• Tapping for Taste

    Tapping for Taste

    There are people in Vermont who prefer fake maple syrup—not just people who are looking for something cheaper but who actually prefer the stuff made of corn syrup. There are other people in Vermont who don’t talk to those fake syrup types. And there are Vermonters who stand by Grade B for all occasions and others who keep a little Fancy on hand.

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  • Last Morsel—Roots on the Rails

    Last Morsel—Roots on the Rails

    On summer evenings in the garden in Weathersfield, I know it’s nearly time to call it a day when the train whistle blows; over the river, Amtrak’s Vermonter is about to cross the highway in Cornish. As I stand up, knees cracking from too-long bending over the rows of carrots that want thinning, I think about the train on its trek north to St. Albans, and how tomorrow it will head south to Washington, DC. Back and forth, more than 600 miles, each day, every day.

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  • The First Localvores

    The First Localvores

    I have always been fascinated by wild foods. When I was a kid growing up in Indiana we had a copy of Euell Gibbons’ book Stalking the Wild Asparagus, and I remember how exciting it was to read about eating cattails, making acorn flour, and brewing sassafras tea. As I recall, the cattail stalks tasted a bit like mild turnips, the acorn flour was tannic and needed a lot of processing before being edible, and the tea tasted like something just this side of root beer. Little did I know as a kid that wild edibles such as cattails and acorns were just a couple of the foods historically gathered and consumed by the first people to inhabit the state I would one day call home.

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  • Taking it Slow in Italy

    Taking it Slow in Italy

    Getting together, the listening to and exchanging of ideas— that is the miracle of Terra Madre.”

    With this, Slow Food International founder Carlo Petrini welcomed us to the 2010 Terra Madre conference and set the tone for our four days in Turin, Italy. He addressed an audience of 5,000 representatives from 161 countries—small-scale farmers, producers, educators, and observers—who had traveled to Italy to meet with their peers and discuss global issues of food, culture, and justice. We came to take part in the conversation, too, along with two dozen other Vermonters. The experience renewed our appreciation for the value of gathering around a table to break bread and to exchange ideas.

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  • Cookbooks, Culture,  and Community

    Cookbooks, Culture, and Community

    The case for local nuts. No, I’m not talking about your odd mother-in-law, your bizarre ex-boyfriend, or that whacko who expresses herself, extensively, at town meeting. And I don’t mean aficionados or extremely enthusiastic people. I mean those portable nuggets of nutrition, held aloft by tree limbs. A nut, technically speaking, is a big seed enclosed by a hard shell. And even though you’re now fantasizing about almond and macadamia instead of weirdo and diehard, I’m here to tell you about what nuts we can grow in Vermont, and why.

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  • Post Oil Solutions at Five Years

    Post Oil Solutions at Five Years

    A strong regional food system—one in which the people of a region are participating in their own food production in both sustaining and sustainable ways—is community based. As much as this system grows food, it grows people, encouraging relationships of collaboration and mutual aid, respect and care. No longer at war with nature and each other, unburdened by that ancient power relationship of us over them, and having given up the self-destructive effort to control life, people actively work with life in a community-based food system. In this way, they practice “relational agriculture,” building the social fabric that leads to a truly sustainable food system for all.

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  • Halal in the Hills

    Halal in the Hills

    Art Meade is a 59-year-old livestock and poultry farmer with a thick Maine accent and a farm on Route 100 in Morrisville. He also happens to run the only state-licensed slaughter facility in Vermont that caters to Muslims who practice halal slaughter. This is the Muslim tradition of swiftly slitting the throat of a domesticated meat animal with a sharp knife; the animal is believed to be killed instantly and painlessly (though there is some debate about that). Muslims, who are directed by their religion to eat halal meat, can purchase such meat in Vermont stores, but some prefer to do the slaughter themselves.

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  • New to America,  Old Hands at Agriculture

    New to America, Old Hands at Agriculture

    There’s something exciting happening at the Intervale. “So what else is new?” you might say. “There’s always something interesting happening at the Intervale.” But not every day do you see families from more than four different countries, speaking a mix of different languages, planting lenga-lenga, molukhia, or Asian mustards side by side in a lush valley in Vermont. This summer that will be the scene at the gardens at Ethan Allen Homestead, a field at the Intervale Center in Burlington, and on farmland in Shelburne.

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  • Set the Table with Switchel

    Set the Table with Switchel

    Long a staple in Northeast hayfields as a thirst quencher and restorative, switchel—alternatively called “haymaker’s punch” —was a colonial era proto-Gatorade, a source of both hydration and electrolyte replenishment. Recipes vary, but the most common ingredients were molasses, cider vinegar, and ginger, mixed to taste in a jug of very cold well water. While the concoction could have provided benefit to all manner of laborers and sporting folks, its use was particularly common among the workers of the hayfield and the children who carried the switchel jug to them.

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  • Restoring Vermont’s Heritage

    Restoring Vermont’s Heritage

    “The farming of our fathers was exceedingly simple, content to draw from a virgin soil the supplies of simple wants, instead of aiming itself for their increase. With the impoverishment of the soil, with the forests almost swept off the face of the country and the consequent climate change, with the multiplied wants of society and development of so many new industries, the highest intelligence and energies are required to remodel our system of agriculture so that it may fully meet the demands made upon it.

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  • A Farmhouse Feeds Its Neighbors

    A Farmhouse Feeds Its Neighbors

    When Joseph Kiefer and Martin Kemple founded Food Works in 1987, phrases such as “food security” and “local food system” had yet to come into common parlance. It was ambitious—maybe even radical at the time—to think of using gardens and locally grown food to address the root causes of childhood hunger.

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  • Farming & Feasting with the Robinsons: Winter

    Farming & Feasting with the Robinsons: Winter

    In the not-so-distant past, eating locally was a way of life and a matter of necessity. For four generations, the Robinson family farmed in Ferrisburgh, at the place known today as the Rokeby Museum. The museum’s collection includes correspondence and household records detailing the family’s ways of farming, preserving, and eating. In the last of this four-part series, we take a look at how the Robinsons cooked, ate, and farmed in the late 1800s.

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  • How to Start a Community Garden

    How to Start a Community Garden

    Back in January, as my husband and I searched for a place to live in Middlebury, we had big plans to create a summer vegetable garden. But it quickly became clear that housing in town with gardening space wouldn’t be easy to find. Apartments that advertised a “big yard” always seemed to have a “scruffy lawn,” and few landlords reacted well to my desire to dig out a portion of that lawn to plant vegetables.

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  • Getting Everyone to the Table

    Getting Everyone to the Table

    Back in January, as my husband and I searched for a place to live in Middlebury, we had big plans to create a summer vegetable garden. But it quickly became clear that housing in town with gardening space wouldn’t be easy to find. Apartments that advertised a “big yard” always seemed to have a “scruffy lawn,” and few landlords reacted well to my desire to dig out a portion of that lawn to plant vegetables.

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Three Square—Fall 2008

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Written By

Denny Partridge

Written on

September 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? This is the fourth and last installment of a series in which I’ve visited a variety of Vermonters in their homes, peered into their iceboxes, and shared their thoughts about what they eat. Because of the often personal nature of their stories, I’ve chosen to omit their last names.

EDITH

“I don’t care much about cooking,” Edith tells me. “I don’t put much stock in it. My highest value is children. I love children. I wrote a history of Weathersfield for the children here. When they took a field trip to the old town cemetery, they knew the people buried there, they recognized all the names.”

We’re sitting on the sun porch outside Edith’s kitchen door. She has a pile of books beside her to read—history, poetry, nature. Old toys are neatly lined up: a dollhouse, a small gas station, toy trucks, and a few dolls, ready for young visitors. Edith holds on to a hefty cane; her leg is bum now, she says. She is 88.

Forty years ago, when a highway was routed through her family’s New Hampshire farm, Edith and her husband and four children moved to Vermont, to Weathersfield, where her husband’s aunts—privileged maiden ladies from Philadelphia—had a classic Vermont farmhouse and a barn big enough for Edith’s family to build a house in. When the aunts died, Edith’s family moved into the main house.

Edith has had a full life as a writer, newspaper publisher, radio commentator, teacher, mother, and community leader. She lives alone now, but with family close by. Her mind is lively and critical. And her applesauce, which I’d tasted at a friend’s house, is delicious.

“I make scads of applesauce. I work around the bugs. I cut up the apples. I don’t skin them. Then I put them in the Foley food mill. The other thing I make is vichyssoise. It’s the Vichyssoise a la Ritz recipe from The New York Times Cookbook. Four leeks and an onion, a stick of butter, five potatoes, and a quart of chicken broth. Boil this for 35 minutes and then put it all in the blender. Freeze that in small portions; when you want some, defrost it. When you’re ready to eat it, heat it up, and add the milk and cream. I make lots and eat it all year long.”
Edith uses a blender, never a food processor. “Years ago I wanted a blender and asked my son Will to get me one. ‘I think I have one in the back of my car,’ he said, and he did. He went right out and got it. I’m still using it, the same one.”

“I’m not a venturesome cook,” she explains. “I have greens for lunch and iced coffee; sometimes soup, too. For breakfast I have a poached egg on toast, coffee, orange juice, and strawberry jam. But the strawberry bed isn’t doing very well this year.”

“We’re having marvelous lettuce this summer, though, mesclun, and three kinds of garlic. My daughter-in-law isn’t crazy about gardening. She takes care of the onions. My daughter Ibby—she lives in North Carolina—plants all the squash when she comes up to visit.”

It’s her youngest son Charlie’s garden now, she tells me. She gave it over to him this year. “And he’s started going by some book. Here I’ve been planting for years with good tomatoes, and now Ibby and Charlie have put wool around them and they’re not getting any sun. Wool!” Edith shakes her head, but is clearly pleased by the collective family effort: six people creating one large and beautiful garden.

“I started my first one in 1948. Our Italian neighbors taught me to braid and hang onions. I learned everything else about gardening from our Russian neighbors, the Prohodskys.”

I ask what she ate growing up. “My father loved to make quahog chowder. We had baked beans on Saturday night. On Sunday we’d have Welsh rarebit around the fire. We lived in Roxbury, in Boston. He had a wonderful little garden, with two pear trees, an apple tree, tomatoes, and rhubarb.”

Before I leave Edith gets the car out and we drive around back. She points out two large apple trees. “Aunt Margaret—the nice one, Ibby used to call her—her ashes are scattered there, under the Northern Spy. We planted it in her memory. Aunt Mary’s are over there, under the Yellow Transparent.”

We pass the sugarhouse where this year Edith and her sons made 16 gallons of maple syrup in 10 boils. The pig house is empty, but the woodpile, stacked along the road, is high. It’ll heat the main house, as well as the barn-house where her son Graham and his wife now live.

I spy a wild turkey on the hillside. We stop, and a parade of small turkeys slowly comes into view. Edith is delighted. “Look! They’re back! And this time they’ve brought their whole family with them.”

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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