Vermont Illustrated

…but more with words than with pictures this time.

It’s the time of year that I want to throw everything out. Like the Queen of Hearts shouting “Off with their heads!” at everyone she meets, I look at every disorganized corner of my house and want to rent a dumpster for a few days and command it all to “Be gone!” Something about early spring fills me with righteous indignation and turns clutter, dust, and old, useless things into the Adversary.

There’s a classic line in Monsters, Inc., where Mike musters all his moral authority and says, “Sully, you’re not supposed to name it! Once you name it, you start getting attached to it! Now put that thing back where it came from or so help me…!” You remember, of course. I have the same problem. Regardless of my good intentions, I always look into the eyes of my disorderly junk and see longing to be useful therein. I stop, read it or look it over and, more often than I would like to admit, simply find a more civilized location for it. Sort of like naming it again.

Today I attempted to purge my personal bookshelf. I won a victory too insignificant to mention. Next, I turned to my unruly cookbook shelf. Ha-ha! Surely there are titles here which could be more useful to someone else. I was doing fine until I came to my collection of 41 back issues of the amazing magazine Cook’s Illustrated. I was envisioning selling them on ebay until I began to read the contents on the covers. “Best Swedish Meatballs”. Really? Hmm, I could use a good meatball recipe. “Dark Chocolate Taste Test: Pay Less, Get Better Chocolate!” I wonder which one won? “Better Pumpkin Pie: Secret Ingredients Improve Flavor.” Well, what are they??

I opened one. I flipped through the recipes and figured I could copy the ones I wanted and then let them go. And then it happened. I began to read. Not from the table of contents, but from Christopher Kimball’s soulful editorial which graced the first page of the issue and it moved me. Deeply. I hadn’t noticed that my decades-long love for Cook’s Illustrated had shaped far more than the kind of vanilla extract I buy or how I make Chinese Orange Chicken. It shaped me- who I am and, more specifically, where I live.

His editorials are all about Vermont- at least they are in the issues I own. The essence of this unique place is distilled in every one of his lively stories, every scenic picture he paints with his down-home details, and every wry bit of humor. I hadn’t quite realized that he created most of my vision of what Vermont is long, long before I moved here.

In January/February of 2009, he wrote about “The Vermont Creed”. He listed 14 values by which most Vermonters could be understood and by which they lived. I’m sure I read it with some amusement three years ago- having lived here only 4 1/2 years back then- but it’s actually laugh-out-loud, teary-eyed funny now. Especially “Waste Not, Want Not” and “Don’t Look in the Mirror”. (By the way, in this month’s issue, he writes “The Vermont Creed II” and these 13 new points are all just as reliable.)

I read another essay, then another and realized that there was no way I could expunge this treasure from my cookbook shelf. Instead, I began thinking of how I could make these more accessible to my daily routine. Is there any prime space in my house for a wall-mounted magazine rack…?

Only if something else gets thrown out first.

2 thoughts on “Vermont Illustrated

  1. Maren,
    The most recent issue actually re-visits the creed and adds more items. He said that when the first one published in 2009 Vermonters sent in additional ones they were concerned he missed and he wanted to correct the omission. So make sure you pick it up to add to your collection!

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