• Editor's Note Spring 2008

    Editor's Note Spring 2008

    The word ‘chores’ is spoken often in New England’s farming community, but people who work outside the agricultural sector don’t use it much. Last time many of us heard the word was when our mother told us to go do our chores–or no allowance! Nowadays, we ‘run errands’ and ‘go to work,’ reflecting our estrangement from manual labor. We certainly have as much to do as farmers, especially if we’re parents or are working two jobs to make ends meet; all of us are busy in our own way. It’s just that farmers rarely get a day off.

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  • One Greenhouse, Many Winter Greens

    One Greenhouse, Many Winter Greens

    In the depths of winter, a visit to Carol Stedman’s new greenhouse in Hartland provides a breath of spring. A sea of tiny greens waves hello. Claim a seat on the cement blocks that ring the 2-ft. high garden beds, bend over, and take a whiff of soil and fresh growing things. This is what I did on a recent January day. With snow blanketing the out-of-doors, the air temperature inside was only slightly higher than outside, not really warm. But the soil… a thermometer stuck deep in the dirt read a balmy 60 degrees. What was going on?

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  • Eat it on the Radio

    Eat it on the Radio

    In his book Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, Vermont author and environmentalist Bill McKibben focuses on the importance of strong communities for the health and well-being of the planet and its people. He suggests that we can strengthen our home regions by producing more of our own food, generating more of our own energy, and even creating more of our own culture and entertainment. To achieve these goals, McKibben advises, we need to build or rebuild local institutions that draw people together, and one such institution that he cites in his book is a low-power radio station in the Mad River Valley: WMRW-LP Warren, 95.1 FM.

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  • Collapse of the Colonies

    Collapse of the Colonies

    The word “localvore” may have been Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year for 2007, but a close runner-up was “colony collapse disorder,” an unexplained phenomenon in which bees disappear mysteriously from their hives. The two words are more related than one might think, though. Given the risk this disorder poses to the foods we eat in Vermont, it’s important to ask: how serious is colony collapse disorder in our state?

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  • Sweet Honey in the Raw

    Sweet Honey in the Raw

    Todd Hardie is shy and quiet, but when asked about his favorite subject–bees–he is eloquent and full of great information. Todd has been keeping bees since he was a young boy. His knowledge about bees, honey, and apitherapy–the age-old tradition of therapy from the beehive–seems boundless. And his passion and commitment to sharing that knowledge with others comes through in his business, Honey Gardens Apiaries.

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  • Set the Table with Asian Greens

    Set the Table with Asian Greens

    With names such as shungiku, komatsuna and takana, Asian greens may seem somewhat intimidating to even an experienced home chef. In recent years, Americans have become familiar with unusual greens such as bok choy and mizuna, but if you’re the adventurous type, a vast array of even more interesting Asian greens awaits. And while these varieties are not available at the corner store, local farmers who grow them can provide the freshest quality, and may also supply helpful tips for using them.

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  • Zack Woods Herb Farm

    Zack Woods Herb Farm

    The growing demand for locally-sourced products in Vermont is leading residents to look beyond vegetables and meat to another important item for consumption: herbs. As a result, herb farms such as Zack Woods Herb Farm in Hyde Park, founded in 1999 by Jeff Carpenter and his wife, Melanie Slick Carpenter, are enjoying amazing success as Vermonters seek out local herbs not just for inclusion in homemade meals but for medicinal use as well. At Zack Woods, 35 medicinal herbs are grown for a host of ailments, and the Carpenters are working hard to keep up with demand.

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  • Three Square—Spring 2008

    Three Square—Spring 2008

    Growing up in Vermont, I ate chokecherries, dandelions, venison, and tempura day lilies. When I returned recently, to live here full-time, I began to notice how often the conversation in Vermont turns to food. What’s for dinner? For the next few issues of Local Banquet, I’ll visit a variety of people at home, peer into their iceboxes, and find out what they’re eating and why. And because these can often be personal subjects, I’ve omitted last names.

    Susan is chopping an enormous white radish. “You’re in the store and you think, why the hell would anyone buy this?”

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  • A Missing Link in the Local Food Chain

    A Missing Link in the Local Food Chain

    In good weather, the drive between southwestern New Hampshire and the Capital District of New York state can be breathtakingly beautiful: there’s the view from Hogback Mountain, the wind farm in Searsburg, the Bennington obelisk. But at 4 a.m. during a December snow storm, while pulling a trailer loaded with lambs over a foggy two-lane road, the drive is tedious at best and can be downright hairy.

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  • Cooking the Sting Out

    Cooking the Sting Out

    If you take care, and wear the proper gear, you can harvest an abundant and fascinating wild edible. Folks who have been stung by this rascal know what I’m talking about, while those who haven’t had the pleasure of eating it will undoubtedly come to appreciate this nutritious and tasty plant.

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  • Writing Down the Farm

    Writing Down the Farm

    The logic is straightforward and simple. It goes like this: Farming is the one business that everyone needs, because everyone eats. Add to it the fact that children grow up—often faster than adults can imagine. And when Vermont children become adults, they may want to become part of the local food system, either as a farmer or an eater.

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Try a Little Tenderness

    Farmers' Kitchen—Try a Little Tenderness

    There are some meals that spell COMFORT to all who eat them. Leave your teeth behind. Savor the smell and the melting texture. Give yourself over to a sensuous repast.

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  • Last Morsel—The Taste

    Last Morsel—The Taste

    I roasted a loin roast from one of the pigs I’d raised—dinner plans had been canceled because of the ice storm.

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Three Square—Spring 2008

Place setting

Written By

Denny Partridge

Written on

March 01 , 2008

Growing up in Vermont, I ate chokecherries, dandelions, venison, and tempura day lilies. When I returned recently, to live here full-time, I began to notice how often the conversation in Vermont turns to food. What’s for dinner? For the next few issues of Local Banquet, I’ll visit a variety of people at home, peer into their iceboxes, and find out what they’re eating and why. And because these can often be personal subjects, I’ve omitted last names.

SUSAN

Susan is chopping an enormous white radish. “You’re in the store and you think, why the hell would anyone buy this?” She laughs and holds up something that looks like a giant knucklebone. “For miso soup, of course.”

“I always liked to cook,” she continues, “but only really good food that people would compliment and ooh and ah over. It’s different now.”

Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2001. Her most recent treatment has run its course; she’s “between things” right now. She and her husband Gary live on a remote dirt road near South Windham. The woods are beautiful around the small house they built more than twenty years ago.

“There are so many toxic things to eat. We’re afraid of our food in this country. I eat macro now, the best I can. I eat a lot of greens, mostly kale. I grow what I can. I do try to buy local, eat local, but it depends on the season.”

From the front window I can see a vegetable garden and a fully stocked woodshed. At the end of the driveway is the forge where Gary makes his living as a blacksmith. Susan, who used to work at innkeeping, sometimes helps Gary in his work. But today she’s cooking.

She begins to grind sesame salt into a Japanese bowl, an Osawa pot, she calls it. She roasts the salt in the microwave for a brief time. Shaking her head she says, “No, this isn’t good, I shouldn’t use the microwave. But I don’t like the salt burned.”

“I was a vegetarian for a long time, a very dairy-dependent vegetarian. I had to have three kinds of cheese, two sticks of butter, some cream, and a lot of eggs. I don’t do that anymore. And even my oncologist admits the macro patients seem to do better. My daughter told me, ‘I’d rather die than become vegan.’” She laughs, and shakes her head. “Of course I can’t afford to see it that way.”

“Here,” she says, and goes into her pantry to bring out two well-worn books. They are Jeffrey Steingarten’s The Man Who Ate Everything and Shiruo Tsuji’s Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art.

“So you eat mostly Japanese food?” I ask.
“Things you can digest easily. Whole grains. Sea vegetables, ferments. Low fat, low fruit, low sugar. My macrobiotic diet is from the Kushi Institute. It was developed in Japan after World War II, for Hiroshima survivors. I eat this way because I’m sick. It’s not that delicious. And it’s socially isolating.”

I’ve started munching on some raw greens, and my appetite is stoked. I watch Susan moving around the stove like a dervish. She’s a small woman with graying hair and fine cheek bones. Her energy fills the room, a large light space that’s the entire downstairs of the house.

Susan grew up in Chester in the 1950s and 1960s, one of three children. “We ate out of cans,” she said, “although my mother was a good cook. She bought us the best cuts of meat, fresh jumbo eggs. She could make the perfect bacon. But she didn’t like to cook. When TV dinners came in, we ate those. Tuna rolls, hot dogs, hamburgers. I knew there was that dry stuff, macaroni, but I believe I mostly thought it was for craft projects. Our family ate Chef Boyardee.”

She opens a package of shrink-wrapped Korean sea vegetables and begins to add things to the boiling soup. The kitchen is steaming with good smells. She puts a hot bowl of roasted millet and brown rice in front of me, fresh from the oven.

“Try this on it,” she says, handing me the freshly toasted sesame salt. “It’s funny how you can change what tastes good to you. I used to have a passion for St. Andre cheese. It tasted so good I could eat it all the time.”

“What’s your favorite treat these days?” I ask.

She considers my question carefully. I can feel her editing out favorites from her former life. “Roasted sunflower seeds,” she says. “But you’re only supposed to have about a cup a week.” She shakes her head, and laughs. “What I miss is fat. I miss ice cream.”

We sit down at the kitchen counter to eat our lunch. Susan offers me twig tea, which I decline in favor of Vermont well water.

“And what will you have for dinner tonight?” I ask.

“Maybe some squash,” she says. “And some leftover beans.”

I toast her with my glass of water. The lunch is delicious.

About the Author

Denny Partridge

Denny Partridge

Denny Partridge acts and directs with Mud Time Theater of Bellows Falls. She’s currently touring with THE NINE QUESTIONS, a new play about a rocky Vermont marriage in 1760.

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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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