martha kern.

knoxville, tennessee.  |  farmer. wife. mother.

How did you choose your career?

I have never wanted to be anything but a farmer. I love working out in nature and think nothing is more important than what we eat. It is such a blessing to produce what you eat and to know how your food is grown!

What is your biggest challenge in the kitchen?

My biggest challenges are when it comes to preparing what I have grown. Being very ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) makes the kitchen and food prep challenging, especially if I have a big meal going. I know what and how I want things to be … but I think observing my haphazard cooking style is probably disturbing. It used to be totally overwhelming for my husband, to see my process, which always seems like any given meal can be pulled together, but some how we end up with food on the table. After serving meals to hundreds of people, I have a kind of blind faith that I can get it done, but still feels like a miracle, of sorts, every single time it happens!

What would you consider an epic Thanksgiving Day fail?

An epic thanksgiving fail would be an oven going out. And this happened to me early on in my marriage. I was saved by a wonderful appliance person who brought us a new element straight away. But not before I had a total meltdown that took at least a year off my life. I now have three ovens but probably would not be so freaked out if none of them worked. I either care less now or have gotten a bit better at taking disaster in stride.

What is your favorite thing on the Thanksgiving table?

For my family and me, the sides steal the show at Thanksgiving. Every year. Everyone has their own favorite vegetable dish and I try to cook them all. The Turkey would be missed if it were not there. But not that much!

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

I wish as a younger cook, I had known not to sweat the small stuff! While I still get traumatized over glitches, I am a lot more confident that I can get things done in spite of whatever adversity comes along.

Would you share one of your favorite Thanksgiving recipes with us and tell us why it is your favorite? Is it a family tradition or are the flavors just plain magical?

I do not use recipes or measure anything. (Which means I am an awful baker.) So it is hard to share anything I do with accuracy. One thing I will serve on Thanksgiving, that seems to go over well is creamed onions. People just forget that onions make a great dish on their own. I use little boiler onions. (The worst part is removing the skins. A good job for anyone who asks if they can help, especially if you don’t like them so much.)

Peel the onions and cook in shallow water until tender. Drain. If you have really great cream, (we are lucky to get fresh from our nieces or friends who share their fresh milk.) You can make a wonderful sauce by just cooking it down over not too high heat. If don’t have fresh milk, you can make a white sauce by melting butter and adding an equal amount of flour (a tablespoon thickens about a cup of liquid) and whisking in milk or cream till thickened. Add salt, pepper, and thyme leaves. Dump the onions in and heat! Surprisingly sweet and incredibly tasty.

What is your greatest culinary accomplishment to date?

Last October of last year we hosted a dear young couples wedding at our farm. We love these people dearly and wanted everything about their wedding to be special. On top of doing the flowers, we served a farm to table dinner for about 200 of their friends and family. Much of the meal had been grown just a few feet from where they exchanged their vows. It went exceedingly well, other than the next week, I found a box of heirloom tomatoes that I had forgotten to slice. The event was nearly perfect!

What is your best advice on how to be a graceful chef & host on Thanksgiving Day?

Accept compliments and a thank you from your guests. I am still not good at this.

No Comments
  • Courtney Stepleton
    Posted at 18:48h, 25 November

    As someone who has been lucky enough to eat at your table, I can easily say you are my favorite chef!!! Our wedding was a perfect day because of you( Martha neglected to mention that, not only did she cook a beautiful farm-to-table meal to almost 200 people, but she also did all of the flowers!!). Thank you for everything!!!

  • Mary Hook
    Posted at 23:27h, 28 November

    Thank you, Martha, for making Courtney and John’s wedding so special. You are a wonderful cook and an even better person.