• Publishers' Note Fall 2007

    Publishers' Note Fall 2007

    Congratulations to all the new and seasoned “Localvores” who took part in this year’s challenge and enjoyed every bite, knowing that you were supporting your farmer neighbors in their efforts to provide the fresh, delicious, and nutritious food we’re so fortunate to have in this state! Some friends from Williston commented, “How can you go back to eating anything else that isn’t locally grown or raised after you’ve spent an entire week of tasting the difference?” We couldn’t agree more!

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  • Experimenting with Diversity

    Experimenting with Diversity

    Ever since I was in grade school and heard about Gregor Mendel and his famous hybrid sweet peas, I’ve been fascinated with the notion of conducting experiments with plants in a garden. Of course Mendel really was a scientist, while I’m something between an enthusiastic gardener and a tiny-scale farmer. I don’t expect my own experiments will yield anything as ground-breaking as the laws of heredity, but I always hope they will prove valuable in guiding my work the following year. And besides, they’re really fun!

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  • Cheese Culture

    Cheese Culture

    In 1882, Emil Frey, a Swiss immigrant working at a deli-owner’s cheese factory in Monroe, N.Y., supplied his boss’s deli with a spreadable cheese called Bismarck schlossekase. Inspired by this cheese, Frey went on to create a bewitching cultural and food revolution with a processed cheese that would be called Velveeta. Along with Cheez Whiz, Philadelphia Cream Cheese and La Vache Qui Rit, Velveeta and its industrial counterparts have obscured the legacy of thousands of years of traditional cheesemaking.

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  • Local Agricultural Community Exchange

    Local Agricultural Community Exchange

    When the Farmers Diner left Barre for Quechee last fall, it left a “local food gap” downtown that is being filled by a new nonprofit initiative called LACE. The name stands for Local Agricultural Community Exchange. It’s a local-oriented grocery store, cafe, and educational center located in the former Homer Fitts Co. department store in downtown Barre. LACE’s founder, Ariel Zevon, has made it her mission to help the Barre community reconnect with local farmers and provide healthy food to the people of central Vermont. 

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Turkey Broth

    Farmers' Kitchen—Turkey Broth

    Most people who eat the turkeys from our farm say they’re the best they’ve ever had. It must be all the sunshine and fresh air our birds get. Or perhaps it’s the buckwheat, oats, and clover we grow for them to forage in. Maybe it’s the grasshoppers they chase around. Whatever the case, something makes these turkeys really healthy and good.  Every hawk, eagle, fox, coyote, and owl in the area seems to want to jump every hurdle to get to them.

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  • Green Mountains and Amber Waves

    Green Mountains and Amber Waves

    Over the past few years, many Vermonters have embraced the local foods movement. Farmers’ markets are thriving, community supported agriculture shares are growing, and local grass-fed meat, pastured poultry, farm fresh eggs, and other products have become more widely available. But one of the challenges the local eater finds is the limited availability of some staple foods not widely grown in Vermont, such as nuts and seeds (which are pressed into cooking oil) and grains and flour. The eater may ask, ‘Why doesn’t my local bread have more local flour?’

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  • Sub Rosa

    Sub Rosa

    If you walk along the back roads and country lanes of rural Vermont this fall, you’re likely to encounter wild roses. Sometimes you’ll find them near old cellar holes and abandoned roads. You can easily distinguish the wild rose because, unlike its hybrid relative, it has only five petals.

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  • Land of Plenty

    Land of Plenty

    Rutland is important to me. After leaving Vermont for several years, trying out such places as North Carolina, southern California, and South Dakota, I chose to return here in 2000 with my own children to live where my grandparents, my parents, and my husband and I all grew up. Although many of my childhood peers had settled elsewhere, I was determined to use my education to help make Rutland a better place. I now do this in part through my work at the Community College of Vermont, where I advise students, hire instructors, and teach in various disciplines.

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Land of Plenty

Merchants Row, Rutland

Written By

Tiffany Keune

Written on

September 01 , 2007

Rutland is important to me. After leaving Vermont for several years, trying out such places as North Carolina, southern California, and South Dakota, I chose to return here in 2000 with my own children to live where my grandparents, my parents, and my husband and I all grew up. Although many of my childhood peers had settled elsewhere, I was determined to use my education to help make Rutland a better place. I now do this in part through my work at the Community College of Vermont, where I advise students, hire instructors, and teach in various disciplines. And when a local cooking contest was proposed recently, I decided to make it an event that would serve a dual purpose: educate the public about local food and build community in the city I love.

Rutland’s history-laden Center Street was the stage for the contest, held on July 20th of this year. Part of the “Friday Night Live” series of Downtown events, it was called “Iron Chef Rutland,” giving a local twist to the well-loved television series in which chefs are pitted against one another to cook the best dish in a limited amount of time. The premise of the contest was simple: three Rutland chefs had to cook a dish over the course of an hour right on the street. Their creations would then be judged on timeliness, taste, presentation, and one seemingly difficult rule: all the ingredients in their self-designed dishes had to come from within 100 miles of Rutland.

Under the threat of storm clouds, each chef carefully designed a work station unique to their own personal style. Although some preparation was allowed prior to the event, all of the cooking had to be done on-site. Kathleen Smith, owner and chef of the Cajun seafood restaurant Pasche’s, mixed ingredients from her own home garden with vegetables and meats from local growers. Using some familiar Vermont products such as tomatoes, corn, green onions, and jalapenos, Kathleen produced a colorful and tasty corn and tomato salsa. And as the skies opened up, Kathleen carefully wrapped fragrant apple bacon around pork tenderloin. With the perfect accompaniment of grilled garlic potatoes and apple slaw, her final entrée was a dish that any home cook could feel comfortable putting together.

Vermont’s summer rainstorms are notorious. They can last for hours in a soft drizzle or can pound the pavement in short bursts. This particular storm seemed to be a mix of the two. The sizzle of rain on hot pans resonated from the second competitor’s station, as Nicholas Ronfeld dazzled the crowd by using some of Vermont’s more colorful ingredients. With red and golden beets, lavender, thyme, rosemary, and red chard all taking starring roles, his dish was like a painter’s palette of colors and textures. Nicholas really took advantage of one of the contest’s loopholes or “gimmies”: each chef was allowed to use two items that came from outside the 100-mile limit. Chef Ronfeld chose olive oil, common to many kitchens, and the much more obscure truffle oil. He represented Sal’s restaurant by marrying his herbs and vegetables with lamb chops raised locally in Randolph.

Just when it seemed the rain would put a stop to the event, staff at the non-competing Back Home Again Café saved the day by quickly covering the chefs and their creations with a large tent. But chef Clarke Congdon, representing the local Italian eatery Sabby’s, didn’t seem swayed by the downpour. Like the other chefs, Clarke used some of Vermont’s most recognizable ingredients, including beets, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and spinach. But he also used some items that the home cook may not be familiar with, such as garlic scapes. Finally he presented his Boardman Hill Farm pork chops on miniature wooden cutting boards, complemented by a dish of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and a glass of cold Mendon Mountain Orchard’s apple cider.

As the competition drew to a close, staff at Back Home Again Café opened up their restaurant to the drenched judges and spectators. Their hospitality went far beyond providing a tent. With a crackling fire, homey atmosphere, and natural décor, the restaurant was the perfect place to end the contest. Community members sat, kneeled, and stood shoulder-to-shoulder as each chef presented their dish to four judges. After some very tough deliberations, Clarke Congdon was announced the winner. But he wasn’t the only one. The organizers, participants, and community members who stuck with the competition in spite of the rain were able to witness a community at its best. In this, all of us were winners.

Iron Chef Rutland was truly an inspiration—both for the home cook and for a hometown girl wanting to build community. Years ago, when I returned to Rutland, my grandmother said to me “Tiffany, do you realize that Rutland is dead? I was at the post office and that’s what people were saying—Rutland is dead.” I had pondered that statement for years, and at times I thought it was close to accurate. But my heart has lifted in Rutland recently. With ongoing events in the summer, a thriving farmers’ market, and a community that gives when giving is needed, I know Rutland is on the right track. 

Local vegetables, fruit, meat, and dairy products aren’t the only commodities Vermont has to offer. Just as our soils are rich in nutrients, our people are filled with a giving spirit. As time goes on, I hope that Vermont is viewed as a land of plenty—in more ways than one.

About the Author

 Tiffany Keune

Tiffany Keune

Tiffany Keune is Coordinator of Academic Services at the Community College of Vermont. A third-generation Vermonter, she lives in Rutland with her husband Mark, and two daughters, Kylie and Hannah.

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A quarterly magazine devoted to covering local food, sustainable farming, and the many people building the Vermont food system.

Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine illuminates the connections between local food and Vermont communities. Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape is changing as the localvore movement shapes what is grown and raised here.

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