In recent years, the East End has seen a resurgence in the growth and production of crops and foods that were historically made here, a fact that the Southampton Historical Museum and the Amagansett Food Institute will celebrate at the inaugural Local Foods, New Foods benefit on Thursday, August 25.
Held at the Sayre Barn on the grounds of the museum’s Rogers Mansion in Southampton Village, the event will bridge the past and future as it offers fare from East End businesses that use Amagansett Food Institute’s South Fork Kitchens, a food entrepreneur incubator located on the Stony Brook Southampton campus.
This is the first collaboration of the museum and the food institute, but one that made a great deal of sense to the organizers.
“We need to talk about the history of food,” asserted Tom Edmonds, the executive director of the Southampton Historical Museum.
Kathleen Masters, the executive director of the Amagansett Food Institute, agreed, adding, “While at first glance the missions may not seem similar, there is a lot of overlap as you think about preserving the history of our community—and food is so essential to the history of our community.”
The event menu will highlight ingredients—some of which had not been grown or made locally for decades—that are of significance to the East End’s heritage. However, the dishes are largely modern cuisine.
“Wheat is a really good example,” Ms. Masters noted. “Wheat used to be grown on the East End, and as farmers became more and more single commodity, they stopped growing wheat.”
Largely, farming had become dedicated to corn and potatoes, she said. “Wheat production had ceased on the East End.”
She pointed out that the preserved windmills and gristmills strewn across the South Fork are evidence of wheat and other grains historically being grown locally.
Then in 2009, Amanda Merrow and Katie Baldwin founded Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett on land leased from the nonprofit Peconic Land Trust, and they reintroduced wheat to East End agriculture.
“A number of other farmers have also begun to grow wheat and other grains, including rye,” Ms. Masters said. “There is a young farmer this year who’s growing flint corn with the hope of making polenta. So these are all grains that are common and essential and part of our history, but haven’t been grown for a long, long time.”
Local Foods, New Foods will feature local wheat in the form of baked goods by Carissa Waechte of Carissa’s Breads, a member of the South Fork Kitchens incubator.
Another example is Mecox Bay Dairy on the Ludlow Farm in Bridgehampton.
Ms. Masters said Art Ludlow took the family farm in a new direction when he began raising cows and making cheese.
The practice had been common historically.
“This is something that farmers did regularly,” Ms. Masters said. “They always had a cow, you always had milk, you made cheese—that was a local product, but no one was doing it until Mecox Dairy reintroduced the making of cheese.”
“Everybody made cheese in Southampton,” Mr. Edmonds added. “Every farmhouse had a room called ‘the dairy.’ It was on the north side of the kitchen and it was dedicated to processing milk, making butter, condensing milk into cheese.”
Also joining the event from the incubator are Gula Gula Empanadas, Hamptons Aristocrat, Around the Fire and Joe and Liza’s Ice Cream, and Long Island wine will be served as well.
Another focus of the benefit—and its menu—will be local game animals, namely deer and duck.
The benefit is being dedicated to the memory of Arnie Arnister, a decoy carver whose collection of tools and decoy ducks is on display at the Decoy Shed on the Rogers Mansion grounds. A presentation on decoys will be delivered by his son Duane Arnister, and a special ornately carved decoy will be on view.
Guests will also get to learn about the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin Project, an initiative to revitalize the culinary use of a local heirloom squash. Because it is too early in the season for fresh pumpkin, pickled Long Island cheese pumpkin will be served.
Mr. Edmonds said that what is unique about this event is that it will be experiential: “You actually get to interact with the people who originate these foods.”
The set-up will be like a farmers market, in that guests can go from table to table, meeting the farmers, producers and chefs.
The proceeds of the event—which organizers say may become annual to grow exposure of food heritage—will be split between the museum and the food institute.
Local Foods, New Foods will be held Thursday, August 25, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $125 in advance or $150 on the day of, and proceeds benefit Southampton Historical Museum and AFI programs. The Sayre Barn is at 17 Meeting House Lane. Visit southamptonhistoricalmuseum.org/special-events to order.
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