farmfest MFU cookbook

Minnesota chefs and farmers coming together to tell the story of how food goes from farm to table is the theme of Minnesota Farmers Union’s new cookbook. “The Farmer and the Chef: Farm Fresh Minnesota Recipes and Stories” was a labor of love for the author, Claudine Arndt, and photographer, Katie Cannon. “This cookbook has a little something for everyone,” Arndt said. 

Arndt is the manager of Minnesota Cooks, a program through MFU which celebrates the relationships between farmers in the state and those in the local restaurant industry who utilize farm fresh products.

Cannon is the photographer for Minnesota Cooks along with running her own photography business.

“Every year we feature 12 farm-to-table partnerships,” Arndt said. Minnesota Cooks asks chefs, cooks, bakers to submit a recipe. Those recipes, along with food and farmer photographs, are compiled into a calendar.

Minnesota Cooks started in 2003 and for quite a while they toyed with the idea of creating a cookbook. “Globe Pequot Press found us, approached us and asked if we wanted to do a cookbook,” Arndt said. “It’s a massive project.”

Undeterred by the amount of work it was going to take in creating the cookbook, the focus was intently on giving the readers both chef and farmer components to the book. “It’s chef-driven recipes, farmer-forward stories,” Arndt said. There are 90 recipes and 20 farmer stories in the book.

Arndt and Cannon looked through the recipes which had been featured in the calendar throughout the years. “We had a couple hundred recipes. Obviously, we wanted a nice variety of recipes,” Arndt said.

“We were looking at our farmers, making sure the farmers were represented,” Arndt said. With such an array of food produced by farmers in the state, it was vital to display that wide range in the book. “We wanted to show the diversity of what Minnesota produces,” Arndt said.

Minnesota Cooks hired two home cooks to test the recipes as they wanted to ensure the recipes are home-cook friendly.

The cookbook is filled with 150 photographs illustrating life on the farm and of the food in the recipes.

For Arndt, working on this project was the perfect fit for this avid cookbook fan. “I’m one of those people that love reading cookbooks. That actual physical book still holds a special place.”

The book is broken into chapters which follow life on the farm: daybreak, tractor meals, summer harvest and Sunday picnics. “It’s the moments we’re trying to capture,” Arndt said.

Arndt has worked with Cannon for 10 years. “Her photography is incredibly stunning. It’s a really important part of the cookbook,” Arndt said. “I hope the reader gains a deeper appreciation for the source of their food.”

Arndt would like people to consider spending their money locally as that helps strengthen our communities.

For Cannon, taking the photographs, she wanted to show the story behind the food in picture form. “It’s not just about the food grown, it’s the work that goes into it.” Cannon understands farming isn’t a nine-to-five job and these recipes reflect that. “A farmers’ office can be everywhere. Those are the meals that are a little easier to eat on the go.” The photography is a great medium to tell a story. “In many cases they were chosen as they (farmers) were leaders and change makers in the local food scene,” Cannon said.

For Cannon, working on this project with Arndt allowed the full range of story-telling in both written word and in the photography. “Claudine is a wonderful listener and is able to get the story behind the story, tell the deeper moments.” The emphasis on the visual aspect was the farms. “We really knew we wanted a lot of farm pictures,” Cannon said.  

“Claudine and I had so much fun creating this cookbook. It was a privilege,” Cannon said.

For both Arndt and Cannon, the creation of the cookbook went beyond wanting to fill pages with recipes, it was uncovering the stories behind the people that grew the food that was featured in the recipes as well as honoring those chefs, cooks and bakers that find great value in cultivating culinary creations utilizing locally grown fare. 

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