I Remember...Springtime in Vermont

There are times, when a profound moment touches me deeply. I have no words. Well-intended drafts pile up and and eventually, my feeble attempts concede defeat.

"Nothing," as Crescent's father used to say, "is wasted on the writer."

And so it is.

Given enough time, the words ferment, and eventually ripen in my subconscious.

May 2008
Putney, VT

Vermont conjures up images of Bing Crosby's White Christmas, fall foliage in a blaze of orange and yellow, and of course, maple syrup. It is also the home of many noteworthy writers, including my good friend Crescent Dragonwagon.

Crescent lives in a rambling 1795 farmhouse, nestled among the rolling hills of Southeastern Vermont. For years, this was her family's treasured summer home. Today, pine wood floors creak underfoot and collections along the walls conjure a sense of history.

The hand-drawn characterization of Bill and Hillary Clinton pays tribute to her inaugural contribution.

Black and white images smile back at me and I do a double take. "Wait! Is that John Wayne?"

Rummaging through a nearby bookshelf, she says casually, "My father was his biographer." Crescent points to an old hardback collection of his books, some in English, others she's managed to cull from international print runs. Next to these, sit an abridged collection of her mother's work (Charlotte Zolotow, editor and author of 70 children's books.)

Crescent is a writer too. As the author of 48 books, her work straddles two distinct genres: cooking and children's books. A James Beard Award-winner in one camp (Passionate Vegetarian, Workman Publishing) and a Coretta Scott-King Award in another camp (Half a Moon and One Whole Star, Macmillan Publishing).

She's also the author of two novels (one, The Year It Rained, published in five foreign editions and a New York Times Notable), a book of poetry, and many magazine articles.
(You may recall...last year I took a trip to San Diego and attended her 3-day Fearless Writing workshop.)

I have grown to love Crescent for much more than career accolades. Energetic and sharp-witted, she breaks out in a fanciful story--complete with a cockney accent--at the drop of a hat!

Crescent's extremely well-read and knowledgeable in an astonishing number of areas. Her former students--from Julia Child to Alice Medrich will tell you, at the heart of Crescent's Fearless Writing classes, the true essence is....Fearless Living. With an easy, infections laugh, she embraces a life-well lived.

The view from my room.

On the corner slope, a swimming hole...or ice skating pond, depending on the season. Too cold for swimming, we cruise by slowly, keeping a close eye on a newly-hatched clutch of ducklings.

This, my friends, is wild ginger.

Crescent is an avid gardener. We harvested spring rhubarb, which made its way into a crisp recipe, featured in her book "The Passionate Vegetarian." Hand-cranked buttermilk ice cream was the perfect compliment. (A side note: Cooking preparation began by...grabbing a copy of her own book off the shelf. This struck me as odd, and I asked about it. Hefting the 1,120 page "Passionate Vegetarian" she said, "Why not?" Simple as that. Any other filing system would be... redundant.)

In the garden with Crescent and her love, documentary filmmaker David Koff.

Evenings were still quite chilly. You'd find me...cozying up to the potbelly stove, curled up in that red chair, book in hand, with a cat nearby.

Ahhh...lilacs in the spring. The variety here is much more fragrant that the blooms I've encountered in the Pacific Northwest.

For years, Crescent ran a highly-acclaimed B&B called Dairy Hollow House. The thoughtful touch of an innkeeper has never subsided.

Breakfast on the screen porch with the scent of lilac wafting in the room. Herb omlette, cut fruit, and a basket full of whole-grain muffins, served with raspberry butter.

Sightseeing in nearby Northampton, MA. This area has a number of old train dining cars, now permanent restaurants. We took a pass on Kathy's Diner and headed 'round the corner.

Tiny Amanouz Cafe in Northampton is a gem of a restaurant. Specializing in Moroccan food, my meal was hauntingly delicious. Since this trip, I've been on a mission for Moroccan food and nothing I've found comes close. (From my doorstep, Mapquest tells me it is exactly 2,950.56 miles to Amanouz Cafe. Did I mention it was hauntingly delicious???)

Wall-side menu at Amanouz Cafe.

Moroccan tagine with kefta, lamb meatballs seasoned with onion, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, fresh parsley and mint.

Walpole, N.H. - Northeastern U.S. architecture. By Pacific Northwest standards, this house was massive. Notice it's been added on over the years.

This house is next door to the one above.

Exploring the uber charming Walpole, NH, L.A. Burdick Chocolate is a required stop. For me, pastries in the adjoining cafe beconned. A happy respite, I sampled several items and took the rest back to Crescent's. The chocolate coconut cake with lime butter cream frosting and toasted coconut does justice to Burdick's legendary reputation. And their hands-on Chocolate Cooking School has me conspiring to go back soon! (Note: Burdick's has outposts in Cambridge, MA and New York City)

Cute-as-can-be, the Corner Grocery store is packed with gourmet delights.

'Tis the season...for fiddlehead ferns.

In this area, folks are serious about food matters. Homeland security goes hand-in-hand with food security.

Bulletin board outside the local co-op grocery store. Add your energy-saving solutions to the quilt. Entries include: need, consume & use less energy; carpool, reuse & recycle; shop second hand stores; and organize errands for efficiency.

The famed Chelsea Royal Diner in Brattleboro, Vermont. Their website says it best "The Chelsea Royal, a vintage 1938 Worcester Diner. Decor and food speak of times gone by with Daily Blue Plate Specials, generous portions and extremely friendly pricing. The Royal Diners' cuisine is probably best described as 'high-end home style'."

Delighting the kid in us all, next door is the Royal Soft Serve Stand. Notice the cherry on top?

Inside the Royal Diner car. Behind me is an old school soda-jerk style counter.

Next up? A visit to the Brattleboro Farmers Market.