From the desk of Christopher Kimball
Dear Home Cook,
Over the holiday, it felt like South Carolina had moved to Vermont! There was no snow and the temperature climbed up into the high forties. No snow, no sledding, no snowplowing, and no skating. But the good news was that the rabbit hunting was fabulous. Tom and I took out Bernadette, his seven-year-old beagle, for a couple of days on the side hills and she ran a half-dozen rabbits per day. One afternoon, I was standing in a narrow field between a large patch of thorny scrub and the woods and I watched the same large rabbit scoot across, always out of range. I kept moving up the field, predicting where he might dart out next, but I never got it right. Finally, as I was looking to my right, he ran across, and just as I turned back, I saw him disappear into the bushes. It felt like a Bugs Bunny cartoon. (Guess that would make me Elmer Fudd.) Click here to see a few photos of rabbit hunting.
New Year’s brings with it the beginning of the political season, hence this story from the world of Vermont politics. An old-time northeast kingdom farmer, also a stout Republican, went to see the Democratic sheriff to report a theft.
“Yes, sir,” the farmer said, “yesterday I butchered a hog and left it hanging by the barn. During the night someone came along and stole half of that hog and I am sorry to say that it was a Republican.”
“And why,” asked the sheriff, “do you think that it was a Republican?”
“Because,” said the farmer, “if it had been a damned Democrat, he’d have taken the whole hog!”
In other news, the price of milk is high these days—good news for our local dairy farmers—and the road just before the turn to Pawlet has been repaired for some time now after the big flood. Things seem pretty quiet at the country store as the economy has not picked up yet and winter is slow. The best Christmas decoration was the old Farmall tractor on my neighbor’s lawn that was decked out in small white lights. The perfect vision of a Vermont Christmas.
Just before the holidays, I stopped by the Dorset School to see a good friend, Ellen Saltonstall, and to interview some of the kids about school lunches. For years, I have wondered about how one might adapt the Alice Waters approach to school lunches in a colder, less hospitable environment. Well, it works here, too. The school is planting fruit trees. The parents have ponied up their hard-earned money to help purchase local beef instead of what the USDA provides. They are starting to grow many of their own vegetables. Scout Proft, who runs Someday Farm, mostly an organic poultry operation, with her husband, Matt, has been very involved as well. In true Vermont fashion, these folks are not waiting around until somebody else comes up with a solution. They are just doing it, much like the response to the severe storm earlier this fall. When everything is local and you know your neighbors, things get done a whole lot more easily.
The cold weather has just moved in and so the pellet stoves and outdoor wood furnaces are going hard. I am reading The Tiger’s Wife, which I highly recommend, as well as enjoying the new Sherlock Holmes series from BBC America. My favorite cookbook these days is Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, based on the food served at his high-end takeout shops in London: inventive, healthy, interesting food. Tried a talking timer in the kitchen over the holidays and it drove me nuts (“Fifteen minutes to go . . . Ten minutes to go . . . Three minutes to go . . .”). But my new pepper grinder, the Peugeot Daman U’Select Shaftless 8.25 Inch Pepper Mill, is still brilliant: Produces a lot of ground pepper, and filling it is easier than falling off a log. (Have done both.) Also went to see the new Tinker, Tailor movie and recommend watching the original instead—the one with Alec Guinness. Nobody will ever do George Smiley better.
I leave you with a story that comes all the way from London. It is true that some old-time Vermonters were not too keen on bathing, especially in the winter. Back in the 1950s and ’60s, many of the farmers in our town were of Finnish descent and used to bathe just once per week, during the Saturday night group sauna. With that in mind, this story is about the newsboys of a certain district of London who were taken on an annual outing by train out of the city and up the Thames. There, they would spend the afternoon in the river, horsing around and, of course, bathing. One little boy was just getting into the water when a sharp-tongued friend observed, “I say, Bill, ain’t you dirty!”
“Yes,” replied Bill. “I missed the train last year!”
Enjoy the winter, especially the opportunity to stand in front of a warm stove.
America’s Test Kitchen