Well no post today from an American can be without a few words about the profound change that has taken place in this country of ours. Coming from someone who had all but given up on national politics, I must say that I do feel a sense of hope. For once, in a very long time, I feel proud of my country, proud that as a people we rose up and were heard. Proud that so many of us knew that change was needed and we got out there and made it happen. Like the saying goes: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”, and it is in the spirit of that saying that I write this post.
I talk a lot about local and seasonal eating on this blog, and that is because I believe that it is so important to the health and well-being of this planet to sustain itself. I believe that we must have a deep and profound respect for nature and her bounty and follow her example to keep the balance and our bellies filled and nourished over the long haul. To that end, I believe that it is vital to support local agriculture. Having a direct connection between consumer and producer fosters trust, the understanding of what goes into food production and how the mass production of food will never work forever. It also leads to better products and accountability on a local and personal level.
I have been so inspired this past year, since I started my own quest to eat seasonally local, to see so many others taking up this cause and doing the same. I like to avoid politics as much as possible, but it seems near impossible not to be involved when we see what is happening in our world. So I always start small, where I feel I can make the most difference. Roberto and I decided the best way to make a change was to start voting with our money…even on vacation! We support farmers markets, local businesses and local economy as much as possible. This has become a new way of life for us, a life that I can feel good about. I am no where near perfect, and I am not sure that I ever will be, but I have a new consciousness and awareness about who I am, what I believe and what is important.
I discovered while we were in Vermont that there are places that are just light years ahead of our corner of the country when it comes to local produce and products. Where sustainability is a common goal and where people as a whole have made this a priority in their community. Where “Green” isn’t just a buzz word, but a way of life that has become ingrained into everyday living. It made me realize how living in a place where people share the same values can be so fulfilling and so it didn’t surprise me in the least when Vermont was the first state to go blue last night for Obama, giving him his first 3 electoral votes in his path to victory, or when looking at our local stats this morning the revelation that our county supported McCain, at least the rest of Florida made up for it. But enough about politics and onto the food!
In Vermont there is a wonderful grassroots movement happening called The Vermont Fresh Network which is an alliance and partnership between local farms and chefs. In the mid 1990’s Vermonters got together and coordinated a series of events to bring together local producers and chefs to see how they could best work together to support local agriculture. To be part of the network, farmers must partner with at least one restaurant and restaurants must have working connections with at least 3 farms.
Their work sure has paid off over the past 10 years, as VT has so many delicious products that are made in the state: cheese and dairy products, maple, produce, organic beer and ciders, meat and fruit and honey wines and even chocolates. There really is a local cuisine and flavor in Vermont, and boy is it tasty! You can find great local and seasonal restaurants cropping up all over the state from fine dining, to pub grub and everything in between. This is raising awareness in the public about how accessible and delicious supporting local growers and producers can be.
You hear the word “sustainable” a lot in New England, in the progressive areas, but in Vermont it really is becoming the lay of the land. There is a real commitment there to produce healthy crops without the use of pesticides while protecting the land and caring for it for future use. There is a wonderful cookbook I purchased at the Mayfarm B&B we stayed in (look for future posts about these places on Jenn’s Travel Closeup) that celebrates the regional cuisine of Vermont and the foods of those participants in The Vermont Fresh Network called Dishing Up Vermont by Tracey Medeiros.
I will be featuring many recipes from this book in the coming weeks, as my cravings for Vermont Cuisine linger.
On the way to our main destinations we stopped in Manchester for lunch and ate at The Harvest Grille on main street.
We were excited about eating some seasonal foods. I had Pumpkin Soup:
and “German fries” which were sauteed with onions and peppers in duck fat:
Roberto decided to be a good Italian and get a Caprese Sandwich:
Everything was great!
One of our destinations and out favorite place in Vermont was Middlebury. We kept saying that when we are rich and famous we will have a house there! Middlebury is a beautiful college town in the heart of all this local goodness philosophy. It is just full of the quaint scenes that everyone equates with Vermont and New England in the fall. It is about 30 minutes drive from Lake Champlain and it is surrounded by the majestic Green Mountains. Driving to Middlebury from south as we were, you pass through many small towns and villages that are worth exploring too! There is a lot of culture in Middlebury, drawn in by Middlebury College, as well as a huge agricultural base. It really is the best of both worlds and the people are warm and inviting. We had a wonderful time exploring the town after our hike to Abbey Pond and because of the hike, we were starving! We asked the clerk at the Made in Vermont store where a good place to eat was and she directed us to Tully and Marie’s, a restaurant that just exemplifies The Vermont Fresh Network. How about a nice maple smoked pork sandwich with caramelized onions and Vermont cheddar cheese?
Or perhaps maple and rosemary roasted pork with seasonal vegetables?
Both are delicious and made more so when washing it all down with a dark pint of Organic Oatmeal Stout from Otter Creek Brewing Co., located right in Middlebury!!! (Their Pumpkin Ale is great too). Oh yeah!
The next day, we decided that we really wanted to celebrate all this local eating in Vermont by creating a picnic featuring all local Vermont foods. During our travels that day we stopped by many a farm stand, apple barn and sugar (maple) shack getting provisions. We even stopped by Honey Gardens , a local apiary and picked up a beautiful bottle of traditional mead, or honey wine.
Our picnic consisted of: cheeses (hickory and maple smoked, sage and extra sharp cheddars) and venison sausage from Sugarbush Farms, local apples (oh yes, I now LOVE apples!!! Imagine that!), honey wine, apple cider donuts (local to where we were staying in MA), some locally baked bread and Lake Champlain Chocolates! We also picked up a few non-local olives and condiments from the grocery store to round it all out.
We fired up the fireplace in our little cabin at Mayfarm, put on our pajamas, grabbed books and all was right in the world.
This little trip to food lover’s paradise was all I needed to rediscover apples again (and like them!), and see what it is like to be in a place surrounded by like minded folk with similar values. It was very uplifting and nice to see and I can’t wait to go back next year!