ReLocavore: Redefining "local"

Back to Wisconsin, my cheesehead friends

We will certainly not starve.

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In anticipation of the storm, Sam was able to bake bread. He makes whole-wheat loaves using King Arthur (local!) flour. The bread pans are the Alfred Bread Pan from Tufty Ceramics. The two brown pans are the new ones I gave him for his birthday. The blackened pan is over 20 years old – his father used it to bake similar wheat loaves for his family.

So unlike the empty bread aisles in East Coast grocery stores, we have fresh bread that will last us throughout the storm. We may get real sick of peanut butter sandwiches, but I’m guessing not. 

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Sandy: N’oreaster-cane

NOAA is predicting we will get 3+ inches of rain. Not as bad as Virginia, that may get 12 inches of rain.

Sam and I are “getting ready” for our first big Northeast storm: Sandy. If you live in a box, you’ve missed that there’s this big hurricane heading to the East Coast of the United States that will be merging with a second storm and creating pandemonium. Every news break on NPR is opening with “Hurricane Sandy continues toward the East Coast… The [insert official’s name] of  [insert major city] has declared [some vital part of city infrastructure: highway, subway, etc…] has been closed due to the storm.”

This is our first experience with a Northeast storm, and our first experience with a hurricane. It’s interesting.

First, most Midwesterners won’t really remember Hurricane Irene that hit the northeast in late August of last year. However, everyone in New Hampshire and Vermont remembers the rain, flooding, days without power, and the massive cleanup that is still ongoing. This storm is on everyone’s mind as Sandy comes barreling toward the East Coast, and it’s making everyone a bit more cautious than they normally would be. I’ve heard a lot of stories about Irene destruction – roads that were washed out, the last house in the neighborhood to get power, flooding that carried an RV over to the Connecticut river. Everybody points out the “water line” if their house was flooded. JoAnn Fabrics even washed away, rebuilt, and reopened.

Since Irene is recent history, everybody around here is preparing for the worst.

What we have done to prepare.

Sam and I have taken some basic measures. First, we have part of a winter larder put by for the winter, so we’re not too worried about not having food. We may be eating cold corn out of cans and tofu right out of the sealed package, but we won’t go hungry. I’m concerned with the chest freezer – if the power goes, we have about 36-48 hours of freeze, but after that, our chest freezer will begin to thaw, taking our fruit and veggies with it. We have ample dry pet food for Molly and Pidi.

We have also made sure to have lots of water on hand. We got a 2-gallon jug from the COOP, plus we filled our camping water reserve. Additionally, if things get too bad, we can fill up the bathtub so we have gallons of water.

Sam went out yesterday and topped off the gas tank, so we have enough gas to get out of the hurricane area. He also stopped at the grocery and made sure we had basics like some candles and matches, batteries for flashlights, bleach and rubbing alcohol. Bonus! The pre-packaged indian curries are shelf stable and pretty good cold. Sam picked up 2 boxes. We got into our camping supplies and got our camping stove and jetboil, so we can heat some food, if necessary. We also counted the tiles in our Scrabble game to make sure we had all of the Ps and Qs. If the power goes out, there will likely be Scrabble and re-reading of Harry Potter novels.

I’ll keep updating here, on Facebook at @AddiFaerber on Twitter.


This Week in Breakfast: Stella’s in Hartland, VT

A tiny potion bottle full of real maple syrup. Tiny flower pots full of creamers. Handmade boxes holding equal exchange tea.

I saw a bumper sticker recently: “Vermont. I get it.” At Stella’s for breakfast this morning, I kept thinking, “Vermont. I get it.” Maple syrup. Beautiful foliage. Hills split by green pastures and picturesque farms. Organic sustainable shade-grown coffee. Local blueberries in the pancakes. From what I’ve seen, there’s a different character just over the Connecticut River. For example, Vermont Public Radio and New Hampshire Public Radio were both holding fall pledge drives. VPR met their fundraising goals two days early while NHPR fell short of their fundraising goal.

More compare-and-contrast later. But first – breakfast!

Stella’s is in Hartland, Vermont, which is about 20 miles south of Hartford, Vermont. No wonder we got confused and drove 25 minutes south to breakfast. I thought it was well worth the drive. Stella’s shares a building with the Hartland post office, and a “gen’ral” store. Next door, the local church was preparing for their annual Turkey Dinner: $5 or $10. Preschoolers for free.

Stella’s is tiny – it barely seats 27 diners at 6 tables and 5 counter spots. We got there at just the right time, walked right in and sat at the counter. I couldn’t take too many pictures because we were right in front of the kitchen and I was honestly worried about offending the chef who kept a very close eye on the dining room. I did have to catch a quick snapshot of the little potion bottles full of maple syrup.

I ordered blueberry pancakes, scrambled egg and a sausage patty. The blueberries were local, as were the eggs. I didn’t catch the whole description on the menu, but their eggs are local, pasture-raised, and I think there was something in there about tuition remission and paid volunteer time off. The waitresses wrote down orders and took them to the kitchen with, “Order, Please.” Vermont. I get it.

The pancakes were fan-stupid-tastic. The berries were tiny and sweet. The pancakes themselves had just a little tug but still sucked up the maple syrup. I was so happy to gobble down my pancakes, I don’t think I even took a moment to ask Sam how his breakfast was. What even did he order? Was it good? I hope he replies in the comments to fill in my missing details. Like everywhere else, the bill was $26, including tip.

Previous Breakfasts:



Last Week in Breakfast: 4 Aces in West Lebanon, New Hampshire

Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Atwood from Yelp.

Last Sunday, Sam and I headed for another breakfast joint, the 4 Aces in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. It is an “official” roadside diner, with an old railcar diner with a bigger restaurant built around it. After breakfast, I was on my way to the airport to fly to a 4-day conference. So here I am, a week later, getting back to my notes to let you all know about the GREAT food we ate.

A confession. I’m really bad at puns. I struggle to use them casually and they always come out awkward. So I had written most of his post making horrible card-playing puns and after re-reading what I had written, it was unbearably bad. So, I will spare you the bad puns. Maybe you can add them back in the comments?

Service was slow because the waitresses were fighting with the new maple syrup pump dispenser. They had tiny beer steins with tiny glass handles they would fill with real Vermont maple syrup and bring to the table – 4 hooked in one finger. Like Lou’s and The Fort, there was no “pancake syrup”  – only good-ole Vermont maple syrup. And they didn’t charge extra for it. The staff really didn’t need the extra hassle of the pump dispenser – it seemed that most everything else was falling apart while they tried to serve breakfast. Two waitresses ran into each other and spilled hot water. A small child was running around loose and getting underfoot. We sat at the counter and the waitress came past four times before she was able to take our order. She was certainly apologetic for not being able to take our order, but still… We watched the syrup-pump show with hungry eyes.

Sam ordered the Irish breakfast that came with bangers and mash, bubble and squeak, scrambled eggs, and baked beans. I was weak at the knees looking at the home-made cider doughnuts under glass behind the counter. I ordered one, plus a scrambled egg and some hashbrowns with peppers and onions. Something about me and doughnuts around here – maybe it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Just to note, I have no idea what bubble and squeak is… it looked like cooked cabbage. According to Jaime Oliver, a cockney wanker if ever there was one:

Bubble and squeak is a classic British dish of smashed-up winter vegetables, traditionally made from the Sunday roast leftovers. Use about 60 percent potato to get the right consistency, then whatever vegetables you like – carrots, Brussels sprounts, rutabagas, turnips, onions, leeks or savoy cabbage.

Supposedly the name comes from the sound the food makes while cooking. Only Klingon food should squeak while cooking… gak. (Sam notes that Klingon is closest in the linguistic family tree to Welsh. Mwynhewch eich bwyd! MP3)

I was pleased to note that my eggs were cooked in butter. Bonus.

Sam’s breakfast was good – as good as “traditional” Irish breakfast can be – but the beans were underdone. They needed another hour of cooking and probably once the “real” brunch rush showed up they would be perfect. My cider doughnut was a good doughnut, but not as good as anything from Greenbush Bakery. Please, someone go out and eat a raspberry rabbi for me…

The bill, like everywhere else we’ve eaten, was just shy of $22. We got there just shy of 9:30am and beat the rush.

Previous Breakfasts:

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Wisconsin and Korbel Brandy

Wet and hankerin’ for a drink.

Sam, Pidi and I had finished a hike through the New Hampshire woods, gazing into holes that were formerly people’s cellars, now abandoned and full of leaves and garbage. The rain was monotonous and, even with our fancy “waterproof” fabrics, we were soaked to the bone and hankerin’ for a warm drink. Cider with brandy was just the ticket. We went to the liquor store to pickup a bottle of Korbel brandy.

New Hampshire is one of those states that maintains state-owned liquor stores. Beer and wine can be sold at many venues, but if you want something stronger, you’ll have to head for the handful of state-owned liquor stores. Conveniently for us, the Hanover-area liquor store is next door to the COOP food store. Some poor souls must drive some distance (in the winter!) to get to a liquor store. This explains why ice fishing isn’t as popular here.

We encountered a problem at the liquor store. There was no Korbel Brandy. Anywhere. In all of New Hampshire. The NH Liquor and Wine Outlets’ list of available American Brandies. (Note the absence of Korbel Brandy.) This is a point of difference between Wisconsin and New Hampshire.

In Wisconsin, we call it “milk.”

In Wisconsin, Korbel gets its own aisle at Woodman’s grocery. (Note for New Hampshireans, Woodmans is like Dan & Whit’s gets hit with the gamma bomb that hit Bruce Banner to turn him into The Hulk. Only Woodman’s sells a ton of liquor and Dan & Whit’s can’t, per New Hampshire state law.) High consumption of Korbel brandy is tied to the Brandy Old Fashioned, sour, a regional cocktail that is as popular in Wisconsin as cheese curds and the Packers. An Old Fashioned is “a bar spoon of sugar, three dashes of Angostura bitters, a lightly muddled slice of orange, a slug of brandy, lots and lots of ice, a splash of soda and, of course, a bright red maraschino cherry, often with an extra dose of the fluorescent juice that they swim in.” Supposedly, Germans from Wisconsin got a taste of Korbel brandy at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and have been swigging it down ever since (Minnich 2006, p13).

We live in a state with no Korbel Brandy. This is uncomfortable. Like socks that are a size too large.

We bought a bottle of E&J California Brandy and had some hot cider with brandy. I haven’t tested an old-fashioned with it. It’s a little too horrific to contemplate.

We need to find us a bottle of Korbel Brandy. Then we will have a Wisconsin cocktail party and serve Brandy Old Fashioneds, kringle from Racine and one goddamn fabulous cheese board.

Note “NH” is not on the list.

How can we get some Korbel in New Hampshire? Maybe if our Wisconsin friends hear our pleas and will illegally ship us some Korbel Brandy. We can also venture across the river to Vermont and see if we’ll have any success at their liquor stores. Korbel maintains an online web store. But will only ship to a handful of states. We also have the ability to make a “request” for specific wines or liquors from the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, but we have to order at least a case.

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“Caselot sale” means “Shop like you’re at Sam’s Club.”

(Not Sam.)

This weekend was the caselot sale at the COOP.

Don’t worry, I had no idea what a “caselot” was until a few days ago. Fair reader, let me educate you. From what I can tell, “caselot” is the shortened form of “curse a lot” and is a nor’eastern term for an event that makes community members want to exercise their constitutional gun rights. Parking in Boston may be another caselot.

So the caselot sale at the COOP meant that Sam got to goto the COOP with a grocery order form, drop a hundred bucks, and come home with pantry staples to help us last through the winter. He was able to score sizable discounts on canned corn, beans, and tomatoes (to make up for my current home-canning deficiency), frozen fruit (that should have been frozen back in the summer in Wisconsin, but alas…) cheap pasta, laundry soap for a year, and a winter’s larder of toilet paper and paper towels.

For me, “caselot sale” meant standing in line behind a woman ordering 50 cases of paper towels. Seriously. 50 CASES of paper towels. AND… to increase my caselotting (curse-a-lotting?) she was in the 12 items or less lane, which was creatively decorated with bright green signs saying “NO CASELOT ORDERS.” They couldn’t have been more emphatic if they had hung piñatas and ordered custom neon signs.

On top of flagrant violation of the “NO CASELOT ORDERS” and 12 ITEMS OR LESS rules, apparently when one decides to come to the coop and order more than $1,000 in goods, the manager must punch some code into the register to allow the transaction to proceed. First, note that 50 cases of paper towels costs more than $1,000, and second, note the additional party that has become involved.

Gun ownership statistics from the Nashua (NH) Telegraph.

(As a sidenote, the need for authorization for an order over $1,000 was surprising because many things in New Hampshire are less onerous. For example, anybody can check out beer or wine at the store, not just someone over 18 or 21 years old.)

Just for a bit of math, I wanted to know the square foot volume of 50 cases of paper towels. One “case” of paper towels (6 rolls, 10″ x 16″ x 12″) takes up about 1.1 cubic feet, so 50 cases of paper towels will take up more than 50 cubic feet. How in the hell was this woman getting 50 cases of paper towels home (or where ever there was a need for 50 cases of paper towels)? A 2013 Honda Odyssey minivan has about 90 cubic feet of space after you take out the last two rows of seats. I guess this is why I drive a compact sedan.

So, after the caselot sale, we have less-empty larder and freezer, fruits and vegetables for the winter, and 1/50th of a Honda Odyssey’s load of paper towels.