road food part IV: meet the Virnigs

I’ve safely arrived in Eagle, Colorado, but before I get to the amazing food here, let me tie up the last few days of the Missouri leg. In my last post, I’d begun to wax poetic about how home cooking redeemed the area’s slew of chain restaurants.

homemade dinner rolls

The day after that amazing Indian meal, we found ourselves on the Virnig family farm. For the rest of our time in the Nixa area, we ate like queens around their harvest table. Healthy, organic, pasture-raised queens, that is.

virnigs thumb

Doug and Mary Virnig have eight children: Jessie, Laura, Emma, Madeleine, Tucker, Adelaide, Helen and Rachel. They live in an old farm house on the outskirts of Ozark, Missouri, where they raise beef and dairy cows, and tend an ever-expanding garden. We had dinner with them the Tuesday night before we left, and managed to squeeze ourselves into their lives for the next three days.

farm eggs

homemade popcorn

They won us over with their homemade burgers and fresh devilled eggs — which I had the pleasure of making, with the help of two pairs of little hands.

deviled eggs

In the days to come, we feasted on homemade tostadas, guzzled kombucha tea (the kids were pretty excited to learn that I make it, too), munched on stovetop popcorn sprinkled with nutritional yeast, and sipped raw milk around a fire.



The Virnigs haven’t always lived like this. Neither of the parents grew up on farms. They’ve morphed, in their life together, from town to country folks.

Their journey toward self-sustenance is well thought out. This is no trendy organic dream. It’s a well-researched, tenderly executed dance with the earth God has set them upon.


As I lived and worked beside them for three days, the Virnig family became more than just a story.  From early-morning family time cuddled in blankets to outdoor labor to afternoon dips in the cold creek,  they refreshed me.

I know life isn’t perfect for them, but their joyful generosity imprinted itself on my heart. With grubby hands, skinned knees, and a wide open door, I left feeling lucky to tell their story. It’s a debt not even our gifts of fresh fruit and Lola’s chocolate cake could repay.


chocolate cake

7 thoughts on “road food part IV: meet the Virnigs

  1. Mom B
    June 10, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Beautiful Jen…what a tribute to this wonderful family!

  2. john
    June 11, 2009 at 3:25 am

    Wonderful! It’s a far cry from old Liverpool, but you have to make the best of what your given. I do envy their natural lifestyle. Very interesting Jen, still loving the blogg.

  3. brennacammeron
    June 11, 2009 at 10:38 am

    jen, these photos are UNBELIEVABLE. they tell a story by themselves… the whole scene just comes alive with your words. fabulous stuff. you’re SO talented. miss you!!

  4. June 13, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Wow what an amazing story these pictures tell! It really is a window for me through which I can see how rich your time there was.

  5. Madeline
    June 14, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Hey Jen your food blog looks amazing! it was such a treat to share those few rich days with you and Mary and we miss you both, i hope the road ahead of you is filled with many blessing[ and good food:)
    talk to you later

  6. Anonymous
    June 16, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Your photography makes my mom’s cooking look amazing. It IS amazing, but you made it pretty and immortalized it on the web. It was nice to get to meet you girls, and it was truly a treat to read about my family like this.
    Thanks Ladies,

  7. caitlin
    June 20, 2009 at 11:25 am

    wow – i’m kinda repeating what’s already been said, but these photos are breathtaking – definitely a window into your time spent there – can you give us a couple more captions?