None of us likes to work on a Sunday. Especially if it is a beautiful spring day -- especially if you've got an 8-year-old who wants to cash in on a little of the overdue quality "mommy-time" in the park.
But last Sunday I made an exception. Paul Newman had agreed to meet me at a farm in Wilton, Conn., to show me the way he believes more of us should consider eating -- locally and organically.
Newman had confessed to me a day or two earlier, when we'd sat down for the interview, that he'd come to organic eating reluctantly. His daughter Nell, he said, persuaded him 15 years ago it was something he should consider. He did. And Nell now heads Newman's Own Organics -- an organic line of products that he said is now growing faster than the original dressing and popcorn business.
Newman's New Restaurant
Anyway, Sunday morning Newman and his friend, the chef Michel Nischan -- with whom he has started a delightful nearby restaurant, Dressing Room: A Homegrown Restaurant -- were offering to meet me at one of the local farms from which they buy produce. They wanted me to see why they are so passionate about not only what they eat, but how it is grown.
At 11 a.m., I arrive at the Millstone Farm. Waiting for me is my ABC News producer Sarah Rosenberg (whose idea it was to talk to Newman in the first place), our camera crew and Annie Farrell. Annie is a legend in the organic farming world. She was hired by Jesse and Betsy Fink -- who saved Millstone Farm from developers two years earlier -- to help the farm become a sustainable, organic farming enterprise.
Our first stop is the chicken coop -- the "Coop de Ville," as they've dubbed it. It is indeed the Cadillac of coops. (There is an old Caddy legend on top of the coop to prove it!) There are about 40 hens and two very happy roosters here. I got the chance to hold my first egg, fresh from the nest. … It was actually a moving experience. I know that sounds odd, but I couldn't be more sincere. Standing there holding a warm egg was a powerful reminder for me that eggs don't come from the refrigerator … they come from a chicken.
Annie told us that if you never refrigerate an egg, it will survive very nicely for five weeks. Newman was eager to snag a few eggs for the next morning's breakfast. He told me he was a talented egg chef -- and then shared with me Newman's Perfect Soft-Boiled Egg recipe (which I will share with you a little later).
Secrets of Healthy Farming
We were then off to the garden, where Annie explained why the rows were above ground (makes for healthier soil), what kind of veggies were growing where, and why.
(Did you know that radishes planted with carrots will enable the carrots to grow straighter and taller? Why, you ask? Because the radishes are the jack-hammers of the garden … pushing up from below through the hard earth.)
Annie also showed us what she called the "three sisters," a teepee-looking arrangement in which beans, squash and corn grow together. She explained this was how the Native Americans planted, and that taken together the three form a perfectly balanced, nutritious meal.
We paid a visit on the first blue eyed horse I'd ever seen. There are about a dozen horses who live here. The local pony club calls the farm home. The blue-eyed beauty is Betsy Fink's horse, and he and Paul Newman -- famous for his own set of steely blues -- seemed to share a certain connection.
We visited the llamas, who are the guard dogs of the sheep. Annie explained what to do to avoid being attacked by a llama. Not something that comes up a lot, but then, you never know.
(To avoid a llama attack: never look a llama directly in the eye. If a llama spits at you, you are in trouble -- a llama can crush the chest of a coyote. And wouldn't do a human much good either.)
When I tried to summon one of the llamas over for a visit, Annie suggested it was a bad idea.
The farm's pigs are a different story. There are two of them, both of a rather rare breed called Ginger Tamworth pigs -- Thelma and Louise by name. If llamas are to be avoided, the pigs are all about getting petted. If you watch our "Nightline" story, you'll see lucky Louise getting a backrub from Paul.
Anyway, Sunday was a lovely day. I learned a lot about the whys and hows of organic farming, and local eating. And I got to do it with a group of people who have a sense of joy about what they are doing. Each of the people we met on the farm had their own unique connection to this piece of earth. And a sense of humor, too.
So here is Paul's recipe: If egg has been refrigerated, bring to room temperature. Put egg in slow boiling water for five minutes and five seconds. Remove at once and put in cold water (to stop it from continuing to cook). Heat up the egg and serve immediately. (He didn't mention butter, but a little bit can't hurt.)