From the desk of Christopher Kimball
Dear Home Cook,
Yes, we did get hit hard by Hurricane Irene as its path headed more to the west and up through Vermont. We came out fine—some minor flooding and mud in one barn—but others were not so lucky. Lots of major roads closed for days, such as Route 9 across the southern part of the state. The topography of Vermont, lots of narrow hollows, streams, and bridges, makes it particularly vulnerable to flood damage. Folks no longer remember the disastrous flood of 1927. See newsreel footage of the Richmond, Vermont, area—it reminds one that nature can be fickle. You can also see a couple of photos of our flooded barn—a mess to clean up but no significant damage.
Oh, before I forget. Would you like to be on our national public radio show? Just give us a ring at 866-514-7801 to find out how you can be one of our callers. America’s Test Kitchen Radio is launching nationwide this coming January. Call now—we would love to hear from you.
I attended the 250th anniversary of our town with three of our kids—it was also Old Home Day weekend with the usual parade that starts at 5:30. Our town takes its parades seriously so there were plenty of homemade floats, including one from the owner of Sherman’s, our country store, who was sitting on a toilet to emphasize the great leaps of technology we have made in the last 250 years! The Cat in the Hat also showed up as well as a 10-foot-high town ghoul who looked older than the town itself. Of course, there was the usual Win-a-Cake contest. This year, I made the Caramel Cake from Cook’s Country magazine (try our recipe for free at CooksCountry.com), and Emily, our 13-year-old, made red, white, and blue cupcakes. Take a look at my photos of the parade and the fair.
The Vermonters I grew up with had no problem planning menus because every midday dinner was about the same: meat, potatoes, biscuits or bread, a vegetable, and milk from the cow out back. That lack of choice offers simplicity, but most of us would be hard pressed to consume such a pennywise diet. That reminds me of the story of the frugal farmer, the train, and the pig. An elderly farmer, known far and wide for his parsimony, stopped at the Sanbornton Bridge ticket office in New Hampshire.
“How much to Littleton?” he asked the ticket agent.
The farmer said nothing for a bit. “Well then, how much for a cow?”
“Book me as a pig,” said the old-timer promptly.
It’s time to head out into the woods and to start scouting for deer runs. Crisp air has returned and, with it, long hikes up in the mountains to check things out before hunting season starts up. We are about to get this year’s delivery of fresh pork from our pigs; the beef will come a few weeks later. That means a new crop of smoky-sweet bacon! I didn’t grow potatoes this year, so Tom and Nancy have offered to give me some out of their bumper crop. Nate (Tom’s son) and his wife, Jessica, just had their first baby, a healthy boy. Congratulations! Now Tom and Nancy are grandparents twice over (their daughter Jocelyn is also a relatively new mom), that is, if you don’t count the two beagles and the black lab. They are family, too.
Caroline, our 21-year-old, has returned from a long trip out west and has headed back to college, just a stone’s throw from our town. It is wonderful to have her back. Emily and Charlie are back in school, and Whitney is looking for a paying job in New York City. (If anyone needs a hard-working artist/designer, please let me know.)
Here is a tidbit from Vermont’s past that proves how much horses were valued and how cheap land was. In the 1760s, a William Campbell owned a large Narragans horse, a pacer, and a local landlord offered to trade him “the Widow Gray Farm just west of Salem Village for the horse.” Now there’s a trade for you—a farm for a horse. Must have been a poor farm or a richly endowed horse!
Oh, two quick notes about what to see and read. The best old movie I have seen in ages is Blue (1993) with Juliette Binoche. Yes, it is French with subtitles but now one of my top 10 movies of all time. I also highly recommend the new book The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch—the most brilliant scientist/philosopher of our age. He argues, among other things, that nature is, in fact, highly adverse to human life and only our ability to acquire and pass along knowledge has allowed us to survive and prosper. Great read.
Founder and Editor
America’s Test Kitchen