the conclusion that the answer was literally at my feet: We’ll make this our best gardening year ever! As a chef, having enough time to work the soil has always been rare. I’ll have no excuses this year. More time to bake bread and pizzas in the wood oven, time to rework the asparagus bed, and time to slow down and realize how special a place this is that we all share.
So, here’s my advice to everyone: Let’s take this opportunity to better our ties to our families, friends, farmers, gardens and homes. Continue your support to our dedicated growers through CSAs, pop-up markets, groceries and co-ops where they sell their harvests. They need you now more than ever. One thing is certain – crops will grow and mature, and their tenders need our help.
As for us here at Higgins, we look forward to once again filling our kitchen with the best of Oregon’s bounty, and our dining room with all of you. Stay tuned for future updates, and please follow us on Facebook and Instagram. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for our first vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes!