From the desk of Christopher Kimball
Dear Home Cook,
The flood waters have long abated but many bridges are still out, roads partially washed away, and barns and basements full of fine silt. Our governor was standing in a riverbed watching neighbors repair the damage using backhoes and bulldozers. A local zoning administrator came up and complained that the workers did not have permits to work in a streambed, an area protected by environmental regulations. The governor turned to her and said, “Well, it would probably be best if you spent the next couple of weeks inside.” She asked why and the governor responded, “Well, we’ll be doing a lot of things you don’t like and there is nothing you can do about it!” That’s how Vermonters deal with disaster relief.
Speaking of old-fashioned, I was told that last winter, as high-speed cable was finally being brought over the mountain to our town, the company hired local horse teams to drag the huge rolls of wire up and over the mountain. As Charlie Bentley used to say when comparing a horse to a tractor, “Well, at least I know that a horse will always start on a cold morning.”
We have just finished two weeks of filming the Cook’s Country TV show, which will air next fall. (View some candid shots of the filming.) Some of the highlights were South Carolina Pulled Pork with mustard sauce and Morning Glory Muffins (as well as a late evening dip in the marble quarry, a visit to Axel and Donna’s house for a drink, and our wrap party, where we cobbled together a band to sing “The Weight,” “Amy,” and “Mr. Charlie”).
Tom and Nate tried to herd our largest Angus onto the horse trailer to bring it down to Eagleville Smokehouse. They had built a feeding pen to make the job easier but he ended up breaking through the electric fence and headed up into the mountains. Tom then called a local to come and take care of the slaughtering right here on our farm. He then brought the dressed beefer to a local meat locker to be cut up properly. Well, this local has an odd way of speaking, using “whatchamacallit” in just about every sentence. “Well, I was talking to whatchamacallit and he told me to head towards whatchamacallit’s place to take care of his two beefers, whatchamacallit and the other one.” I’m not good at names, but at last, I have found somebody who is worse than I am.
The woods are full of acorns, beechnuts, and butternuts. You can hear them falling as you walk along logging trails, like a heavy rain. I have seen a couple of large deer in the woods but very few in total. We had a very tough winter and I think that a lot of the herd did not make it through to spring. (Speaking of seasons, many Vermonters think that there are only two seasons: winter and construction.)
I just visited the haunted chimney, located at the end of Chambers Road. There are narrow hollows that head up into the mountains off our main road, Chambers Hollow and Beattie Hollow being two of them. To get to the chimney, you drive through three farms (in Vermont, roads often go right through the middle of a farm, with the farmhouse on one side and the barns on the other) and pass more than corn and alfalfa fields and then end up at a dead end. Up on the left side, in a bunch of scrub, are the remains of the haunted chimney, the basis for our town’s most infamous ghost story. There was a married woman who used to ride from her farm to the country store on a large white horse. One day, neighbors noticed a lot of dark smoke coming from her farmhouse chimney. The husband was soon suspected of killing his wife and burning her body in the fireplace. Since then, townspeople have seen a ghostly woman riding a white horse through the woods. It even became a picnic spot—I have seen a photograph from the 1930s of a few dozen kids from the local school who went there to have their picture taken, all dressed in their Sunday best.
I’ll leave you with a Vermont story about a flatlander from New York City. He got sick of the big city grind and bought an old farm way back in a hollow, miles from a paved road. He drove down to get groceries every couple of weeks and had to pick up his mail from the local post office since they don’t deliver way out where he lives.
After six months of being totally alone, there is a knock on the door. He opened it to find a large bearded local standing outside.
“Name’s Floyd, your neighbor from the next hollow. Having a party Saturday; thought you’d like to come.”
This sounded pretty good so the flatlander readily agrees to the invitation.
“Gotta warn you, though: There might be some drinkin.”
The flatlander allows as that would be OK.
“More ’n likely that there’ll be some fighting, too.”
Even that sounded tolerable after six months of living like a hermit.
“I’ve even seen some kissin’ at these parties.”
That sounded just fine since the flatlander hadn’t spent more than a few minutes with a woman since he moved up to Vermont.
Just as Floyd was leaving, the flatlander looks up and asks, “Well, what should I wear to this party?”
Floyd turned back around and said, “Whatever you want . . . just going to be the two of us!”
Enjoy the glorious fall weather,
Founder and Editor
America’s Test Kitchen