A culinary online center dedicated to promoting the importance and the joy of American home cooking with an emphasis on local products and talent, celebrating the unique spirit and energy of the new food world ethos, especially in Vermont.
I love quotes that add meaning to my life. Here are a few to live by:
How should I eat? (Not too much)
If it is so difficult to learn to cook, how did all those early pioneer women manage to cross the country in rugged covered wagons and feed troops of people from one big pot hung over an open fire?
â€”Marion Cunningham, from Learning to Cook
Treat treats as treats.
No matter how you slice it through, grain-fed meat production systems are a drain on the global food supply.
â€”Jonathan A. Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment, U of MN
Fall’s Upon Us: Tomato Harvest Festival & Circus Smirkus
I woke up this morning and realized it really was Fall. It wasn’t just a blip in the weather pattern, or an errant day of cold rain, it was really here, the extraordinary time of year in Vermont. It’s not just the famous “color”–our maple trees turning from deep green to blazing orange–nor is it the cooler nights, the ones that make you check your garden to be sure things don’t need to be covered. It’s the quickening of your step, the lingering and longing look at yet another exquisite sunset, the awareness that darkness is falling sooner, that there doesn’t seem to be quite enough minutes in the day to finish all the projects. Fall’s upon us!
Two events couldn’t make the change of seasons any more clear than the annual tomato harvest festivals that sparkle around Vermont come the end of August. And, in my part of Vermont, the last performance of Circus Smirkus, our home-bred children’s circus that has been entertaining folks up and down the state as well as the country for 25 years, is a harbinger of the end of summer and the beginning of Fall.Â
I have my own community garden, so it isn’t rocket science to realize it’s time to harvest my tomatoes, and just like me with my little patch of garden and my five tomato plants, gardeners all around me are thinking the same thing, and, wondering, as I do, what to do with all those tomatoes. My problem isn’t as big as some gardeners. My neighbor at the South Burlington Community Garden grows nothing but tomatoes. For him, the job of cooking up the lovely red orbs into sauce must be endless!
A Tomato Harvest Festival
This year, I decided to find myself a tomato harvest festival and see what big farms do when it’s harvest time. Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford, VT Â was my choice. I’d heard that its managers, Kate Duesterberg and Will Allen have dedicated their lives to an extremely difficult and wonderful practice, growing produce the old-fashioned way, without pesticides and without oil-based fertilizers.
Fifty-two acres, the size of Cedar Circle Farm, isn’t one thousand acres or ten thousand, as are many of the industrialized farms around the country, but it is a lot of acres to nurture and support without the normal chemicals farmers have grown used to. Will Allen, an internationally recognized expert in the world of organic farming and author of The War on Bugs, says it this way, “Even normally conservative World Bank scientists maintain that 51% of greenhouse gasses come from agriculture. This has to change, and local. organic and sustainable agriculture are the answer.”
On my visit to the farm at the end of August, what I saw was the picture-postcard Vermont farm, recognizable by anyone in the 19th century right up to the middle of the 20th century anywhere here in America, and still a mainstay of rural Vermont. A lovely old farmhouse stood front and center to the road, the cedar trees that named the farm forming a circle around it to the left. And, on the right were the the farm buildings, a barn, a large shed, a farm store housed in another small building, along with a cafe and greenhouse, the rest of the farm fell back from there and ran down to the Connecticut River, a surprise with its willow trees and lazy “s” curves.Â
They’re All So Good!
The festival was well underway when I arrived, a fiddler in its midst, children playing tag through the legs of older folk, a dining tent set up along the river and lots of tomatoes. So many tomatoes and so little time, is what I thought…! There were heirlooms and beefeaters, yellow and green tomatoes, long tapered Italian varieties, plum and cherries, all to be savored on a fine, sunny afternoon on Cedar Circle Farm. Alison Baker, the chef and kitchen manager of the farm had overseen the making of a fine, cold tomato-coconut soup prepared with a roasted tomato paste that was so good, I had to bring jars of it home with me. A “pick-your-favorite-tomato” contest was going on and the man next to me, filling out his form, checked off every selection on the list. I laughed as I reminded him he could only pick on. “How can I” , was his answer,” they’re all so good!”
When I returned home, a basket piled high with late summer bounty, as well as delicious multi-grain bread from John Mellquist (more about him in a later post), and jars of tomato chile and vanilla peach with lavender preserves, along with the already mentioned tomato paste. I thought how lucky I am to live in this state of grace, this state of wonderful produce, this state of Vermont where a tomato festival can be as delightful as the best wine-tasting in the Loire Valley of France!
Note: Next week’s post will continue the story, a visit to the Pie Car of Â Circus Smirkus….
Posted: 10-10-2012SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG’S FEED
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