suvir saran                         chef     author     consultant

 

Charlie Burd

Farmer & Co-owner

American Masala brings forward the traditions of its early heritage as a nineteenth century farm. Nestled on nearly seventy acres of rolling green fields, bordered by sharp, forested hills, the farmhouse sits alongside eight out-buildings: a guest cottage, horse barn, sheep barn, corn crib, granary, carriage barn, smokehouse, and well house. There are two spring-fed ponds and an often briskly meandering trout stream, coveted for its bounty of brook and brown trout.


Though history would dictate that we raise dairy cattle,  we are breaking tradition in raising sheep and goats. There will be no shortage of life on the farm, as we  seek to populate the land with heritage breeds of poultry (chickens and geese), goats, cattle, and other livestock.  In our dedication to our mission, we are following the recommendations of the American Livestock Breed Conservancy (ALBC) for help in finding the breeds that are in the greatest need for preservation.


When Charlie and I visited Angela’s farm in Vermont  many years ago, we were instantly captivated by the  beauty of the countryside, the innate simple strength  of the people, the history reflected gloriously through  the architecture as it made you float from past to  present, almost seamlessly. The house was an easy  sell for us. As you see, the mustardy yellow (color of turmeric, auspicious in India) is not for everyone, but  in our case, had us transfixed at first sight. The green grass and fields, the blue heron catching fish in the  pond and the many charming out-buildings, all spoke  of a once-upon-a-time lifestyle that could and would  be our future, if given a chance.


Charlie and I chose to name the farm after the cookbook, since it embraces both our native lands and the families that have enriched us in two nations. Masala is the Hindi word for spice – not only the spice we add to food, but, in a larger sense, the spice of life. It’s the excitement of stimulating conversations, the enjoyment of shared laughter, the warmth of a house filled with family, friends and pets. It is a celebration of community.             


Since we both savor the pleasure of company of people, our kitchen has always taken center stage. At the farm, the kitchen is no longer minuscule, but one that is large without being cold and all ego. Already, it has entertained my parents, Charlie’s mother, my sister and her family (especially the flatbreads made for my darling nephew Karun), neighbors, friends and their friends, and through that, has brought new friends into our lives. It has delighted us with the exchange of food and conversations that are only conducive around food and at the table or in a kitchen.


Our cats Kali and Simba, our doggies Asha and Sebastian, could not be happier. They are enjoying the open surroundings and the endless discoveries that the farm affords them as well. The farm is not just one in name, it is a working farm, with an abundance of organically grown vegetables, fruits and naturally raised animals.

We have planted scores of Northern Hardy and Native flora, that are adding color and scent to our lives. There are 50 berry bushes, producing a variety of blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries and elderberries, adding scent and color and hunger to the fold. We have tried following recommendations of the American Livestock Breed Conservancy (ALBC) in choosing our animal population.


Of course we have taken in goats from a friend's herd, who are wethers (light pack animals) that may have had unknown fate otherwise. Geoffrey, our big old boy-goat, is handsome as can be, and charms everyone who lays eyes on him. His white and tan coat, large size and compassionate gaze are a testament to the magic that innocence alone brings. Fate brought us a herd of 41 La Mancha goats, earless wonders that had me smitten at first sight, but had to work their charm on many friends and family members. As adorable as they are, their lack of ears can spook out many. Their milk has great butterfat and it is our hope to make cheese with this milk. I have never been a fan of goat's milk, but theirs is odorless and beautifully rich. Charlie had me fooled one morning when he gave me some and I drank it as I do the usual milk from the refrigerator.


The chickens (approximately 90 in total) are my love,

and my sanity. I can never have enough time with them and enough photos of them. They have great personalities, are very independent without being aloof, and are great performers, especially when they see me with a camera. The Guinea Hens are young and mesmerizing and soon will protect us from deer tick and the flora around the farm from beetles and other naughty bugs. Of course we are told they will become our security guards, too, since they announce the arrival of people to the farmstead with much gusto. For now they are growing happily in the chicken coop, and enjoying the summer sun that filters through the skylight, and the breeze that flow through the windows in the coop. The only thing Charlie thought would make the chickens and their state-of-the-art coop even more spectacular, would be the crowing of a rooster. Even though we ordered all but one male chick, we have been blessed with three. Sardarji, as the big black rooster is called, crows anytime we go towards the coop, comes running out to the pen, and welcomes us with his crowing and coquettish gait.


Of course the hydrangeas we planted around the farm are growing faster than I would have imagined. It is rewarding to see them drooping with abundant and full blossoms. The herbs at the entry to the mud-room and kitchen give great flavors and scents to savor and enchant. The beautiful pink petals of the Echinacea blossoms and the rich velvety flame colored centers, beckon a future that has endless beauty, hospitality and vitality. A dream come true!