A Taste of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom | A Book Reading and Tasting
Oh the donuts. I can smell them from fifteen miles away. Those crisp tender golden brown loops jumbled together in their glass jar turn my ecologically minded, calorie counting self into a reckless carboholic, burning my low- mpg- jalopy down a warren of pitted back roads: (along Seaver Brook to South Albany to Andersonville to County Road to Bean Hill) just to coast onto the dooryard of the gourmand self serve food-stand that is the Red Sky Trading Company, where I hastily unbuckle my seat belt, duck into the goodie filled shed and seize two (one for each hand!) of Cheri Safford’s warm donuts.
But last Saturday I had 32 more reasons to drive over to Red Sky in Glover, and none of them were fried. Bethany Dunbar, my friend and editor of our local newspaper, the Barton Chronicle, had co- organized a “tasting” and “reading” from her book, Kingdom’s Bounty: A sustainable, eclectic, edible guide to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.
I knew this book when it was just a twinkle in Bethany’s eye. One day as we were gabbing together in the parking lot outside the Craftsbury General Store, she said, “Somebody’s got to write a book about this!”
By “this” she meant all the good food being kneaded and ripened and pasteurized and cured and simmered within 50 miles of where we were standing, and the resulting book somebody named Bethany wrote contains 32 profiles about the people who cultivate this goodness, from Bonnieview Farm to Too Little Farm, answering, as Butterworks Farm’s Jack Lazor puts it (on page 23), the need people have for “meaning in their food.”
To celebrate the high summer splendor (and Glover Day—a one day festival held throughout the eponymous town), Cheri and Bethany borrowed a tent, called up their bounty- producing friends and cooked up an afternoon of pork sliders, chard torte, bowls of blueberries and cheese, all served outside, a napkin’s toss away from the glass jar of donuts. Over the afternoon about 50 people grazed until sated and then slipped into the shade and listened to Bethany read vignettes from Kingdom’s Bounty about the provenance of this feast.
Back in 2005 Pete Johnson of Pete’s Greens (featured on pg 86) observed in an newspaper editorial that, “The vast majority of the food eaten in this state is trucked from far away…if the flow of food- filled tractor trailers ever stops how long before Vermonter’s starve?”
Kingdom’s Bounty paints a beautiful response to Pete’s question, showing portrait by portrait how people in one of the most impoverished and least populated areas of Vermont have expanded local food production. Dozens of agri-preneurs, assisted by the Center for an Agricultural Economy and the Food Venture Center, have rolled up their sleeves and started orchards, breweries, cheese processing plants, micro dairies, apiaries, bean fields, and bakeries. Bethany reads us a story (on page 60) about the Jasper Hill Cheese Cellars, quoting co- owner, Mateo Kehler, “We’ve got to look back at what our agricultural economy looked like before World War II. St. Alban’s was butter capitol of the world. I think we have the potential to get back there.”
There is a sweet quiet as people digest Mateo’s “Constant Bliss” cheese, and now, via Bethany, his philosophy.
“What’s exciting about this is: it’s all good news,” says Kingdom Bounty’s publisher, Nan Richardson, as she sits near the hot pepper garden and trellis of ripening grapes and the glass jar with no more donuts in Cheri’s backyard.