I will never forget that picture of Mark in a clean, white t-shirt, leaning against an old shed on the farm as I pulled
into the driveway for our first date. He was so tan, his eyes so calm and clear behind his shaded glasses. I had been needlessly concerned about carrying a conversation. We talked the entire evening about everything and anything. I had so many questions and he had answers for all of them. I only got a taste of how complex the farm was that evening. I marveled at the endless rows of equipment and the expansive list of crops they grew. After the tour, Mark drove on a winding back-road to the fair in his dually pickup. I was smitten.
He was a gentleman and a jokester. He was kind and shy but so smart and clever. We decided to share a small order of fries after we arrived at the fair, "These are our potatoes," Mark said proudly. They were delicious. We sat and nibbled and talked and laughed. Our conversation deepened and I opened up more on a first date than I ever had. I was honest about my past, regarding both relationships and career. I admitted I smoked, but I was trying to quit. I decided I was ok with being open, maybe too open. There was something about this man that put me at ease. He was honest, too, about the nature of his work, the complexity of farm life and how many limitations it put on his personal life. He opened up about his family and his childhood, which had been completely different from mine. And yet somehow we found more common ground than I had expected. Our temperaments seemed to compliment each other. He was old fashioned, but not closed-minded. He was thoughtful, attentive, direct and hilarious. He also almost made me throw up by spinning us around on a ride.
He was and still is all of those things and more. He is my everything.
The "Yes," I said to a date with Farmer Mark two years ago felt so sweet to say, and felt worlds sweeter when I said it again on our wedding day. The long, rocky road I left behind me, the small and seemingly insignificant twists and turns I took that lead me to that hot, sunny day in August - it all makes sense now. I spent so much time feeling in the dark, often with no clear direction and not knowing if I was doing anything right. I spent so much time feeling guilty about past choices, for moving from one state to another, one job to the next, trying on this hat and then another and another. I still feel a twinge of regret for floundering and fumbling as much as I did for so long, for letting other people's lives and dreams overshadow my own.
But when I found my farmer, I found myself. The end has justified the means.
Thin + Crispy Fries with Special Sauce
Adapted from Ree Drummond
For the Sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp white vinegar, pickle jar juice or lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
For the Fries
2 large white potatoes
Canola, vegetable or peanut oil, for frying
For the Sauce
In a bowl, combine the mayo, ketchup, mustard, vinegar, salt and black pepper. Whisk until smooth. Store in an airtight container in the refridgerator.
For the Fries
Scrub and wash the potatoes well. Using a mandolin or very sharp knife, slice the potatoes lengthwise about 1/4" thick. Stack a few slices at a time and carefully cut them into matchsticks with a knife.
Place the fries into a bowl of cold water.
Let them soak for about 2 hours in the refrigerator.
Preheat a frier or large pot of oil to 300 F.
Carefully remove the fries from the cold water. Dry them as best you can on clean towels. Using a large spider, slotted spoon or tongs, gently drop the matchsticks into the hot oil. Fry them for five minutes, in batches if necessary. Remove the fries from the oil and let them drain on a towel.
Crank up the heat to 400 F. Fry the matchsticks again until they are crisp and golden - this should only take a couple of minutes. Drain them again on clean towels, sprinkle generously with salt, smother them in special sauce and garnish them with chopped parsley if desired.