A Literary Feast

Posts by Marie-Laure Couet

One Mile South

Posted on April 18th, 2013

The chickens rise with the sun but do not venture into the uniform white – there is no more earth to scratch.   The farmer’s breath is taken with the violent gust wrapping its arms around her, into her. Matted hair and flushed cheeks her face weeps without sadness. Or for the brilliance of the day: the muted voice of the land the afterthought of a tree on the horizon, weeping, too, against the north wind.   As darkness befalls the hill snow-cover lightens the early dusk. Nebulae wink from a perfect crest above the barn to halt even the most self-absorbed. A moment too long in the cold just to look on beyond the boots and the frozen muck, up to the Greater.…

Arlene Brokaw: Inspired Farming

Posted on June 25th, 2012

More important than striving for perfection is to “keep your cool, be confident in what you do know to solve problems down the road… It sounds like good advice, but I still freak out.” Arlene Brokaw, head cheesemaker at Olde Oak Farm, has a wisdom acquired only with experience and many mistakes. As we waited in the cheesemaking facility for the starter culture to work its acidifying magic on the milk, Arlene explained to me that during her first few years on the farm, she could not focus on the cheese, on the greater result. She had been too afraid of messing up. This is Arlene’s fourth season up in Maxfield, Maine, 45 minutes north of Bangor, and while she is still learning about…


Posted on May 13th, 2012

My father likes to tell my mother that she seduced him with her cooking. When they were friends at university, before they dated, my mother invited my father to her apartment for a meal. She made her mother’s oven-gratinée recipe for sea scallops. After serving them, as my mother went to the kitchen for bread, my father devoured his whole plate. When asked if he wanted more, my mother gave my father the portion on her plate that he promptly swallowed up, and only then did he find that she hadn’t made any more beyond that–she had given him everything. A vessel, brimming with an intangible, abstract concept called love, my mother is ever ready to give. It is a pity the world has…


Posted on April 19th, 2012

It’s so loud, the heat–the birds scream, sing. It should be summer, but it’s April. The sky is a violent pale blue from a star casting its hot light into our atmosphere. The wings of these birds – volatile dinosaur offspring – beat as they battle for gutter space. Their feathers and shrieks pierce the air, adding to the oppression of the day. Last year, summer felt like spring: it rained, it was cool, and I was in the Italian Alps with the Chindemi family. If a better person than Gerard Depardieu could fill the shoes of comic character Obélix, Matteo Chindemi is that person. His presence, though physically imposing, is nothing if not kindness. Not a day went by that his eyes didn’t…


Posted on March 16th, 2012

Inside, two opposing principles create a marbling, an ebb and flow of grey area. One night I chose to move with a certain sobering moral, to flow with a particular darkness that resides in all creatures. Wavering, drained, I felt the darkness pull a sob from way down deep, as if the night mirrored my heart and my insides. Following the obscurity was meant to recollect ancestral ritual and perhaps with experience, it will. This first time, however, the black sky wrapped me in cold and ripped away the tension and adrenaline seething through my veins until I felt an unbearably heavy emptiness. There was nothing left in my hands but the weight of the gun. Her eyes had shone black before me; they…

The Meal: Much More Than Eating

Posted on February 13th, 2012

A three-cheese fondue filled my belly a number of weeks ago and nearly two years before that. I had invited my friends to share this meal before I left for Europe and again when I returned home. Both times I used Swiss cheeses, imported into the states, boxed cooking wine, and dipping ingredients that were not traditional to this Alpine meal. Presumably, I could have made a “better” fondue at any time during my European stay, but these two meals were The Best I had ever had. I was sharing food and time and conversation with my favorite people in the world, and I didn’t care about the freshness of the cheese, the container of the cooking wine, nor the choice of food bits…