Deborah Ni. When we first spoke with Deborah, she was holding down the fort at an organic hog farm outside of Austin, Texas, where she was caring for fifty heritage-breed hogs, mending fences, driving tractors, and preparing fresh sausages and bacon from the farm’s own pork. The mysterious part was that, just four months earlier, Deborah had been well into a career in the non-profit art world: living in Brooklyn, managing galleries and creating digital archives for the Judd Foundation.
But Deborah could no longer ignore a certain hunger. From memories of her Taiwanese grandmother’s chive turnovers to cheesemaking classes and rooftop apiaries in New York City, food always figured prominently. She finally had to give it her full attention by taking a sabbatical to search for sustainable food: ‘food that is good for our bodies, good for our souls, good for the planet, good for eating!’ The hog farm was only the first of many stops for Deborah and her single-speed bicycle. Next, she lived with hundreds of dairy goats just about as far as you can be from a laundromat or a hot shower somewhere in New Mexico.
Then came our summer with Meadow Lark. We were all tickled to slowly discover Deborah’s idiosyncrasies and secrets: she takes home every scrap of pork fat she can get her hands on, passes around a tiny vial of MSG at lunchtime, and takes butter in her coffee. She rides her bike everywhere, except when she doesn’t. She has an inhuman tolerance for spice, a beautiful but mostly hidden singing voice, and a talent for baking. As soon as our season ended, Deborah and her single-speed were off to Oaxaca, leaving behind a jar of snow-white, rendered lard. Come to think of it… is that why her shortbread cookies were so delicious?