From the desk of Christopher Kimball
Dear Home Cook,
Rabbit season is coming to an end, but sugaring is just about to start up. Tom and Nate have repaired the lines and added 500 new taps so we are up to 4,800 in total. Since we have had such a warm winter, rumors are flying about an early start to the season, who has already tapped their trees (this is usually not done until the weather is just right for sugaring: warm days and cold nights), and whether this year will be better than last. Our 2011 season was mediocre since it ended after about 10 days of good runs—after that, the nights never dropped below 28 degrees. Our syrup is usually ready for shipment by mid-May, and I will provide plenty of notice in an upcoming letter.
In the age of Twitter, Facebook, and Google, it is nice to know that our part of the world, Vermont, still hasn’t quite made it into the 20th century, much less the 21st. Vermonters still prefer snowmobiles to sports cars, they own two pairs of work boots (one for special occasions), even kids know how to use jumper cables and make an animal halter out of a piece of rope, a traffic jam is a line of cars behind a logging truck, and you wouldn’t drink a cappuccino even if you could spell it. Our town has been pretty much ignored by progress. We still fry dough at Old Home Day in August. The two families that owned much of town a hundred years ago are still much in evidence. The Cook’s Country house is still referred to as the Sheldon Farm, and the Shermans, the other family, still have a namesake country store down the road. There is more than one sugar shack in town, and every child is treated to at least one visit to the haunted chimney, located at the dead end of Chambers Road. Houses, like ours, have both ghosts and histories. (Our place has a faceless minister living on the third floor and it used to be a school for girls.) We are one of the last towns to offer two post offices (one in the main part of town and one in the west village) and we know what to do with old tires (use them to keep covers on silage).
I came across the following story on the website of Vermont band Blue Spike Bluegrass. A Vermonter dies and finds himself in a large room standing in line with a bunch of people who have also died. As he stands there, he sees God and Satan working their way down the line. When God selects someone from the line, he or she is escorted to an escalator glowing with heavenly light. When Satan selects someone, he or she is dumped down a chute to the fires below.
As the old-timer watches, every so often Satan takes someone out of the line and throws him or her to one side and onto a pile of other people, stacking them all like firewood rather than throwing them down the chute. His curiosity piqued, the farmer steps out of line and approaches Satan.
“Excuse me, sir. I can see that you’re plenty busy but I have a question.”
Satan glares at him but asks hurriedly, “What is it?”
The old-timer asks, “Why do you sometimes take people out of line and throw them on a pile rather than down the chute to hell?”
“Ah, that’s simple! The ones on the pile are from Vermont and they’re too cold and wet to burn . . .”
In other news, please join us for our new weekly radio show. Recent episodes have investigated the truth about the retail fish business (one recent survey determined that 48% of fish sold in Massachusetts were a different species than the one advertised), we have explored the truth about blind wine tastings (top experts cannot tell red from white), we have taken our listeners behind-the-scenes with Julia Child, and we recently interviewed some of the top restaurant critics (including Ruth Reichl) in the country to hear their stories and secrets. Plus, we take calls, answer questions, provide recipes, do taste tests, rate equipment, and a whole lot more. Interested? Check us out at www.AmericasTestKitchenRadio.
I leave you with a few recent photos of our Vermont town. Check out the snapshot of my porch thermometer registering a chilly -8 degrees. Now that’s a real Vermont morning for you!
America’s Test Kitchen