• 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—Fall 2008


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.


“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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