About Marilyn

About Marilyn
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I have been cooking since I was able to read. At home as a child I’d cook with my Mom. I was the youngest girl of 4 girls and 2 boys, so my time in the kitchen was pretty much expected.  I think I get my creativity from my Mom…she would throw things in a pan for supper and my Dad would say “what’s she trying to pawn off on us now?” In her mind it was more like use what you have, disguise it and make it taste good.  If you can stretch something into another meal, go for it…all part of recycle and reuse. My Dad had an old cutting board hanging in the kitchen that belonged to his Mom. It is round with the words “waste not want not” carved around it. It hangs in my kitchen now and I try to live by that motto.

I went from cooking with my mom to cooking in high school. My first summer out of school I worked as an assistant chef at a camp and I’ve been cooking ever since, for my husband and family and in various places. For many years I worked in the summer for the Appalachian Mountain Club as the head chef at Three Mile Island on Lake Winnipesauke in NH. It is a family camp with 3 home cooked meals a day. Many times I was approached to make and sell a cookbook. I was always apprehensive, knowing that three people can make the same recipe and it will come out different three times. How do you fix that?

For the last thirty years I have been the head chef at the Mountain School, a one-semester boarding school program for high school juniors—from all over the United States—who come to Vermont to live on a working farm and to study a curriculum that emphasizes the natural world and the role of humans in that world. The farm provides all the lamb, beef, pork, chicken and turkey for the kitchen, many of the vegetables, and a substantial percentage of the fruit. As part of their Mountain School daily life, students’ plant, weed, harvest and process the vegetables and fruit, and feed, fence, and tend the animals and birds.

When I first came to the Mountain School I didn’t focus on the words “organic” or “local” when applied to food. However, because the farm was mainly organic and the school was committed to local, I soon learned to adjust my recipes for those criteria. As a result, what you find in my recipes is the old Vermont values of  “use what you have” and “waste not, want not” merged with important values of environmental responsibility.

The biggest challenge in adjusting the recipes to cook what was grown on the farm was being able to engage the tastes and appetites of adolescents. Environmentally conscious adults might be thrilled by yet another kale recipe, but that enthusiasm, is not necessarily shared by teenagers. So my challenge was always to use the farm food but to prepare it in a way that teenagers, as well as adults, would enjoy.

At the school, we use what we can and freeze the rest for use in the winter. I do the same with my cooking, what I don’t use or need at the time, I save and freeze for another time. Don’t throw it away! Having things on hand is the difference between complicated cooking and simplified cooking.

Though sweets do not always fall in the local or organic category, (with the exception of apples, berries and fair trade chocolate) I include many dessert recipes. As a result of managing a balanced diet for the younger generation, I have to realize that not everyone wants to live on vegetables alone…and everything in moderation is ok...

Where I grew up: The Bunten Farm, Orford, New Hampshire--painting by Rhett Sturman

Marilyn Covey

Dad during pumpkin season

Mom selling pumpkins