Three’s More Than Company
AT ZARAGOSA FARM IN EAST AUSTIN, FRIENDS SHARE AN ECO-FRIENDLY LIFESTYLE AND A PASSION FOR COOKING
by M. M. Adjarian
Photographs by Wynn Myers
Clint Grounds, Hattie Lindsley and Meghan Brady share a modest rental home in East Austin. Their living arrangement seems to recall the Jack Tripper-Chrissy Snow-Janet Wood ménage from the popular 1970s television show “Three’s Company.” But talk to the three late-twentysomethings about their communal cooking and urban gardening projects and you quickly realize that their story is anything but a retro remake.
The members of the famous sitcom trio were roommates before they were friends. But Clint, Hattie, and Meghan were friends long before they were housemates. Hattie and Meghan met first as undergraduates at the University of Puget Sound in 2008. Clint met Hattie three years later at the Ralph Lauren store in Austin where they worked retail. He met Meghan two years after that and the three came together as a household — which they affectionately call Zaragosa Farm — in 2016.
The longer version of their story is far less straightforward. Not long after he met Hattie, Clint traveled to New York over two summers to work briefly at Ralph Lauren outlets in the Hamptons. A contact he made during the second trip east offered him a job doing operations work for Bali-based shoe and handbag retailer, Lilla Lane.
Hattie — and then Meghan — visited Clint in the Hamptons just before he left for Bali. Hattie then traveled south to Austin, where she took jobs as a marketer/event planner and painted in her off hours. Meghan, in the meantime, lived the life of a vagabond. She took jobs at national parks in Wyoming and Hawaii, worked on a small coffee farm on Maui and traveled to Bali to visit Clint, who in his off hours was pursuing his passion — or one of them, anyway — as a furniture designer.
It was the more settled Hattie who ultimately lured both her globetrotting friends to Austin. “I knew we had to build a jungle to keep both of these Pacific Islanders happy,” she recalls, her quiet humor belying a more serious exterior. “Otherwise they would leave.” She began her jungle project by planting cacti. Vegetables and wild-flowers — she considers herself a “prairie activist” and bee supporter — were next.
Now, raised beds in the front yard grow a healthy tangle of peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, turnips, collard greens and chard, punctuated by the occasional knot of wildflowers. A compost pile stands vigil in the east corner, near a bed of thriving herbs. A chicken coop, presided over by a hen named Bear dominate a backyard landscape comprised of carrots, mints, and baby indigo plants that Clint will eventually harvest to make his own natural dye.
If a zealous overabundance of greenery was what drew all three friends to one location, a shared love of cooking has been what has nourished their ménage. Hattie comes from a line of West Texas grocery wholesalers who treat cooking and eating like major events. But she credits her food-loving father, who created a family heritage cookbook, for passing on his love for kitchen life to her.
“My father learned how to cook by making breakfast,” she says. “When he started making more formal meals, my sister and I were so devastated he wasn’t making us breakfast anymore that we started making breakfast banana bread, waffles, and beignets.”
Meghan encourages gardening and swaps seeds with friends while Hattie has immersed herself in the local sustainability scene. And Clint is currently working on a line of clothing made from recycled fabric.
Eyes twinkling, Clint remembers that meal-making was the cornerstone of his relationship to Hattie. “When we first met, we cooked all the time,” he says. Meghan, away on a travel adventure in Utah, takes a more scientific interest in food. One project involved hand-crushing oyster shells and adding the nitrogen-rich result to the soil. A firm believer in the health properties of cabbage — or as Hattie says, “that a healthy gut equals healthy life” — she regularly hosts sauerkraut parties for friends.
Speaking for her roving housemate, Hattie says “Meghan [who now has a job as a fermentation specialist at Austin Eastciders] can explain food in your diet from a chemical standpoint. She can spout facts that I think are hilarious. But they’re also good to know.”
The colorful Mexican party flags hanging from the ceiling of their big, airy kitchen suggest that food is more than mere sustenance at Zaragosa Farm. It’s a source of continual joy that affirms and renews their relationship with every meal Clint, Hattie and Meghan make. But what makes their kitchen even more unique is how they routinely share it with friends on a more or less weekly basis.
On Wednesday nights, they open their home to guests who help them cook — and eat — meals made with vegetables from their garden. There’s no real blueprint for Zaragosa Farm gatherings. “People come over and bring ingredients,” Clint explains. “Then we start putting it together.” They especially love making meals that include handmade pasta dishes. “Italian is easiest because it doesn’t matter how many onions you use,” Hattie quips.
The trio’s communal ethos aligns with their desire to live a more earth-based, eco-friendly lifestyle. Meghan encourages gardening and swaps seeds with friends while Hattie has immersed herself in the local sustainability scene. And Clint is currently working on a line of clothing made from recycled fabric.
Like everything else in their lives, their vision for the future of their farm is evolving. For now, Zaragosa Farm is their shared passion and one that Clint, an entrepreneur, hopes will develop into a communally created lifestyle brand. Among his other projects is a website that will promote their side projects: Hattie’s paintings, Clint’s furniture and clothing collections and Meghan’s recipes.
For now, though, they are content to revel in and support each other’s creativity as well as the creativity of their many friends. Like so many other millennials, they are rewriting lifestyle rules. Their jobs do not define them or their paths; their interests do. Unlike Jack, Chrissy and Janet — themselves members and representatives of an older generation seeking more defined paths and lives — they aspire to a life where work and play merge into a seamless whole.
“We only realize that Zaragosa Farm is evolving when people ask us what we’re doing,” Hattie says. “We’re cooking [I tell them].”
“And having fun,” Clint adds, smiling.
Read more from the Food Issue | July 2017