• 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—Summer 2008

placesetting

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.

EZRA

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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