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sweet and spicy vanilla chai

Aphids. Job searching. Plant morphology exams. Rain. For all life’s minor trials and tribulations, there is but one foodie equivalent to the bubble bath: Chai.

Chai latte, to be precise. My chronology of chai began with Starbucks (ubiquitous purveyor of fancy drinks), and it was a “tall soy chai, no water, in a personal cup” that my mother asked for every Saturday morning as we began our weekly round of shopping. I joined her (with my own personal travel mug) all through high school, but like all who begin their specialty journey with Starbucks it wasn’t long before I was going more gourmet. Soon my sister and I had discovered the Garden Market, which featured a steaming mug of sugary chai with creamy, frothy foam. That chai (and several others along the way) led me to an important discovery: my favorite drink did not begin, as you might imagine, with tea. Sad to say, I was a die-hard fan of chai powder.

One of the benefits of chai powder (other than an insane sugar rush) is that it makes the chai latte as easy as boiling a pot of water. As a college freshman I drank chai lattes in bed, in class, as late-night snacks and morning pick-me-ups. I drank them so often, in fact, that my desire for chai began to wane. Years passed with only the occasional Starbucks visit when I went home, and then, when powdered chai was all but forgotten, I passed a display of chai latte powder in Trader Joe’s last week.

It was a spur of the moment purchase with consequences that shook our small apprentice world. The initial can of powder was gone in two days, and the following two we bought followed shortly after. When Pim gave me a box of Chai spices after a macaron class I began doctoring my insta-latte, and soon I was adding milk, vanilla extract, honey… and somewhere along the way I made it back to tea. Now I sprinkle just a light dusting of powder in my chai, and if nothing else it offsets the 5 tablespoons Phillip and Sara Lieber put in theirs.

Sweet and Spicy Vanilla Chai

black tea (loose or bagged)


1 tsp chai spice blend (star anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves)


vanilla extract

1 tsp chai latte powder

Brew your black tea in a teapot or mug until strong. Remove teabag or leaves and add milk, chai spice blend, vanilla extract and honey for desired sweetness. Sprinkle chai latte powder on top, stir or froth, and enjoy!

a very fine roast chicken

On Monday, we killed a chicken.

I suppose slaughtered would be the correct term, but let me back up a bit. Here on the farm we have around 75 chickens, the majority of which are mature, egg-laying birds that share the pasture with our goats. The smaller coop down by the garden is reserved for the youngsters—chicks left over from chicken-keeping classes that are raised in isolation until they are big enough to join their peers without getting picked on. Another reason for keeping the babies separate? You may order hens, but it takes several months to determine whether one of your fluffy girls is actually a boy.

A few weeks ago, we began to suspect. Nascent crows could occasionally be heard from the small coop, and one of the birds had the beginnings of long, arched tail feathers and a comb. Up at the cottage we’d often talked about slaughtering an animal, a practice that few carnivores do today but that defines a farmer’s relationship with his meat. When it became clear that our suspect was in fact a rooster, we approached Cynthia and Daniel and received the go-ahead.

On Monday afternoon we assembled, the five of us (plus one lucky prospective apprentice) hushed with concentrated activity. Everyone had some sort of preparation for the event: Ross killed a duck in culinary school, Christine witnessed the slaughter of a cow, Adam heard stories of his Mamaw’s neck-twisting techniques, and Phillip watched youtube videos and sharpened his machete. I, on the other hand, have fainted not just at the sight of blood, but at the thought of it (end result: a concussion and trip to the emergency room, driven by my friend with the bleeding finger). I was not prepared, but I was determined to watch.

Well, watch behind a camera. Of course this meant that if I passed out the camera would be going down with me, but that was strong incentive to remain standing. And when it actually happened, I was shocked at how unassuming it all was—there was no struggle, no squawking, no horror-movie cascade of squirting blood. It wasn’t cruel, and it wasn’t overly sentimental. I suppose when you know what you’re doing, killing a farm animal for its meat can be a part of life.

But for eating an animal to be ritual, you have to eat all of it. So last night that’s what we did, piece by piece: from the heart (Ross: “I’m a man now!”) to the wings, neck, and deliciously tender breast. When the night was over there was only a carcass left, and with Thanksgiving coming up, we’re starting to eye the wild turkeys as they amble down the drive.

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