• 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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  • Bartered, Smuggled, and Bought

    Bartered, Smuggled, and Bought

    When the Upper Valley Localvores took their first 100–mile diet challenge in August 2005, we came upon a serious stumbling block. No local salt! Tomatoes and corn–on–the–cob were abundant, but oh, we needed salt. Fortunately, one of our members had vacationed in Maine and brought back a precious supply of sea salt. It made us wonder what our Upper Valley ancestors had done for salt.

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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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  • A Passion for Artisan Soap

    A Passion for Artisan Soap

    My soap-making journey started a decade or so ago, when I was becoming more and more sensitized (allergic) to mainstream, detergent-type soaps. Eventually I just couldn’t use them anymore. As I researched the subject, I became alarmed at what was being used in cosmetic products on the market, not to mention all the harmful chemicals leaching into our waterways as a result of those products. I decided to start making my own soap, and the enthusiasm I had back then for soap making has now turned into a passion and a business for me. My only regret is that I didn’t start making them sooner!

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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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  • 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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  • The Story of Bread

    The Story of Bread

    Green Mountain Flour, a new artisan bakery in Windsor owned and operated by Zachary Stremlau and Daniella Malin, takes a unique approach to its craft: it uses local wheat, local milling, and local fuel to create its flours, breads, and pizzas. Here, woodcuts that comprise the bakery’s logo tell “the story of bread,” echoing a time in early New England when, according to Zachary and Daniella, “the farmers knew the miller, the miller milled with stone, and the baker baked with fire.”

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  • How to Get Grounded

    How to Get Grounded

    On a road in Cabot, not far from the land that Laura Dale and Cyrus Pond bought this past March, you can look out to the west at a horizon dominated by the undulating spine of the Green Mountains. For many young farmers in Vermont, the cost of land can seem as daunting and insurmountable as the largest of those mountains in the dead of winter.

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  • 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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  • 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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  • Classy Wheat

    Classy Wheat

    Last year, I arrived at The Putney School as their new gardener and was tasked with getting the high school students at this Putney boarding and day school excited about gardening. Early on, the farm manager told me he had planted some wheat on the edge of one of the farm’s hayfields. I was intrigued.

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  • Farm Camp—Planting Confidence, Harvesting Strength

    Farm Camp—Planting Confidence, Harvesting Strength

    As I downshift off the Putney exit of I-91, my husband, Jerry, is roused from his dozing by the hollow sound of several hundred jostling maple syrup jugs. It’s April, time to buy containers for our maple syrup at Bascom’s 10% container sale, and time to post Farm Camp flyers.

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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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  • 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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Three Square—Summer 2008


Written By

Denny Partridge

Written on

June 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?

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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Home Stories Community Three Square—Summer 2008