Sunday, August 22, 2010

Vermont food, Vermont friends

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I'm on the first real vacation I've taken in a year and a half. And I earned it. In the past 18 months I've gone back to work full-time at after eight years at home with my kids; written about food both here and in my LA Cooking Examiner column at least five times a week; and more or less managed to maintain my role as involved mom, family cook, and frequent hostess. I hear "I don't know how you do it all" very often. (There are a few secrets: a supportive husband who picks up all my slack and does the chores I hate, a short commute, and years of experience writing on deadline.)

Nevertheless, even the most productive people sometimes need a break, and I'm taking one. Emery, my 11-year-old, had to be delivered to music camp in Vermont, and there's really no way to get there except to drive. It's a two-week camp, so it didn't make sense to come home between trips. I used it as an excuse to take the kind of trip I love, crave, and can't get in southern California. I've planned two weeks of seeing all the people I rarely see because they stayed on the East coast and I didn't. Have car, will drive country roads to reconnect with old friends. And meet new ones.

Kirsten and I went to Kinhaven music camp together 30 years ago

Burlington food writers Suzanne Podhaizer (@feedmenow) and Lara Dickson (@DeepDishCreates) took me to Penny Cluse, one of their favorite breakfast spots

I'm a New Yorker, but summer in Vermont feels like part of my DNA. I spent three teenage summers at Kinhaven, the same music camp Emery's attending now. Those three summers were the most formative part of my life - so much so that I named my second child after it. Even now, living in southern California, April rolls around and I start fantasizing about my little cabin in Vermont. I spend hours looking at real estate online until my practical husband reminds me, again, that Vermont is kind of inaccessible from southern California for those of us who work for a living. I stop looking, reluctantly, in July, when it's full-on summer and I know I'll be spending it in Santa Monica instead of in the Green Mountains. But it's a primal urge, one that reappears like clockwork when the trees in Vermont are starting to think about making leaves again and the great-great-grandchildren of the blades of soft, green grass on which I walked barefoot for months at a time form underground.

There are things about my life in Los Angeles that still feel foreign and wrong to me. Some are topographical; I don't think I'll ever fully adjust to the dry, dusty backdrop of southern California. I was thirsty for the entire first year I lived in L.A. I look at our local mountains and the desert and I know that objectively they're beautiful, but I have trouble seeing past the brown rocks and dust.

But other things in my life sometimes feel like a bad fit, too. They're the compromises one makes in any partnership. I love my husband, but I chafe silently at some of his rules. He won't drive with the windows down. No singing along with music, any music, anywhere. I know he hates some of my rules, too. That's life. That's what we do to stay married, to be able to live with someone, to keep our partners happy. And it's well worth the trade-off. But sometimes, sometimes, I need to reclaim some of the "me" things. I can't be the only one...right?

This week has been glorious for me: driving the backroads of green, green New England with the windows down, singing at the top of my lungs, stopping when I felt like stopping, eating good food. I toured a goat farm in West Pawlet and a cheddar factory in Brattleboro (more on those in separate posts). And I visited with people I really care about. By the end of the trip, I'll be ready to go home. And I'll be recharged. Here's hoping my kid likes camp so I can do it again next year.

Some images from my first few days on the road:

A nervous Emery at Newfane Cafe and Creamery, where we stopped for lunch before arriving at camp

Emery's crab cake sandwich at Newfane Cafe and Creamery

Cuban panini with cucumber salad at Newfane Cafe and Creamery

The counter at Newfane Cafe and Creamery - they were hawking the hand-cut fries, but we resisted

Creative furniture at Newfane Cafe and Creamery

Kirsten, her mom and I picked 12 quarts of blueberries at a u-pick farm in Richmond, outside of Burlington - and then ate two quarts in the car on the way home

Baked goods at Nunyuns, a popular brunch spot in Burlington

A phenomenal kale and goat feta quesadilla at Penny Cluse in Burlington, featuring local Vermont ingredients


Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said...

What a cutie Emery is. I'm glad you've been driving with the windows down and singing! It'd be hard to go without those little pleasures sometimes :)

Have fun!!

Anonymous said...

I live in Manattan and have memories of my schoold days in Burlington, VT. I am happy to be one of your followers.


Erika Kerekes said...

@Julie - thank you! I think he's adorable, but then again, I'm genetically obliged....It's always nice to hear it from an objective source.

@Norma - Thank you for being one of my followers! I'm going to return the favor right this second....

Monet said...

I'm so glad you are taking a much needed break...and I agree, you do deserve it! I loved seeing some of your photographs (especially the silver dollar!) And I'm also so glad to be following you!

Kate @ Savour Fare said...

I remember the first time I saw New England in August -- I was a high school student, taking the college tour, and I was shocked by the green. The deep, intense green. I think it's not really surprising I decided to go to college in New England, and part of me will always be a New Englander, though the rest is a California girl (I am definitively NOT a New Yorker, despite my years there. I don't fit there.)

Lynne @ CookandBeMerry said...

I'm glad you get to do exactly what you want for two weeks. We need that sometimes. I have a big grin on my face imagining you drive around with the windows down, singing out loud. Way to go!

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