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A Return to Lodger

As a follow up to our January 29th story about Lodger—Food, Books & Community, we were thrilled to meet the three Newburgh Free Academy students who are interning at Lodger under the tutelage of owner, Leon Johnson. The day Janet, Petra and I visited the interns had prepared a Moroccan Stew and flatbed. The stew included fresh lemon juice, cilantro, chick peas and grass-fed beef, and the flatbread was chockfull of fennel, caraway seeds and topped off with crushed Salemme pepper. It was a perfect pairing, and we scraped our bowls clean with second and then third helpings of the bread.

The interns have been busy with field trips to The Pantry in Cold Spring where they got to try their hand at grinding, roasting and then taste testing coffees. During a visit to the Marbled Meat Shop, they watched an entire ox being butchered. “I learned that nothing goes to waste and even the bone marrow is used in dog food,” exclaimed Freshman Pedro Juarez. The students are looking forward to planting three raised vegetable beds in the space behind Lodger where they will raise garlic and lettuces, and there is a trip planned to Chinatown.

This May, the internship will culminate in a project where the students fully design and implement a community dinner which includes their fresh bounty. “Newburgh is a problem worth having, and I want three enchanted citizens not just cooks. The student’ toolkits should be community minded,” said Johnson


We asked Johnson about his plans for future collaborations, and his creative juices have been working overtime. There will be an event with longtime friend Marlowe Johnson, known in Detroit as a cocktail professor and gin designer. He’s famous (or infamous) for his “molecular cocktails” which sometimes includes fat washing or even pig’s blood.

Johnson is also hoping to host a group of 16 Newburgh matriarchs who will share some of their living treasure stories while dining on their favorite recipes. The evening will honor elders who have generously served their community with kind hearts and good deeds, and their oral histories will be recorded for posterity. Johnson broke into a colossal grin when announcing that his mother, a 4 foot 9 inch 80 year old firecracker, will visit from San Francisco and prepare some his favorite boyhood recipes at Lodger.

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