FOOD & FAMILY WITH FRANK GIGLIO: ARARAT FARMS

Nov/Dec 2022


Interview and photographs by Devon Harris
Recipe by Frank Giglio

Tucked away in the woods of Lincolnville is Ararat Farms, a small-scale organic farm that supplies its much-loved farmstand with fresh produce, locally sourced meat and dairy products, Maine-grown grains, and fridges full of Frank Giglio’s delicious prepared foods. In true Maine fashion, the farmstand is run on the honor system, and shopping there is an experience in and of itself. If it is possible to feel truly cared for by farmers and a chef you’ve never met, that’s exactly what you feel at Ararat. I caught up with Frank at the commercial kitchen he cooks out of in Belfast, to learn more about the man behind the food I’d been buying almost every day on my way home from work.

Mark

What are you making today?

This, here, is an onion miso soup. We grew a few thousand pounds of onions that are storing in our basement now at the farm, so we’ll be doing a lot of onion soups. I made the beef stock yesterday, so I’ll just add the onions and leeks, and then finish it with miso and fresh thyme. This is a two-part carrot situation. I’ll do a harissa-spiced carrot dip and then, with the smaller ones, maybe roast them whole with crumbled feta and some kind of green parsley sauce. This is lemongrass that we grow in the farm’s crop house; I’ll turn that into kombucha. Hummus, white bean dip, curried cashew dip, chicken salad, egg salad. I made chicken liver pâté earlier. I make about 15–20 items for every Saturday market and then split that for the farmstand. Thursdays can be 12-hour days, just cranking things out. Friday is more for entrees and salads.

You’re busy! What do you do on your days off?

Mostly hunt and fish and trap. I’m blessed that I have kids that love doing the things that I enjoy doing. Last year, my 11 year old, Wilder, asked if he could watch a YouTube video about trapping. I was, like, “OK.” I knew nothing about trapping. It was never in the realm of anything I thought I would do. And then he said he wanted to get his trapping license. So, again, I was, like, “OK.” So I got him his license and, because he needs a supervisor, I went through the whole course myself and got mine too. Next thing you know—and luckily my boss has some waterfront land where there are beaver issues—we’re trapping beaver, and my son is skinning it, butchering it, cooking it, everything. He’s doing it all. It’s mind-blowing. Totally mind-blowing.

My younger guy, Sunny, he’s 6, so he’s still a little young, but he’s right there with us. When we’re hunting deer, there are mornings when we’re up at 4, sometimes earlier, getting dressed and going out in the woods. There are days where I’m, like, “Maybe I should let them sleep in.” And then a few hours later they’re bawling their eyes out because I didn’t wake them up. I’m not pressuring them, by any means. It’s, “What do you guys want to do?” They’re, like, “Let’s go fish.”

The way you cook and eat feels very effortful. You’re growing, you’re preserving, you’re hunting. I was going to ask what you get from all of that work, internally. But it just sounds like fun. This is what you guys do for fun.

I don’t need to preserve anything. I have access to coolers full of food at work. I could eat fresh vegetables everyday. I could buy whatever I wanted. But there’s something so fulfilling about doing it yourself. I don’t even know what I would do with my time, if not this. We have beach days in the summer, but if we’re going to go to the beach, why not have a fishing line in the water and maybe catch a fish? I think the pursuit of food just happens to be who I am.



I think the pursuit of food just happens to be who I am.



Is it possible to encourage others, who, say, don’t have this natural inclination towards “the pursuit of food” to be more connected to what they eat?

Years ago I was a raw vegan. I ran marathons and I wore a jersey that said, “Go Vegan” on the back. I cut it out and sewed it on. I had to tell everybody that this is the way that I did it.

Around that time I worked at a health food store and there was another employee there who would just drink Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and smoke cigarettes all day. He would never eat anything in the store unless it was a free sample. I was so mad. I couldn’t tolerate it. But now, I think, “Well, he doesn’t have to. For him, he gets the most joy out of getting on his Harley and going riding for hours. His joy comes from other things and food is just something he thinks about when he’s hungry. And that’s OK.”

I just love working with food. It’s so important to me to make the connections and eat the good food. It’s not even to say I’ll be healthier as a result. I think, for me, I’ve come to learn that health is just a by-product of a more connected lifestyle, and food is just one aspect.

You’re certainly having an impact on how your children look at food. I saw a post of yours where you’re all eating bear fat biscuits with miso gravy and kale microgreens. I’ve cooked for families before where the kids only ate Rice Krispies for dinner. Every night, dry Rice Krispies.

You go to restaurants and they hand you a kids’ menu and it’s, like, “My kids don’t eat off the kids’ menu. They eat off the menu.” If anything, I think I should be eating chicken nuggets and my kids should get the more nutrient-dense foods. They’re growing and developing; they need it way more than me.

It just so happened to be this way, but my son’s first non-breastmilk food was a saguaro cactus fruit smoothie. This fruit is only available for two weeks in the summer, and every desert animal is going for it. It’s amazing. I can’t even describe it because it’s been so long since I’ve had it, but I have this picture of my son with his face covered in this smoothie. We never made baby food. We didn’t buy baby food. I would literally make beef stew and just pre-chew his meat.

It’s funny—sometimes my kid is too much of a food snob now. He’ll be, like, “You should have broiled it instead.” And I’m, like, “Alright, dude, relax.” But I love it. I love that they’re pumped at the fact that I connected with a local game butcher and got a bunch of bear fat and rendered it down to make French fries and tempura mackerel.



I’ve come to learn that health is just a by-product of a more connected lifestyle, and food is just one aspect.



To me, it feels like kids just want to be a part of what’s happening. So if you can include them in the process, they might be more willing to try what you put in front of them.

Last year we were driving and my kid yelled out, “Holy cow! I think I just saw the biggest chicken of the woods ever!” We pulled over and it was on this huge beech tree. We harvested well over 20 pounds of mushrooms and didn’t even take half of it. I canned a bunch, and now when we eat it, there’s that memory. We talk about that tree and how cool it was that, on this drive to do something else, he spotted it. That’s part of what I enjoy about preservation: that memory recall.

You can certainly recall a dinner that you’ve had out somewhere, but when you hunted that wild turkey yourself, and we’re eating it six months later, and my kid gets to tell the story again, maybe to a guest who’s coming over for dinner, and he gets to share his hunt and his success, and all the things he had to do in order to put it in the freezer, that’s awesome.

My ultimate goal is to get my Maine guide’s license and take people out. Mostly parents with their kids, and be, like, “OK, we went fishing for the day. Now let’s go back home and prepare this food together.”

Mark



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