If you’ve ever realized that watching chef after chef create aiolis and ceviches and gastriques makes for entertaining television but isn’t particularly relevant to what you do at home in your non-professional kitchen, you’re going to love Nancy Fuller.
Star of the new Food Network show, “Farmhouse Rules,” Nancy is as nice, as down-to-earth as they come. She’s a mother of six and a grandmother of 13, a farmer, and self-proclaimed “big girl” who likes to cook and likes to eat. I spoke to Nancy last week on the phone from her farm in Hudson Valley, New York, and she told me about her new show, her family, and her life. She and her husband own Ginsberg’s Foods, an award-winning, multi-million dollar business. Now, on top of that, she’s got her new show. Yet when I asked Nancy to tell me about herself, her immediate response was, “I’m a dairy farmer.”
Now that’s what I call keeping it real.
“I grew up on a dairy farm, I raised my kids on a dairy farm,” Nancy said. “I’m now the executive vice president of a big company, but my farming foundation gives me the impetus and the strength to do all that I do.”
And she does plenty. Between farming, helping to run Ginsberg’s Foods, taking care of her family, and now filming “Farmhouse Rules,” life is keeping Nancy hopping. But don’t expect fame to change her.
“I’m an old, fat lady with her principles about her,” Nancy joked. “We may live on a farm, but I expect people to put their napkins on their laps.”
Something else that’s important to Nancy: making sure people understand what “farm to table” really means.
“We dig potatoes, we wash them, we put them in water to cook,” she explained. “You’d be surprised how many people don’t think about the fact that potatoes come from the ground, not the grocery store. Some people really think that red potatoes are little potatoes that are dyed. I had someone tell me once that chocolate milk comes from brown cows.”
Her show takes viewers through the process from picking to cooking, as Nancy gathers local food from her own farm and the surrounding area, then turns it into down-home comfort food for her family. On one episode, for instance, they visit a peach orchard and pick peaches that they take home and make into a cobbler.
“It’s a little bit of reality TV, a little bit of cooking, we set a pretty table,” Nancy said. “It’s letting people see that they can do it, because I’m doing it. I’m not just standing there and preaching.”
She calls her simple cooking method “chop, chop, in the pot.”
“We’ve had a lot of the whole fancy, formal food preparation, and I want to get away from that for the masses, so they can chop, chop, in the pot and be done with it,” she said. “It’s good. It’s real. It’s still a stew, but done with a simplicity that anyone can do.”
Busy parents in particular will appreciate Nancy’s style, as she juggles family responsibilities, the farm, and the couple’s business. But she makes it all work, and does it with a smile.
“I kind of take things in stride,” she said. “Whatever I’m doing, I just do it. I get it done. I think that comes with age. I’m 64 and I’ve worked like a dog. I don’t feel like I owe anyone any apologies for being who I am. I’m very confident and very happy. When you’re that kind of person, you’re blessed.”
As for her show, which premiered this past weekend, Nancy said it’s not only about simple cooking and farm-fresh food, it’s about giving back – both by showcasing the abundance the Hudson Valley has to offer and by helping people see how simple it really can be to spend quality time with their families.
“It’s about giving back, helping people, getting good food into them, and gathering around the table with your family,” Nancy explained. “I think that’s important. If you can’t do it every night, do it at least a couple of nights per week. When my kids were younger, it was every Sunday. Step back, look at your children, and you’ll see how important it is. Take away the technology for an hour. It’s not a lot to ask. I’m hoping that people will see that on my show, and get to know me and understand what I’m doing. I think it’s going to be a success because it’s meant to be.”
“Farmhouse Rules” airs Sundays at 11:30 a.m. (EST) on Food Network.
Note from Christy: I appreciate all the comments and feedback on this article, but I need to point out that I interviewed Nancy in my capacity as a journalist – I don’t have regular contact with her. Some of you have asked me for Nancy’s recipes, and while at first I tried to help by searching the Food Network’s site for you, I’m now getting bombarded with requests for her recipes and I just cannot keep up. Sorry! If you can’t find what you’re looking for on the Food Network’s site, I’d suggest you contact them. On the plus side, that way they know how much everyone loves Farmhouse Rules, and that can only be a good thing for Nancy!