I met Miranda Whitcomb sitting in the back of a white ford truck, bumping around dirt paths on a farm in Tennessee. In the driver’s seat, Hank Delvin Sr. maneuvered past rocks, limbs, and the occasional squirrel. He barreled us past fields of hidden sweet potato seeds, and rows of kale shooting through the ground, describing his family history, his service in Vietnam, and how growing food organically was how he’d been taught to farm by his grandfather.
Miranda and I were both invited to Delvin Farms, and we were both in the backseat of the Delvin’s truck, scribbling furiously in journals, for very different reasons. I was writing a story, but Miranda is the owner of Burger UP. She was making a grocery list.
This Sunday, her restaurant hosted a farm supper—a night where burgers took a back seat, and chefs Nick Melvin and Shane Devereux had a chance to show off a wider range of talent with a fresh harvest. For perhaps the first time in history, there wasn’t an ounce of meat on any plate at Burger UP, and no one seemed disappointed. Except Patrick, for a few minutes. But that was before the first course began.
As CSA members, Patrick and I get a box full of delicious veggies every other week form Delvin Farms, so we’ve been reintroduced to the strong flavor of an organically grown tomato, and the crisp crunch of a lettuce leaf, just pulled from the ground. But as hard as I try to find interesting recipes and put it all to good use, I’m aware that sometimes, I come up short.
Chefs Nick Melvin and Shane Devereux put me to delicious, creative, culinary shame.
They started the night with a course of eggplant bacon, served over a small circle of eggplant chawanmushi (think foie gras), with an egg yolk to crack and drag around your plate with a piece of fresh pulled bread. What is eggplant bacon? Smoked slivered eggplant, shaved and presented to look and taste like the candy of meat. It was unreal. And I ate it before I could take a pretty picture.
With each bite of each course, our gratitude grew, both for the Delvins, who’ve devoted their lives to farming wholesome, natural food, untreated with harmful chemicals, and for the creative chefs who treated their produce like art. With each “ooh” and “ahh” like Bill Murray in What about Bob, my heart felt glad to be in a city where a restaurant would pause for an evening to honor the people who truly feed us—our farmers.
Every course, either Nick or Shane would come to the floor and describe the course about to be served, and as the sun went down, the courses grew richer, fuller, and all the more creative. Steamed cabbage dumplings doused in a butter soup were followed by squash blossom polenta served with pine nut vinaigrette. The fourth course, massaman curried potatoes served with gingered quinoa, was just topped by dessert: fried zucchini bread, doused in tomato jam, paired with basil ricotta and drizzled in Tennessee honey.
But the best moment of the night was seeing Amy Delvin and her husband Brandon. Most weeks, I see them working at the West Nashville farmer’s market, sweating in the sun, laying out produce for people like me. But for a night, they weren’t concerned about drought or the next days’ harvest. They were honored with a meal that took their hard work and turned it into something even more beautiful.
The entire night was inspiring. I got to experience what it’s like when people share and enjoy each other’s gifts. Amy shared her expertise as a farmer, Nick and Shane shared their hard work in the kitchen, Miranda shared her skill as a restauranteur, and together, something magnificent was created.
“There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” 1 Corinthians 12: 4 – 6