Three Square—Summer 2008
Written onJune 01 , 2008
Growing up in Vermont I ate chokecherries, dandelions, venison, and tempura daylilies. I recently returned to live here full time. Since then, I’ve noticed that conversation often turns to food. What’s for dinner? In this series, I visit a variety of Vermonters in their homes, peer into their iceboxes, and share their thoughts about what they eat. Because of the often personal nature of their stories, I’ve chosen to omit their last names.
I’m sitting with Ezra on a couch in the living room of his family’s apartment, upstairs from On the Rise bakery in Richmond. I ask him what he likes to eat for lunch. Ezra is six.
He scrunches up his face and closes his eyes, thinking hard. “Pizza. With cheese. Cheddar and mozzarella.”
Earlier I’d witnessed Ezra eating a small pizza, chewing it around in a circle, from the outside in, like a pinwheel. I ask him if that’s usual. Oh yes, he tells me, he likes to do it that way.
“To get rid of the crust first?” I ask.
“Sometimes I would leave the crust, but I don’t. Well, I sometimes do.” He smiles.
Ezra has an angelic face and a mass of black curls. “Sometimes, instead of a pizza, I take a wrap for lunch at school,” he says, “with cheese and lettuce and carrots. Also I have a cookie or a brownie. I like to drink water. Sometimes I mix it with orange juice. My friends bring their lunch, too, unless they do HL.”
I ask him what that means. “HL,” says Ezra. “Hot lunch. About 30 of them do that and 20 bring their lunch, maybe a sandwich. I don’t know what they eat for HL. I can’t see it. I’m usually in the back of the line. And I never do HL unless it’s an accident. And for breakfast I usually eat toast or eggs or Clifford Crunch.”
Ben, Ezra’s dad, weighs in on the breakfast menu: “It’s an organic oat cereal, to set the record straight.” He’s just brought baby Indira in from her nap. Indira is 5 1/2 months old, bright–eyed, watching us with pleasure.
“Indira likes to eat rice cereal,” says Ezra. “She just started.”
Ben and Rae created On the Rise in 2004. There’d been a bakery in Richmond before, and when it closed, they bought a big old house next to the town bridge and recreation center, tore it down, and rebuilt it as a bakery. They did all the work themselves, with the help of Ben’s brother and many friends. On the Rise is one large room, with a bakery counter, a kitchen with bread and pizza ovens, and a café/restaurant. Several evenings a week they have live music, showcasing all kinds of bands. I ask Ezra what kind of music he likes best.
Ezra sighs deeply. “Jazz. I love Vorcza. What kind do you call that, Ben?”
“Funky jazz,” says his father. Vorcza is a wonderful band, he tells me. Ezra repeats: funky jazz, funky jazz, funky jazz.
Children are welcome at On the Rise. There’s wi–fi, and coffee, and a homey atmosphere. The bakery opens at 7 a.m. Ben often bakes ’til midnight, when his mother, Judy, who’s one of the bakers, starts the next shift, working ’til dawn. Rae works days, cooking, serving, and overseeing a variety of needs. Childcare is tag–team for all.
In the summer, Ben and Ezra will work together in the garden. “We grow all the stuff for the pizza toppings: tomatoes, peppers, squash, spinach, onions,” Ezra tells me. “Basically I like working on the garden a lot. And I like planting the most.”
“What about cooking?” I ask.
“I cook now sometimes, just what we are making. I can make bread. I have a card to tell me the recipe, but I can’t read cursive, so I get help from grownups. They read it to me and then I can mix it and do the kneading and everything.”
“We get the flour locally, or at least regionally,” Ben says. “It’s all organic. We grow the tomatoes from seeds. We chop the wood that fires the ovens. Most of the time it’s wonderful. It’s very social; the kids get a lot of exposure to people. They have a view of work.”
“Last night we ran out of dough,” Ezra announces.
“Suddenly it was summer,” says Ben. “Everyone wanted to go out for pizza.”
Rae appears, looking like a baker in her flour–covered apron, and looking just like Ezra, too. “We also do bread, pastries, bagels, even gluten–free bagels,” she tells me. “And Ez, your friends are on their way over.”
Our time is up, but I have a final question, one I’ve never asked anyone before. “What’s your favorite food to play with?”
Ezra smiles. “I’m too old to play with food now.”
“He used to ask for extra rice,” Rae says, “so he could make mountains for his little matchbox cars and trucks. They’d go up and down and all around the rice hills.”
Ezra is standing on his head now, upside down on the couch. He jumps to the floor. His friends are at the door.
I gather my things to go downstairs and choose the topping for my pizza. I will try eating it in a circle, Ezra–style. Why not?