This past weekend, I arrived at Lake George to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday with my extended family. As with any special occasion in my family, celebration was synonymous with feasting, the kitchen full of tasty and seasonal abundance.
The French and Italian members of my family generally pull out an ample stock of cheese at the end of a long dinner (the stinkier the cheese, the better). This year, of the five or six types of cheese that emerged from the kitchen along with a basket of warm, crispy bread, more than half of them were Vermont cheeses rather than the regular European imports. What’s more, several were from Addison County. In a family that’s incredibly picky about its cheese, that’s quite a nod to this area’s culinary prowess. Over the next few days, bread and chocolate from Addison County also put in an appearance, and I’d be surprised if a few microbrews from these parts didn’t show up at some point this week.
To be sure, part of the reason for the abundance of Vermont products is our proximity to northern New York State. Part of it is my family’s growing preference for locally produced fare.
But the familiar brands showing up at the family dinner table reminded me just how vibrant I’ve discovered the Vermont and Addison County food culture to be over this past year.
Right now, it’s hard to remember just why this is so exciting. The very last thing I want to do is look at, or think about, food — the heat has utterly killed my generally insatiable appetite, and all I want to do is eat cold things that I don’t have to chew, and preferably that I didn’t make. Yes. I am that lazy. Heat kills me.
In looking back at this year’s posts, though, I’ve been reminded just how much fun it’s been to explore (and sample) food around the county. A year ago, I had never heard of garlic scapes, I had no idea of the many types and sheer volume of cheese that is produced in the area (this, this, and this didn’t even begin to cover it) and I had no idea how much sap it took to produce a gallon of maple syrup.
And even though I’ve spoken with many food producers and inveterate foodies, I realize that I’ve barely scratched the surface of food in the area. It’s not faceless produce or dairy or meat, showing up in a grocery store neatly shrink-wrapped and homogenized. It’s the creativity of the value-added products that come out of the county and the dedication that people put into their personal gardens, the idealists and earthy types muddying their hands in search of a stable, sustainable food future.
So it’s time to pull it together, regain my appetite and go find some more food to talk about.
Until then, here are some things that are getting me through the heat wave:
• Pasta with pesto. Especially chilled.
• Smoothies. Cold. Fresh fruit. Enough said.
• Salads. The combinations and possibilities for fresh, raw vegetables are endless. And if veggies don’t thrill you, top with herbs, cheese, nuts or pesto for an extra twist.
• Anything from Mark Bittman’s Summer Express,” a list of 101 quick, simple meals. It was published way back in July of 2007, but the ideas are still good.