Yankee Magazine November/December 2022

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HOLIDAY FOOD SPECIAL PERFECT COASTAL WEEKEND IN PORTSMOUTH A VERMONT INN DECKS THE HALLS BEST HOLIDAY SHOPPING TOWNS SPECIAL PROMOTION Discover the Seasonal Joys of Christmas on the Maine Coast p. 52 5 F E S T I V E DESSERTS • MUST- TRY S I D E D I S H ES • 10TH ANNUAL FOO D A W A R D S
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From tree lightings and holiday markets to outdoor ice skating rinks and annual performances, there’s no place like the Hub for the Holidays. BostonUSA.com/holiday Your Official Guide to Exploring Boston BOSTON Your Hub for the Holidays Courtesy of SoWa Winter Festival Stu Rosner, for the BSO Courtesy of the Envoy Hotel and Jason Wessel Photography
2 | NEWENGLAND.COM November / December 2022 CONTENTS 76 /// The Merriest Inn of All For more than a decade, three remarkable friends have been bringing elfish magic to Vermont’s Wilburton Inn. By Kim Knox Beckius 88 /// A Christmas Loon Hemmed in by December ice, a stranded bird inspires hopes of a holiday miracle. By Rowan Jacobsen features Yankee (ISSN 0044-0191). Bimonthly, Vol. 86 No. 6. Publication Office, Dublin, NH 03444-0520. Periodicals postage paid at Dublin, NH, and additional offices. Copyright 2022 by Yankee Publishing Incorporated; all rights reserved. Postmaster: Send address changes to Yankee, P.O. Box 37128, Boone, IA 50037-0128. Photo by Kristin Teig; food styling by Liz NeilyON THE COVER 92 /// Conversations: JerriAnne Boggis Uncovering the past and stepping into the future with the head of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire. Interview by Ian Aldrich 96 /// Loaded Questions With gun violence elsewhere roiling the nation, a native Vermonter sets out to better understand his firearms-friendly state. By Ben Hewitt Manchester, Vermont, gets a little extra sparkle when longtime friends (from left) Pamela Ogden, Janice Blair, and Julia Scarincio come to town. Story, p. 76 ABIGAIL JOHNSTON
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24 /// 10th Annual Food Awards

Yankee salutes the bakers, cheese makers, confectioners, seafood purveyors, and others whose iconic foods help make New England such a great place to live and eat.

By Amy Traverso

32 /// How Sweet It Is Five easy desserts that will see you through the holidays, from Thanksgiving to the new year. By Amy Traverso

38 /// In Season

During this time of family feasting, easy-to-make comfort food recipes deserve a place at the table. By Amy Traverso

42 /// Open Studio

The graceful creations of Ebenezer Akakpo, a Maine designer and jewelry maker, speak to both his native Ghana and his adopted New England. By Annie Graves

48 /// House for Sale

A Connecticut couple has an unbeatable deal for DIY types: one 18th-century gem, you supply the setting. By Joe Bills

travel

60 /// Weekend Away

A December visit to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, shows how one of America’s loveliest small towns shines especially bright at Christmastime. By Courtney Hollands

74 /// Day Trips

Our roundup of New England’s best holiday shopping towns reveals where to load up on good cheer and great gifts, at sparkling destinations both big and small. Compiled by Bill Scheller

departments

10 INSIDE YANKEE

A seasonal reminder of the power of food, shared meals, and recipes that tell the stories of who we are and where we came from.

12 CONTRIBUTORS & LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

16 FIRST PERSON

In learning the ways of oyster shucking, a Massachusetts native grows to love a local flavor like no other.

By Kevin Koczwara

18 FIRST LIGHT

At this historic estate, the holiday ritual of finding the perfect tree unfolds against an equally perfect North Country setting.

By Mel Allen

22

UP CLOSE

The story of Silly Putty: how a useless goo shapeshifted into one of America’s classic toys. By Joe Bills

136

WEEKENDS WITH YANKEE Q&A

Catching up with national food and dining expert Joe Yonan, featured on Weekends with Yankee ’s latest season. By Amy Traverso

Ben Hewitt’s “Life in the Kingdom” column will return in the January/February issue.

ADVERTISING RESOURCES

Holiday Gift Guide 100

Retirement Living 118

Marketplace 133

Weekends with Yankee 137

ADAM DETOUR (FOOD AWARDS); SÉAN ALONZO HARRIS (AKAKPO); MICHAEL D. WILSON (PORTSMOUTH)

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EDITORIAL

Editor Mel Allen Managing Editor Jenn Johnson

Senior Features Editor Ian Aldrich Senior Food Editor Amy Traverso Senior Home/Digital Editor Aimee Tucker Travel Editor Kim Knox Beckius Associate Editor Joe Bills Associate Digital Editor Katherine Keenan

Contributing Editors Sara Anne Donnelly, Annie Graves, Ben Hewitt, Rowan Jacobsen, Nina MacLaughlin, Julia Shipley

ART

Art Director Katharine Van Itallie Photo Editor Heather Marcus

Contributing Photographers Adam DeTour, Megan Haley, Corey Hendrickson, Michael Piazza, Greta Rybus

PRODUCTION

Director David Ziarnowski Manager Brian Johnson Senior Artists Jennifer Freeman, Rachel Kipka

DIGITAL

Vice President Paul Belliveau Jr. Senior Designer Amy O’Brien Ecommerce Director Alan Henning Marketing Specialist Holly Sanderson Email Marketing Specialist Eric Bailey

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BLUE NOTES

Glenn Bastion (@aperture_opening) Warren, Massachusetts Newport, Rhode Island Monica Rogers (@neclassicbeauty) North Hampton, New Hampshire Bartlett, New Hampshire TALKING TURKEY!
Connect with Yankee | @YANKEEMAGAZINE
A curated look at New England featuring standout shots from our Instagram community.
Use our Instagram hashtag #mynewengland for a chance to be featured in an upcoming issue! 8 | CLINTON HUSSEY/©STOCKFOOD WE’RE
When it’s time to set the table for a family get-together or a holiday feast, you’ll need to bring the flavor with a bird that’s been brined, rubbed, glazed, or basted into its most delicious form. Luckily, we’ve rounded up our favorite holiday turkey recipes to help you do just that: newengland.com/turkey-recipes FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA @ YANKEEMAGAZINE NEWENGLAND.COM

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Memories to Savor

am writing this in late summer, a few days after laying to rest my motherin-law, Mary, beside her husband, who has been waiting more than 40 years for her in the leafy cemetery a short walk from our house. Mary was 96, ready to move on, so this is not a sad story. Instead, her passing reminded me again about the power of food to create memories that ripple through generations. I will always remember the countless Sunday outings to a local eatery for Mary’s favorite lobster crepe, and to the diner for fried clams that had to arrive on the plate with their bellies. And the drives to a popular ice cream stand that still carried frozen pudding.

Mary was a talented artist, a self-taught architect whose house plans shaped a number of residences in our area, and an activist who was known for her one-woman sign-wielding protests as she stood on the steps of town hall. She had many talents; cooking, however, was not one of them.

A few months after I met my future wife, we had a first family Thanksgiving together. In an effort to ingratiate myself to Mary, I volunteered to make the turkey and asked her advice. “Put it in before bed,” she said, “cook it at 250 degrees, and in the morning it will be done.” When I awoke, the house held the delicious aroma that pervades households around the country during the holidays. But when company arrived and I started carving, I immediately discovered that Mary’s method had put the poor bird in a severe drought, leaving 10 pounds of flaky meat, dry as sawdust. That was more than 15 years ago, and on many subsequent Thanksgivings we told the tale, as I followed a different way: duck fat–coated overnight, hot oven, few hours. Really good.

Mary did have one tried-and-true specialty: apple pie. She used only Macintosh apples and brushed her crust with milk for a golden sheen; I’d tell her it was the best pie I’d ever had, and I

said that because it was truth. In her last years, the pies stopped. But not long before she slipped away, I told her that her apple pie will always be the best. In my memory she will reply without words, but with a glint in her eye and a smile.

This is my way of introducing our special food issue, with the hope that what you find in these pages will spark stories, memories, and even new traditions. Our food editor, Amy Traverso, created holiday dessert recipes [“How Sweet It Is,” p. 32], including the lemonpistachio Bundt cake pictured on our cover, that are likely to be handed down like treasured heirlooms. She added a twice-baked potato casserole [“In Season,” p. 38] for the holiday feast, and, in what has become an annual tradition, rounded up the best New England–made food treats for our 10th anniversary Food Awards [p. 24].

There is another tradition that I keep in each holiday issue: a reminder of Edie Clark, Yankee ’s beloved author of the “Mary’s Farm” column, about what she observed and felt from her hillside home. The way that good food brought friends together meant the world to her, and she wrote about that so memorably in an essay called “Orphan Holidays” [online at newengland.com/orphan-holidays].

When Edie’s readers send cards and greetings to her, it’s the best nourishment there is. Today she is up for drives and short walks, and she has never given up her hope of resuming writing. You can reach her here: Jaffrey Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, 20 Plantation Dr., Jaffrey, NH 03452.

I hope the bounty inside this issue will nourish all of you also this season.

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CHANTAL LAMBETH

“I know how much love goes into each and every one of these products,” says Lambeth, the food stylist for the winners of our 10th Annual Food Awards [p. 24]. “I’m honored to help bring their best foot forward, and create beautiful images.” Born outside Boston, Lambeth now lives in Maine; fittingly, one of her most recent food-styling projects is Castle Rock Kitchen, a cookbook inspired by the works of Maine’s own Stephen King.

ROWAN JACOBSEN

As a nature writer, Jacobsen [“The Christmas Loon,” p. 88] has traveled to dozens of countries and many extreme environments—the Amazon, for instance, for his forthcoming book about wild cacao. “But more and more, I find that the most meaningful examples are often right in your own backyard,” Jacobsen says. “And that was certainly the case with this Yankee story, which almost literally landed in my lap!”

PALESA MONARENG

An artist and illustrator who was born and raised in London, Monareng makes her Yankee debut in this issue with a portrait of JerriAnne Boggis, head of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire [“Conversations,” p. 92]. “I loved discovering JerriAnne herself, and I really wanted to encapsulate her ability for rich and deep storytelling,” says Monareng, whose work has also been published in The New Yorker, The Guardian, and Forbes

KIM KNOX BECKIUS

Meeting the close-knit group at the heart of the Wilburton Inn’s holidays [“The Merriest Inn of All,” p. 76] led to not only a great story but also some lasting friendships, says Beckius, adding, “The Wilburton just has this alchemy that fosters a sense of connectedness and joy.” Beckius was recently named Yankee’s travel editor after being a longtime contributor to this publication and many others, including Frommer’s, Fodor’s, and Michelin guidebooks.

KRISTIN TEIG

Amid the scrumptious options she photographed for our dessert roundup [“How Sweet It Is,” p. 32], Teig had no trouble picking a favorite—Gingersnap Brownies— based on a favorite cookie of her childhood. Blending a background in painting and a love for celebrating food and culture in her photos, Teig has worked on numerous cookbooks, including ones by Boston-area star chefs Joanne Chang, Ana Sortun, and Maura Fitzpatrick.

The author of six books and a frequent contributor to Yankee, this native Vermonter may be best known for writing about rural life, but in “Loaded Questions” [p. 96] he delves into the world of gun ownership in his home state. “I’m drawn to topics that let me explore and challenge my own assumptions,” he says. “I can’t say I’m any closer to having any answers … but I think I’m asking better questions, and that feels like an important step.”

‘Field’ Notes

I want to thank Yankee for doing a story on Aroostook County [“Lessons of the Field,” September/October]. There is so much history and culture thriving there. Please consider doing several more stories highlighting Aroostook: the Acadian culture and history; winter and what the residents do to endure and embrace that time of year; and, finally, the history of the former Loring Air Force Base. I grew up on a potato farm in Caribou, just outside the west gate entrance to Loring. The base was a deep-rooted part of the community for many years, and when it closed in the late ’90s, it had a profound effect on the region.

Thank you for not forgetting Aroostook County, “the Crown of Maine”!

We don’t have many potato fields here in Connecticut, so I was intrigued by Erin Rhoda’s article about the potato harvest in Maine [“Lessons of the Field”]. Tristan Spinski’s photographs of hardworking men, women, teens, and children opened my eyes, and Rhoda's insightful reporting made me wish that I could join “harvest break”!

Carrying on family and community traditions like this surrounding the all-important harvest is still good business. It was heartening to read about the Maine teens and kids who take this work so seriously and are eager to help out.

LINDA CAMPOS (LAMBETH); MARY JACOBSEN (JACOBSEN); LARA BECKIUS (BECKIUS); JOHN TULLY (HEWITT)
NEWENGLAND.COM Dear Yankee | LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Green Peace

I wanted to thank Tim Loftus for his amazing First Person essay, “The Sanctuary” [September/October].

When I was a kid, I found a similar hemlock grove growing in a perfect circle in the woods behind my house. Whenever I needed to get away from the world, I would go to that hemlock grove and lie down and look up through their tops to the sky above. To me, it was like nature’s chapel. I’ve never been able to describe the feeling that place gave me, the comfort during difficult times, the joy of feeling the natural world so purely.

Tim’s description is the best I’ve ever read about that feeling of being so perfectly connected to and protected by these beautiful trees.

Bob Hofmann Scituate, Massachusetts

WINTER RINK

Overnight the birdbaths freeze, Upsetting many chickadees.

Our feathered friends have charming traits,

But few are good with figure skates.

— D.A.W.

me into Lee on the pretext of needing more bread and milk, but we would end up having a huge double-dip cone at the Friendly’s for lunch. We loved keeping our “secret” treat from the other adults. Years later, we laughed when we found out it had been my grandma’s idea all along.

cars in sight. What I saw was a polyphemus moth, alive and uninjured, but in the middle of the street! After taking some photos, I coaxed it onto my finger and relocated it to the grass a few feet away.

Nature is wonderful! Take time to enjoy it.

On the Radar

Sweet Memories

Wonderful childhood memories came flooding back as I enjoyed your July/August issue highlighting the best of New England’s ice cream offerings [“Get the Scoop”]. Our family traveled from Michigan every summer to my parents’ hometown, Lenox, Massachusetts. Each year my grandfather would take my sister and

Heavenly Creatures

I enjoyed Loree Griffin Burns’s article about seeing her first luna moth [“The Hours of the Moth,” July/August]. They are truly spectacular and otherworldly. I have seen only one, on my best friend’s tiny upstairs deck at Sugar bush in Vermont many years ago. Attracted to the light, it joined me as I read my book and it stayed long enough for me to alert my friend so she could see it, too.

Another memory: Just before noon on a July day almost five years ago, I was walking in my neighborhood when I saw something in the road. Luckily, it was a quiet day with no

Thank you very much for your excellent article titled “Dish Fulfillment” [July/August]. It’s important we remember our history, as you did so well by shining a light on the critical radar research work done at MIT during World War II. My grandfather, Simon Lawrence Goddard, a lifetime Cambridge resident, was one of the experts who contributed his talents at the “Plywood Palace.” Today, two of his granddaughters are patent attorneys, and they often find his name on key radar patents from the WWII era, patents which are still being declassified to this day.

Keep up the excellent work!

We want to hear from you! Write to us at editor@yankeepub.com. Be sure to include your name and current hometown, and please note that letters may be edited for length and clarity.

| 13NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2022
ILLUSTRATION BY D.A.W.

When it comes to celebrating the holidays in New England, Massachusetts has lit the way for nearly 200 years ever since a Harvard professor put up the region’s first Christmas tree in 1832, in Cambridge. New England’s best-known tree today is the massive twinkling evergreen on Boston Common, a gift from Nova Scotia as thanks for aid following the 1917 Halifax disaster. Gloucester, meanwhile, lit the nation’s first lobster-trap tree in 2001 (and later debuted the first lobster-trap menorah, too).

But it’s not just sparkling trees that inspire the oohs and aahs. From city parks and historic homes to botanical gardens and zoos, you can find seasonal displays of countless lights and infinite creativity making Massachusetts truly a place where the holiday spirit shines bright.

Western Massachusetts Discover historic splendor in Lenox, where NightWood (11/11–1/1) offers a magical outdoor sound-and-light experience at Edith Wharton’s The Mount. At another Gilded Age estate, in Stockbridge, The Trustees of Reservations dresses up the beautiful gardens at Naumkeag for Winterlights (11/25–1/1). Springfield, meanwhile, is the go-to for pure spectacle: It hosts New England’s largest drive-

(11/23–1/1), a stunning three-mile route through displays featuring 675,000-plus lights.

North of Boston

Join the merry crowds on the streets of Lowell for its City of Lights parade and celebration (11/26), culminating with the lighting of the 1893 Town Hall and its 180-foot clock tower. In nearby Methuen, an astonishing 240-plus decorated trees and wreaths star in the Festival of Trees (11/19–12/3), while Salisbury also taps into the “O Tannenbaum” spirit for its Sea Festival of Trees (11/19–12/4), with ice skating, Santa visits, and decked-out trees.

Central Massachusetts Worcester kicks off its winter-long light display on the Common with the Festival of Lights (12/2), featuring live entertainment, family fun, and the city tree lighting. Elsewhere, nature takes on a holiday glow as Night Lights (11/25–12/31) transforms the New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill into a fairy-tale landscape, and Mendon’s Southwick’s Zoo pairs its enchanting Festival of Illumination lantern display with its Winter Wonderland holiday celebration (11/25–12/31).

Greater Boston

Even before Thanksgiving, two top events are in full swing: Stone Zoo’s dazzling ZooLights (11/18–1/8) in Stoneham, and the drive-thru extravaganza Magic of Lights

magicoflights.com). The Garden at Elm Bank in Wellesley arrives on the scene with its Festival of Trees (11/25–12/30), just before the Boston Common Holiday Tree Lighting (12/1) rings in the season in New England’s biggest city, with the four-story star attraction and 80-plus other trees springing to life.

South of Boston

SEE THE HOLIDAY LIGHTS IN THE BAY STATE & GARDENS AGLOW)

Continuing a beloved Attleboro tradition since 1953, the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette offers a display of more than 400,000 lights to brighten visitors’ spirits at its Christmas Festival of Lights (11/24–1/1). Another family favorite is the Edaville Christmas Festival of Lights (11/10–1/1), at Carver’s heritage railroad and amusement park. Finally, see how Taunton came to be nicknamed “The Christmas City” at its Lights On Festival (12/3), which begins the season of enchantment on its illuminated town green.

The Cape & Islands Stroll cobblestone streets lined with dozens of twinkling trees during the season-long Nantucket Noel, which includes the big tree lighting (11/25) and the Holiday Stroll (12/2–12/4). In Sandwich, the spectacular Gardens Aglow (11/25–12/23) returns to the Heritage Museums & Gardens, while in Provincetown they’ll be cheering a uniquely Massachusetts sign of the holidays: the Lighting of the Pilgrim Monument (11/11).

’Tis the season for merry and bright displays in Massachusetts.
Winterlights at Naumkeag Gardens Aglow at Heritage Museums & Gardens
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Photos (from top): Festival of Lights, Worcester Common Oval, Worcester; City of Lights Parade, Lowell; Cape Codder Enchanted Village, Hyannis (photo by Greta Georgieva)
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Shucking Oysters

spit out the first oyster I ate. I was a teenager. What is that? I thought as it slithered across my tongue. Slimy. Its liquid reminded me of when the ocean splashed into my mouth. Over time, though, I watched people devour them, and wondered what made those bivalve mollusks so appealing.

The oyster that changed me came from my father-in-law. He bought a few fresh from the ocean in Wellfleet from his local fishmonger. They had a perfect flat bottom and a ragged top that looked like the points on old topo graphical globes. They had that dis tinct angle and turn in their shell that I’d come to recognize in oysters from this part of Cape Cod. He asked if I wanted one. “Sure,” I said. He pulled an oyster knife from the kitchen drawer and showed me how to pop them open. I took one in my hand, searching the liquid and the belly for any leftover shell. I slurped it down. It was sweet and luscious. Now I understood.

There are certain features—taste, smell, shape, size—of each oyster, but, like people, oysters have a singular makeup within the environment they grow. Those expressions can be dif ficult to see at first. For a long time I overlooked them. Then, while work ing with oysters in a restaurant in Worcester—washing them, shucking them, putting them away each night, and placing them on a plate covered in crushed ice and accoutrements—I began to know them. Minute details appeared. I spun them in my hand and

felt the soft spot that allows the knife to enter. I could pinpoint the angle needed so as not to pop the belly. I started to love them.

The first Friday night I worked, I got the unenviable job of going out to the oyster tank and shucking in front of the crowded restaurant. My boss, the expert, was out. I grabbed my towel and a bucket of crushed ice, and made sure I had the proper sauces and lime wedges. I checked the tickets and began shucking. My work that night was not impressive. The oysters appeared unsightly on the plate. But, with each

subsequent shift, my skills grew.

It’s hard to grasp how each oyster is its own being. We think of them as either East Coast or West Coast. We can determine their flavor and their size and general shape depending on where they grow. But we miss some thing in those generalizations, how they’re alive with their own distinct upbringing. Over time, though, work ing with food makes you more cog nizant of its nature. By cleaning and shucking oysters, my appreciation of them grew with each turn on the line.

I began tasting them during my shift to know their distinct flavors and perfumes. I could identify each variety on the plate after they were shucked and looked almost identical. My knife skills strengthened and their bel lies remained intact. I wasn’t perfect, not like one of those shuckers at some enormous seafood restaurant in Bos ton. But no one could say I didn’t care.

At the start of a shift, I arranged the oysters in the giant tank of ice. I lined them in neat rows that displayed their beauty. At the end, I removed them from the tank and placed them in the corresponding tray and covered them carefully with ice before putting them to “bed” in the walk-in. I’d clean up with the cooks and go over the clos ing checklist. Before leaving, I’d peek in one last time, rechecking the ice to make sure the oysters were taken care of. I wondered who I would guide on their first oyster journey the next night and what their face would look like when the surprise arrived.

A Massachusetts native learns to love a flavor like no other.
LORI PEDRICK 16 | NEWENGLAND.COM
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First LIGHT

Old-fashioned horsepower brings families out to the Christmas tree fields at The Rocks in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. opposite : A youngster sizes up her snow-dusted selection.

Bringing Home the Tree

Celebrating a timeless holiday ritual in a perfect North Country setting.

Before ornaments are hung on the boughs, before gifts are placed around the base, before the fragrance of a freshly cut evergreen fills a home—before all that—first, there needs to be a tree. And for more than three decades, thousands of peo ple have been coming to the historic estate known as The Rocks, in Beth lehem, New Hampshire, in a quest to find, then cut, their chosen one.

If you have never been to The Rocks, here is a preview of what awaits. Arrive the Saturday before Thanksgiving, when the estate opens its tree farm to the public, and you will

see only a few dozen people looking around these 1,300 beautiful acres in the northern White Mountains. Wait until just before Christmas, and you’ll be joined by a thousand others, maybe more. Many will be children, clutching their parents’ hands as they walk through 40 acres planted with endless rows of balsam and Fraser and Canaan fir, over 30,000 trees in total—all in different stages of growth, all waiting for someone to pause and say, Yes, this one.

You can walk for hours here if you wish, gazing out at the Presidential Range. Or you can hop into the horse-

drawn wagon, choose a stop along the way, grab one of the complimentary bow saws, and harvest your tree. From there, you put it on a truck to bring to a bundling team, who’ll help secure it to your car.

It’s a holiday experience that Nigel Manley has overseen for more than 30 years, ever since he helped plant and harvest the first trees at The Rocks.

“The first year, we sold 12 trees,” he recalls. He knows where the dif ferent species of trees can be found, and where the tallest ones await as well as the more modest ones, for smaller spaces.

NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2022 | 19

Over the years, Manley has been estate manager, head tree farmer, Rocks historian, naturalist, and indis pensable giver of advice. These days, having recently hired his replacement as head tree farmer, he is now focus ing more on leading programs about the environmental and conservation work being done by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. (The forest society inherited The Rocks in 1978 from the family of John Glessner, a Chicago industrial ist, whose love of mountain forests led

him to be a founding member of the society in 1901.)

“When I started,” Manley says, “I did not know how much joy you could bring to people. I see so many young couples, and they are bringing their child here for the first time. I know they are starting traditions that will continue for all of them.”

He and his wife get their own tree each year just days before Christmas. If he sees an extraordinary tree, he is always tempted to bring it home for his three children and three grand children. But instead, he leaves it in the ground. “That tree,” he says, “will make someone else so happy.” —Mel Allen

For more information about visiting The Rocks, go to forestsociety.org/ the-rocks. To see Yankee’s guide to cutyour-own farms around New England, go to newengland.com/tree-farms.

“I see so many young couples, and they are bringing their child here for the first time.”
from top : Looking across the tree fields at The Rocks; Nigel Manley, senior outreach manager, who for years has been a familiar face for visitors seeking guidance on their tree hunt at this historic estate.
First LIGHT | BRINGING HOME THE TREE 20 | NEWENGLAND.COM
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Squeeze Play

How a useless goo shape-shifted into one of America’s classic toys.

Nothing else is Silly Putty, the ads proclaim.

Silly Putty stretches like taffy, molds like clay, and bounces like a ball. As a kid, I’d press it against a newspaper photo, and a perfect image would transfer to the putty. Perfect, that is, until I stretched and distorted it into something, well, silly. Silly Putty could be anything you wanted. But it started as a failure.

Looking for a rubber substitute during World War II, James Wright, a researcher at General Electric in New Haven, Connecticut, combined boric acid and silicone oil. A January 1945 Popular Science article noted that these efforts to develop silicone rubber had spawned a curious “bouncing putty,” for which “a use remains to be found.”

In 1949, Peter Hodgson, a New Haven advertising executive, purchased some of GE’s “bouncing putty” and included it in a local toy store’s catalog. It proceeded to outsell everything except Crayola Crayons.

The next year, as Easter approached, Hodgson hired Yale students to help with packaging one-ounce chunks in plastic Easter eggs. He dubbed his product Silly Putty and presented it at New York’s International Toy Fair, but didn’t find much interest.

Later that same year, though, after a serendipitous mention of Silly Putty in The New Yorker, Hodgson was deluged by more than 250,000 orders. From a hastily converted barn he shipped out Silly Putty eggs by the dozen, in cartons from the Connecticut Cooperative Poultry Association.

While Silly Putty was first marketed as a novelty for grown-ups, it eventually reached children through TV commercials on The Howdy Doody Show and Captain Kangaroo , becoming so popular that it ended up

going to the moon with the Apollo 8 astronauts.

Silly Putty was acquired by Crayola in the 1970s. And although changes in printing technology have curtailed Silly Putty’s image-lifting magic, the once-useless goo has found purpose as everything from a furniture stabilizer to a component of medical sensors. But Silly Putty’s highest calling, with more than 300 million eggs sold, has always been putting smiles on faces.

And there’s nothing silly about that.

—Joe Bills

LORI
First LIGHT | UP CLOSE
PEDRICK

2022Welcome to the 10th edition of our annual Food Awards, honoring those who help make New England such a great place to live and eat. This year, we celebrate iconic regional favorites such as aged cheddar cheese, Boston cream pie, maple syrup ... even a clambake that you can order by mail. Many would be good to serve at a party; all would be great to send as gifts. Happy holidays!

PHOTOS BOSTON CREAM PIE the
HOLIDAY FOOD SPECIAL 24 | NEWENGLAND.COM
BY ADAM DETOUR STYLING BY CHANTAL LAMBETH/ ANCHOR ARTISTS 1.
Taking
cake in this category? Flour Bakery in Boston, naturally.

COFFEE SYRUP

NEEDHAMS

The key to the perfect coffee milk, from Little Rhody’s own Dave’s Coffee. JOHNNYCAKE CORNMEAL Gray’s Grist Mill: Making New Englanders’ mornings tastier since 1717. A signature Maine confection done by a classic Maine confectioner, Bixby Chocolate. MAPLE SYRUP Setting the gold standard at Vermont-based April’s Maple.
| 25NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2022 3. 4.

1. BOSTON CREAM PIE

FLOUR BAKERY

Boston and Cambridge, MA

Led by beloved Boston pastry chef Joanne Chang, the bakers at Flour turn out so many top-notch sticky buns, cookies, pies, and other baked treats that it’s easy to overlook an icon in their midst: the cake known as Boston cream pie. Though this dessert was invented at Boston’s Omni Parker House hotel, we prefer Chang’s

version, with thin layers of sponge and vanilla cream, a subtle soaking of coffee syrup, and chocolate ganache to drizzle over the top. Bravo! flourbakery.com

2. COFFEE SYRUP DAVE’S COFFEE

Charlestown and Providence, RI

Coffee milk is a down-home Rhode Island treat, the flavor of childhood for anyone who grew up between Woonsocket

and Weekapaug. So leave it to Dave Lanning, an artisanal coffee roaster (and Little Rhody native), to perfect the form. The syrup begins with Lanning’s own coldbrewed coffee, made from beans his team roasts in Charlestown. Cold brewing extracts more flavor, giving the resulting brew plenty of rich chocolate notes and a nutty toastiness. Then, they add sugar and simmer the liquid down to a thick syrup

that turns a glass of cold milk into a sip of heaven. davescoffee.com

3. JOHNNYCAKE CORNMEAL GRAY’S GRIST MILL

Westport, MA

“I have an affinity for old things, and I don’t mind talking to strangers. Those are good qualities in a miller,” says George Whitley, who has been running (and preserving) this 1717 grist mill for five years. Here, he Achieve peak pancake with awardwinning johnnycake meal from Gray’s Grist Mill and syrup from April’s Maple.

3. & 4. HOLIDAY FOOD SPECIAL

COMMON CRACKERS

grinds only Rhode Island–grown Whitecap flint corn, whose signature flavor brings to mind the mild tang of buttermilk. “It’s hard as a rock,” Whitley says of the corn, which traces directly back to the varieties grown by the Narragansett, Pequot, and Wampanoag people. “We’re lucky it’s still grown here. It’s never been modified or hybridized. I think it tastes better and richer.” The grist mill’s historic 54-inch granite

millstones produce a coarser grind than supermarket cornmeal. This, in turn, gives johnnycakes their signature varied texture. The result is a true taste of place that attracts fans from across the country. graysgristmill.com

4. MAPLE SYRUP

APRIL’S MAPLE Canaan, VT

April Lemay gave up a career in finance to return to the Vermont land where her

grandparents first planted roots. With 800 acres in the Northeast Kingdom as her base, Lemay opened April’s Maple, a year-round maple farm with a café (enjoy an all-day breakfast menu, plus maple-barbecue pulled pork, maple bread pudding, and maple creemies) as well as a shop where you can buy richly flavored syrups (our favorite is the Amber grade), maple cream, and maple cotton candy. The April’s

Maple motto is “Deep roots make fine syrup.” We couldn’t agree more. aprilsmaple.com

5. NEEDHAMS

BIXBY CHOCOLATE Rockland, ME

Back when their state was the nation’s potato-growing capital, Maine cooks found countless ways to incorporate spuds into sweets, from doughnuts to chocolate cake to candies. Needhams are the most famous members of the

AGED CHEDDAR CHEESE Vermont’s wrap star, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. A tin filled with tradition: The Vermont Country Store’s Vermont Common Crackers.
6. 7.

potato-candy family: a mixture of sugar, coconut, and a dash of potato blended together and coated in dark chocolate.

As the story goes, Needhams were invented in the candy shop of John Seavey in Auburn around 1872 and named after George Needham, a popular evangelist. Mainers went wild for them, and they remain a local treasure. We love Bixby

Chocolate’s version, which is chunkier than usual, rich in coconut flavor, and, most important, sweet without being cloying. bixbychocolate.com

6. COMMON CRACKERS THE VERMONT COUNTRY STORE

Weston and Rockingham, VT Common crackers—those round, puffed crackers that

split so easily down the center—have their origins in hardtack, the indestructible flour-and-water biscuits that once served as ballast for the bellies of sailors far out to sea. Over the 19th century, hardtack evolved into more refined yeasted crackers. In Vermont, they were called “Cross crackers,” owing to their production at

the Cross Brothers Bakery in Montpelier from 1828 until 1979. When that bakery closed, The Vermont Country Store stepped in to preserve the tradition. There’s no better partner for good sharp cheddar, no more time-tested way to thicken a chowder. Sold in a retro tin, they are edible nostalgia. vermontcountrystore.com

CLAMBAKE KIT No beach required, thanks to the mailorder tastiness of Woodman’s of Essex.
28 | NEWENGLAND.COM
8.
HOLIDAY FOOD SPECIAL

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7. AGED CHEDDAR CHEESE CABOT CREAMERY & JASPER HILL FARM Vermont

The superlative Cabot Clothbound Cheddar is the result of a collaboration between two cheese titans. Using milk from Kempton’s Farm in Peacham, Cabot produces rounds of cheddar, wraps them in cloth (in the English style), and hands them over to Jasper Hill Farm, where they are fussed over and aged for at least 10 months. It’s labor-intensive, and the cheese is priced accordingly. But it’s a worthy splurge: tangy and dense, with wonderful nutty notes and a hint of caramel. cabotcheese .coop; jasperhillfarm.com

8. CLAMBAKE KIT WOODMAN’S OF ESSEX Essex, MA

Nothing beats the experience of an authentic clambake on a beach, with the smells of wood smoke and salt air. But for a homesick New Englander, or anyone missing this coastal summer ritual as we head into winter, the clambake kit from Woodman’s—also known as the birthplace of the fried clam— o ers a perfect sampler of clambake delights that you can prepare on your stove. There are the ultra-fresh lobsters shipped overnight; Woodman’s famous clam chowder; bags of plump, sweet steamers ready for cooking; potatoes (or sweet corn, in the warmer months);

and claw crackers, seafood forks, instructions—even wet naps. We tried several mailorder clambakes for this award, and Woodman’s won handily for both quality and selection. woodmans.com/shop

9. TOURTIÈRE

CENTERVILLE PIE COMPANY Centerville, MA

Oprah may have sung the praises of Centerville Pie Company’s chicken potpie, but we’re also partial to its French meat pie, which is known around these parts as tourtière. Buttery pie crust is filled with ground beef and pork, with warm spices and just enough mashed potato to hold it together. This is a

holiday classic for many New Englanders, particularly those with French-Canadian heritage. Here’s a way to enjoy the tradition without the traditional fuss. centervillepies.com

10. CRANBERRY RELISH STONEWALL KITCHEN York, ME

We have no quarrel with canned cranberry sauce, and we’ve made our fair share of the homemade stu . But for sheer deliciousness and ease, all hail Stonewall’s New England Cranberry Relish, which is packed with mouthpuckering flavor and just the right amount of sweetness, plus hints of orange. stonewallkitchen.com

TOURTIÈRE

Just like dear old grand-mère used to make, from Centerville Pie Company. CRANBERRY RELISH The finishing touch, deliciously done by Stonewall Kitchen.
30 | NEWENGLAND.COM
9. 10.
HOLIDAY FOOD SPECIAL

Talk to a therapist from the comfort of own home.

your
With BetterHelp, getting support is easy. Sign up online and get matched to a therapist that suits your needs. 3,000,00025,000200,000,000 therapy interactions facilitated therapists on the platform clients helped Get started with 10% off your first month at betterhelp.com/yankee
32 | NEWENGLAND.COM FIVE EASY DESSERTS TO SEE YOU THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS, FROM THANKSGIVING TO THE NEW YEAR. By Amy Traverso PHOTOS BY KRISTIN TEIG | FOOD STYLING BY LIZ NEILY how itis HOLIDAY FOOD SPECIAL
ChocolatePeppermint Cloud Cake (recipe p. 106)

recipes are for those of us whose holiday ambitions live at the intersection of big dreams and little time. While all of these desserts are pretty and delicious, there are no project bakes here. Everything can be put together quickly and with ingredients you can easily find at your local supermarket (the one exception: unsalted roasted pistachios for the Bundt cake, which you can find at specialty markets or order online).

The lineup starts with Lemon-Pistachio Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze, packed with flavor and pretty enough to hold center stage on a dessert buffet. Chocolate-Peppermint Cloud Cake—so named because both the chocolate chiffon layer and the peppermint whipped cream are so light and fluffy—will easily feed a crowd. Gingersnap Brownies are inspired by our favorite molassesclove cookies, with a layer of store-bought gingersnaps for a crunchy crust. Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread Stars get their sparkle and extra flavor from an optional sprinkling of flaky sea salt; Pumpkin Pie Crumble [pictured on p. 110] is a cozy dessert with all the flavor of the beloved Thanksgiving pie but without the trouble of making a crust.

Everything here is well within your reach—and well worth a try!

HOLIDAY FOOD SPECIAL
Lemon-Pistachio Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze (recipe p. 106)
35
Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread Stars (recipe p. 110)
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HOLIDAY FOOD SPECIAL

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

For all five recipes and to see a photo of Pumpkin Pie Crumble, turn to p. 106.

Gingersnap Brownies (recipe p. 106)

In Season

his month’s column is inspired by a season rather than a seasonal ingredient. It’s holiday time, which means weeks of family gatherings and parties and “What can I bring?” and “How about a side dish?” Here are two fun, festive, and crowd-pleasing options.

The first is a casserole inspired by that classic of 1970s steakhouses, the twice-baked potato. In this case, baked potatoes are mashed with ched dar cheese, bacon, sour cream, and roasted garlic and topped with scal lions. Delicious. Next, with a tip of the

hat to the many Polish-Americans liv ing in New England, we have pierogi, stuffed with butternut squash, feta, and caramelized onions and topped with crispy sage leaves. This second

recipe is a bit more time-consuming, but it’s really quite simple and you can make the dough and the filling a day or two beforehand (in fact, the pierogi taste even better when you do).

During this time of family feasting, comfort food deserves a place at the table.
Amy Traverso is Yankee’s senior food editor and cohost of our TV show, Weekends with Yankee Twice-Baked Potato Casserole
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HOLIDAY FOOD SPECIAL

TWICE-BAKED POTATO CASSEROLE

8 tablespoons salted butter, softened, cut into 8 pieces, plus more for greasing pan

5 pounds russet potatoes (8 to 12, depending on size), unpeeled and scrubbed clean

4 large cloves garlic

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

6 slices thick-cut bacon

1½ cups sour cream, at room temperature

1½ cups milk

1½ cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese, plus ½ cup for topping

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

5 scallions, sliced

Preheat the oven to 400 °F and set two racks to the upper- and lowerthird positions. Grease a 9-by13-inch baking dish. Set aside.

Prick the potatoes all over with a fork. Arrange the potatoes on a large rimmed baking sheet. Lay the garlic cloves in a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with the oil, and wrap to seal. Add garlic to the baking sheet with the potatoes and transfer to the lower rack of your oven to bake for 45 minutes.

Line another large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Lay the bacon on the sheet and place on the upper rack of your oven. Bake until nicely browned and crisp, 9 to 12 minutes, depending on thickness. Remove and drain on paper towels (make sure to reserve the fat in the pan), then crumble.

After 45 minutes, poke the potatoes with a thin knife. The blade should slide very easily through. If not, bake for 10 to 15 minutes more. Remove the potatoes from the oven, let them cool for 10 minutes, and decrease the oven temperature to 375 °F. Squeeze the roasted garlic

Pie shops that rank among the upper crust. The Best 5

hen made with love and fresh ingredients, a good pie is like a doublecrusted, cream-filled, or streuseltopped bear hug—warm and cozy and hard to resist. All of these standout New England pie makers feature multiple mouthwatering flavors and convenient pickup ordering (or even shipping), so there’s no reason to miss out this holiday season. —Aimee Tucker and Katherine Keenan

Ceres Bakery Portsmouth, NH

When Ceres first opened in 1980, it was the only bakery in this coastal New Hampshire town. Today, even amid the city’s booming food scene, it retains its status as one of the region’s best spots to grab a sweet treat. Call ahead during the holidays, and take your pick of all the crowdpleasing classics. ceresbakery.com

Florence Pie Bar Florence, MA

Forget dive bars—hello, pie bars! Housed in a former general store, this cozy shop is a pie lover’s paradise. Whether it’s home-style apple crumb, lemon chess, or salted chocolate you’re after, it’s the perfect place to come in out of the cold, sidle up to the bar, and stay awhile. florencepiebar.com

Michele’s Pies Norwalk, CT

Michele Stuart’s pies are so good they’ve won two Yankee Food Awards and multiple blue ribbons at the National Pie Championship. Buttery, flaky crusts envelop a dizzying variety of fillings, from blueberry-blackberry crumb and country apple to chocolate pecan bourbon. michelespies.com; shipping through goldbelly.com

Sweet Berry Farm Middletown, RI

Pie is just one of the draws at this 100-acre farm, with its attached bakery/café/market—but it’s among the tastiest. Choose from multiple fruit pies and old-school favorites such as lemon meringue, coconut custard, and chocolate cream, then grab some of the farm’s homemade ice cream for the crowning touch. sweetberryfarmri.com

Two Fat Cats Portland, ME

We’ve written odes to Two Fat Cats’ blueberry pie, and their holiday offerings are equally superb. From standbys like pumpkin to inventive flavors like “New England Bog” (blueberries and cranberries topped with orange zest and dark chocolate oat crumble), the Cats make a mean pie year-round. twofatcatsbakery.com; shipping through goldbelly.com

A sweet slice from Florence Pie Bar in Massachusetts.
| 39NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2022
COURTESY OF FLORENCE PIE BAR (PIE)

cloves out of their skins and set aside.

Leave the skins on two of the pota toes and set aside. Slice the remaining potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a dish dowel to protect your hands, pick up one of the potato halves and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh into a large bowl. Repeat with remaining potato halves. Cut the unpeeled potatoes into small pieces and add them to the bowl.

Now, add the butter, sour cream, milk, and the reserved bacon fat. Mash with a potato masher until mostly smooth. Add 11/2 cups cheddar, the roasted garlic, and all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon crumbles. Mix well.

Pour the potato mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with 1/2 cup cheddar. Bake until golden and bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with bacon crumbles and sliced scallions. Serve hot. Yields 8 to 10 servings.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH PIEROGI

To speed up the process and make the fill ing and folding easier, these pierogi are larger than usual—a full 4 inches across. The good news is that you can cut the dough using a standard deli container (or similar-size bowl), and three pierogi make a generous and filling side dish.

FOR THE FILLING

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly grated black pepper

1 15-ounce can butternut squash puree or pumpkin puree

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

FOR THE DOUGH, AND TO FINISH

2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for cooking water

1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk

¾ cup sour cream

4 tablespoons plus 3 tablespoons salted butter, softened

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 sage leaves

Sour cream, for serving

Warm olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions. When they begin to sizzle and turn translucent, add sugar, salt, and pepper and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring often, until onions begin to turn golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Add squash and feta and cook over medium heat, stirring, until feta has softened and the mixture dries out a bit, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Now, make the dough: In a large

Butternut Squash Pierogi
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HOLIDAY FOOD SPECIAL

bowl using a stand or handheld mixer, combine the flour and salt. Add the egg, egg yolk, sour cream, and 4 tablespoons butter and mix until the dough comes together and there are no dry bits. Using your hands or the dough hook of a stand mixer, knead the dough until it feels smooth and less sticky, about 3 minutes (if the dough sticks to your counter, dust very lightly with flour). Gather dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days.

Dust your counter lightly with flour. Roll out half the dough to a ⅛-inch thickness. Use a standard 4-inch-wide deli container (or a 4-inch bowl) to cut the dough into circles, gathering and re-rolling as needed. Place a heaping tablespoon of the filling into the center of each circle and fold the dough over, like a turnover. Press the edges together and crimp to seal. Transfer the filled pierogi to a lightly floured rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. You should have 18 pierogi.

Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil and add a third of the pierogi. Reduce heat to a low boil and cook until the pierogi rise to the top, 3 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, set a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and remaining butter. When the pierogi are done boiling, remove them each with a slotted spoon, drain, and transfer to the skillet to fry until a golden brown crust forms on one side, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove to a serving platter and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining pierogi (in two batches). As you cook the final batch, add the sage leaves and cook just until they crisp up, 1 to 2 minutes.

Serve the pierogi with the sage leaves sprinkled over the top and sour cream on the side. Yields 18 pierogi (6 servings as a side dish).

| 41NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2022
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Stories in the Symbols

Designer Ebenezer Akakpo’s creations speak to both his native Ghana and his adopted Maine.

Ebenezer Akakpo on Congress Street in Portland, Maine. He is standing at a bus stop he designed, inspired by Ghanaian symbols for hope and friendship, and which recently won a competition as the best bus stop in the U.S.
Home | OPEN STUDIO

n a massive brick mill building seven miles west of Portland, Maine, in the town of Westbrook, I stumble into a world of symbols, the domain of a man who dreams and designs in ancient patterns. Ebenezer Akakpo’s jewelry— wide cuffs, slender bangles, dangling earrings—is adorned with tiny characters called adinkra, strong graphic symbols that appear on fabric, pottery, and artwork throughout his native Ghana. They embody some of the most powerful ideas in any language: hope, unity, bravery, and friendship, among others.

These traditional Ghanaian charac ters also dance across his stainless-steel goblets and tumblers, felted trivets, and coasters. And, after 24 years in Maine, Akakpo has even begun to play with the Maine figures familiar to us all— lobsters, moose, lighthouses, chicka dees—uniting them in fresh combina tions to adorn tote bags, travel mugs, and pint glasses.

“Which symbol speaks to you?” I ask, as we stand in the midst of his sprawling studio, four large rooms spilling over with proof of an almost hyperactive creativity, with a range of equipment that is dizzying. In the jewelry corner, a simple vise waits to clamp onto something; pliers hang at

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the ready. He shows me a molded form he dreamed up to make it easier to add a curve to the earrings he crafts of bronze and 22-karat gold plate.

These old-time tools wait close to three high-tech laser printers, a 3-D printer, and a computer that runs sophisticated design programs. Felted trivets sit stacked on trays like color ful baked cookies; nearby, pillows sport symbols proclaiming Hope ; and a tabletop holds cardboard construc tions that are the first step in imagin ing three-foot-tall sculptures to bring his vision to larger life.

question, a deep question, a question Akakpo answers quickly.

Endurance. The symbol resembles two hearts, mirror images reversed from each other, joined in the center.

“It takes a lot of endurance and willpower to be doing what I’m doing,” he says, with a deep laugh. “And a lot of patience.”

He speaks to a life that folds a full day at the Maine Turnpike Author ity, where he works as an IT specialist, into his artistic work in his studio until 2 or 3 in the morning.

Which symbol indeed? It is a good R. ALONZO HARRIS LOWELL

His story pours into each earring, each laser-printed water bottle—a

Akakpo in the metals department of his studio ( left), using a disk sander to smooth the edges of an earring. Though Ghanaian symbols known as adinkra inform much of his work ( above and lower left), he also employs Maine icons in his designs ( below ).
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(PORTRAIT & STUDIO); JON DOUCETTE (EARRINGS); GARY
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lifetime of skills and experiences condensed in all that he makes, starting from his childhood in Ghana, growing up on the campus of a technical training center that taught everything from carpentry to refrigeration. “That gave me my initial interest in making things,” he says.

In Florence, Italy, he learned stone setting and design at the jewelry school Le Arti Orafe while also drawing inspiration from the jewelry shops around the Ponte Vecchio.

“Each artisan could interpret a simple heart shape differently,” he recalls. “That was the first time I saw or experienced innovation in terms of design. And I was like, wow, we have all these symbols in my native country. If I can make these symbols my own, how cool would they be?!”

Each step brought him closer. From Italy to the Maine College of Art & Design, where he studied metal-

smithing and jewelry, then mastering industrial design at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Along the way he learned how to take apart computers and put them back together. Simplified his designs. Streamlined production. “But at the same time, the other thing I learned from jewelry making is not to lose the integrity of what you’re trying to create.”

He presses a dangling earring in the vise, making a gentle curve, then holds it up to the light. The cutout pattern is Abundance —it looks like a sprinkling of flowers, and it gives off a shimmer. To some people, it’s a beautiful piece of jewelry. To others, the symbol might connect to the story of their life, not unlike a tattoo. There’s meaning beneath it.

“Once in a while, when people react in a very unique way to my product, I get curious,” he says. And then he tells me about a woman who visited his booth during a craft show. She didn’t wear jewelry, she told him, but then he brought out a goblet covered with the symbol for Hope . “She just grabbed it from me,” he remembers, “and when I asked her why, she told me she’d lost her husband a month ago. Then I told her the symbol for Hope means that God is in the heavens, listening to our prayers. And she started crying.”

He looks right at me. “It’s little things like that. You know, it makes me feel like, well, I think I am in control of what I’m doing.…” He pauses, then gives another great laugh. “But I don’t think I really am. I’m just being a channel, and trying to do the work.” akakpo.com

SÉAN ALONZO HARRIS (STUDIO); ROBERT DIAMANTE (EARRINGS); JON DOUCETTE (CUFF) : Tools for wrapping and cutting gold and silver wire for Akakpo’s trademark jewelry. : Refining the interior edges of a merino felt coaster, which, like the Friendship cuff and earrings on this page, features adinkra symbols. LEFT
46 | NEWENGLAND.COM 46 Home | OPEN STUDIO
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as a witty, sarcastic clan, and Deacon Peck and his wife, Mirah, are described as “both heavy-set…. They made a most imposing sight riding to church, on the same horse, Mrs. Peck seated behind her husband on a pillion.” There is no word on the fate of the horse, but we also learn that the Pecks had a son, William, who served the town as both deputy sheriff and selectman, and who lived in the house on Pecks Lane until he died at age 96.

from top : An elevation of the 1740 Deacon Peck House, drawn during its dismantling in 2012; an interior highlighting the home’s original 18th-century paneling.
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In the years that followed, the house changed hands several times, and its fortunes rose and fell along with those of its occupants. By the time Wes and Jeanne Fredericks encountered the Deacon Peck House 10 years ago, it was at its lowest ebb. An elderly hoarder had been its last occupant, and the house had fallen into such disrepair that bulldozers were being readied to tear it down.

It was builder and restorer Rick Gallagher who first alerted Wes and Jeanne to the house’s history and imperiled status. Wes, a lawyer and board member of Historic Deerfield, and Jeanne, a literary agent, weren’t actively looking for a house at that point, but both were lovers of old homes who had tackled big renovations before.

When they toured the house, debris was piled as high as the beds in most

rooms. But beneath the mess they saw a rare gem. The historic home was amazingly intact. It had not, as Gallagher put it, “suffered from affluence.”

The original structure had never even been modified for bathrooms.

“We have always loved saltboxes,” Jeanne says, “and we were really drawn to the historic integrity of this one.”

A speedy decision was needed, so a speedy decision was made. This 1740 fixer-upper would be the Frederickses’ retirement home, at a location to be determined. Money changed hands, the bulldozers were idled, and Wes and Jeanne hired Gallagher to take the house down a bit more delicately.

Gallagher and his partner, Curt Kennedy, began the painstaking work of dismantling the home nail by nail, documenting each stage with photos and “as built” blueprints. They spent months stripping painted and wallpapered wood, restoring what they could, replacing what was too far gone, numbering each piece.

put your feet up.

The people who choose to live at Wake Robin in Shelburne, are forever looking forward. Whether it’s making new friends in this Life Plan Community, exploring new activities and learning new skills, the good stuff lies in front of If that sounds like you, come see for yourself. Wake Robin. It’s where you live.

The Deacon Peck House is notable in many ways. Town histories state that it once served as the area’s poor farm, which added intrigue to the discovery of old bedding in the attic. There was a detached, exterior summer kitchen. A well was dug beneath the house, to be accessible indoors.

The well could not be preserved, of course, nor could sections of roof wood and portions of the first-floor frame. The framing that couldn’t be salvaged

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was re-created in oak. Where repairs and replacements were needed, efforts were made to maintain period authenticity whenever possible. The home’s front staircase had been previously replaced and was not retained, but the original back staircase was intact. The exterior doors weren’t salvageable, but all of the interior doors were.

“The house is very much in the Connecticut River Valley tradition,” Gallagher says, “likely built by a local journeyman who was copying what he’d seen elsewhere.” He believes that the real treasure remains the interior trim, much of which is original. Wide-board floors have been preserved, along with wainscoting, mantelpieces, paneling, and a particularly lovely corner cupboard. Because the house was never plumbed, trim and wainscoting remained uncut, an exceptional rarity.

Since the Frederickses didn’t plan to retire for years, the deconstructed house was stored in a dry barn in Litchfield, Connecticut.

The house has now been in storage for a decade, and a lot of water has passed under the bridge. Wes and Jeanne are prepped for retirement, but now there are grandchildren to spend time with and other life moments to enjoy, and their retirement house project feels like less of a fit for where they’re at.

After reaching out to the Cheshire Historical Society, hoping someone local might bring the house home, they’re now casting a wider net. They’re betting there’s someone out there with a perfect view who just needs the perfect home from which to see it—some assembly required.

The deconstructed Deacon Peck House is listed at $190,000. For more information, email jeanne.fredericks@ gmail.com or call 203-722-5146.

Reflections of the Past and Sustainability for the Future

The Retirement of a Lifetime

Apartment and cottage living at Piper Shores offers residents fully updated and affordable homes, with all the benefits of Maine’s first and only nonprofit lifecare retirement community. Located along the Southern Maine coastline, our active, engaged community combines worry-free independent living with priority access to higher levels of on-site care—all for a predictable monthly fee.

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| 51NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2022 LEFT : Pieces of the Deacon Peck House in transit to Litchfield, Connecticut, where it is now being stored in a barn.

Breathtaking Views From Every Altitude.

Get to know all of Maine. Come Explore.
In York, the yuletide season officially begins the Saturday after Thanksgiving, when the Cape Neddick Lighthouse, better known as Nubble Light, debuts its sparkling holiday display.
MICHAEL BLANCHETTE

Christmas on the Coast

As daylight shortens on the Maine coast in the first days of December, the yuletide anticipation grows, with communities from Kittery to Eastport opening their towns and hearts to greet the season. Visiting these places, you may first sense the magic in the scent of evergreens—spruce, pine, fir—mingling with the salty air. You stroll along, walking in and out of cozy shops, many offering hot cocoa and cookies, then gaze at the lighted trees that stand in village greens, glowing brighter by the minute as evening falls.

Something special happens when the Christmas season meets the heritage of fishing communities.

Mainers celebrate with “trees” made from lobster traps and decorated with wooden buoys, like the 40-foot-tall one that draws revelers to downtown Rockland. Lobster boats adorned with lights and greenery motor past crowds waving from harbors. In York, the beloved Nubble Light is draped in twinkling white bulbs that flow across the buildings, the fence, the tower—a dramatic vista that draws thousands throughout the season.

And, of course, there are the visits from Santa, who leaves his sleigh somewhere north when he comes to the coast. Harbor towns await his arrival instead by lobster boat or Coast Guard cutter, with young and old alike peering into the distance as the boat draws closer. When it docks, and the whitebearded, red-suited figure steps off, shouts and cheers ring out, a joyful noise that echoes from one generation to the next.

Some of Maine’s coastal celebrations last a day or two, others for weeks. What they all share is a message: that spending these winter days and nights in a special place, during a special season, is a gift to everyone that can be opened anew, year after year.

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FROM TOP: MARK FLEMING; ERIC J. TAUBERT

Opposite, top: Offering the chance to see New England’s largest botanical garden bejeweled with more than 650,000 LED lights, Gardens Aglow at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay is a magnet for seekers of winter wonder.

Opposite, below: Long after the summer crowds have gone, Ogunquit’s small-town warmth glows brightly during Christmas by the Sea, complete with a parade, a beach bonfire, and fireworks.

Left: Visitors to the shopping mecca of Freeport get a festive two-for-one deal: Along with the town’s 10-day Sparkle Celebration, L.L. Bean dresses up its campus all season long for Northern Lights.

Below: Downtown streets lined with 19th-century brick buildings set the stage for nostalgic strolls and trolley caroling during An Old-Fashioned Christmas in Bath.

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Opposite, top: Ranked among the best holiday destinations in the U.S., Kennebunkport gets visitors into the spirit with Christmas Prelude, a 10-day party that features the guest of honor arriving by fishing boat and escorted by a jolly pair of lobsters.

Opposite, below: Lobster boats, sailboats, tugboats, pleasure boats, and even ferry boats join in the decked-out fleet bringing extra sparkle to Maine’s biggest city during the Portland Harbor Parade of Lights.

Above: On Penobscot Bay, no town boasts a tree lighting more spectacular than the one at Rockland’s Festival of Lights, where Santa flips the switch on a giant tannenbaum made up of nearly 200 lobster traps. At the top: a five-foot lobster heralding tidings of great joy, with a Christmas star held firmly in its claw.

READY, SET, GLOW

Brighten up your visit to Maine this season with one of the state’s sparkling coastal celebrations. For more information and to see additional events statewide, go to newengland.com/ visitmaine/holidays.

Nov. 18–Jan. 1

L.L. Bean’s Northern Lights, Freeport; llbean.com

Nov. 19–Dec. 31

Gardens Aglow & Boothbay Lights, Boothbay Region; mainegardens.org, boothbay harbor.com/boothbay-lights

Nov. 25

Monument Square Tree Lighting, Portland; portlandmaine.com

Nov. 26

Lighting of the Nubble, York; nubblelight.org

Nov. 26–Dec. 10

An Old-Fashioned Christmas in Bath; visitbath.com

*Late November

Festival of Lights, Rockland; rocklanddowntown.com

Dec. 1–11

Christmas Prelude, Kennebunkport; christmasprelude.com

Dec. 2

Village Holidays Celebration & Sale, Bar Harbor; visitbarharbor.com

Dec. 2–4

Christmas by the Sea, Camden; camdenmaineexperience.com

Dec. 2–11

Sparkle Celebration, Freeport; visitfreeport.com

Dec. 9–11

Christmas by the Sea, Ogunquit; ogunquit.org

Dec. 10

Holiday on the Harbor, Belfast; belfastmaine.org

Dec. 10

Holiday on the Harbor, Rockport; rockportmaine.gov

*Early/mid-December

Portland Harbor Parade of Lights; visitportland.com

*2022 date not yet confirmed; check website for updates.

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60 | NEWENGLAND.COM Travel | WEEKEND AWAY PORTSMOUTH NEW HAMPSHIRE ONE OF AMERICA’S BEST SMALL TOWNS SHINES ESPECIALLY BRIGHT AT CHRISTMASTIME. BY COURTNEY HOLLANDS • PHOTOS BY MICHAEL D. WILSON

opposite : Scenes from a December weekend in Portsmouth, including gift ideas at Gus & Ruby Letterpress ( top center ); refined seafood at Black Trumpet ( top right); and La Maison Navarre’s house-made macarons ( bottom center ). this page : A 35-foot Christmas tree anchors the downtown holiday scene.

I was gliding around an outdoor skating rink in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, when it hit me: I could be in a Hallmark holiday movie. No, I’m not a high-powered executive with skewed priorities who returns to her hometown only to fall in love with the local artisan hot chocolate maker—I am, in fact, a happily married writer and editor from Boston. Rather, it’s Portsmouth’s charm and the seasonal spirit that permeates every corner of the historic port city at this time of year that gives it an almost cinematic quality.

I had come with my husband, and our stay was brief—just a weekend visit in early December. But between the artfully decorated shop windows, the spontaneous displays of holiday cheer, and the time-honored events in Portsmouth’s annual Vintage Christ mas celebration, we left in a holly-jolly state of mind, vowing to return winter after winter.

We were welcomed to the festive downtown scene by a busker playing “Go Tell It on the Mountain” in Mar ket Square, beneath its 35-foot-tall Christmas tree. The donated spruce’s 2,000 LED lights—switched on just the weekend before, as part of the city’s long-running Illuminated Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting—twinkled against an overcast sky as we browsed the independent boutiques along Con gress and Market streets.

The stores, surely in contention for New England’s best stretch of holi day shopping, really turn it on after Thanksgiving. The front windows at Gus & Ruby Letterpress were strewn with paper snowflakes, and there was greenery spilling off the shelves. “When we start burning our Christ mas candles, it puts people in the mood,” co-owner Samantha Finigan told me. “It’s sort of the hallmark of the season.” Menswear shop Sault NE was similarly decked out with strings

62 | NEWENGLAND.COM Travel | WEEKEND AWAY

EXPLORING

EAT & DRINK

▲ Cup of Joe: This sweet, sunshine-yellow coffee shop and bar specializes in egg sandwiches and high-octane drinks of all kinds—including an excellent espresso martini. cupofjoenh.com

Black Trumpet: Chef Evan Mallett’s cozy, 15-year-old Ceres Street restaurant showcases Seacoast farmto-table dining at its finest. blacktrumpetbistro.com

Earth Eagle Brewings: Savor a respite from the shopping crowds with a hoppy saison at this homey brewpub strung with lights and ornaments. Even the mounted bucks have bows. eartheaglebrewings.com

Elephantine Bakery: Almond croissants. Rosemary focaccia. French drinking chocolate. Don’t be surprised to find a line out the door at Sherif and Nadine Farag’s chic café. elephantinebakery.com

La Maison Navarre: The house-made macarons are the stars, but crepes and quiches are equally superbe, as are the French wines and cheeses. mnpastry.com

The Wilder: A cool spot for a well-crafted cocktail and brunch (and a topnotch brunch cocktail, of course). wilderports mouth.com

this page and opposite : The open-air museum Strawbery Banke is a hub of yuletide activity, with an outdoor ice rink bustling with skaters of all ages and a historic campus transformed into a winter wonderland.
PHOTO CREDITS | 63NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2022
PORTSMOUTH

from top : Assistant Mayor Joanna Kelly takes in the view from her Market Street coffee shop and bar, Cup of Joe; Strawbery Banke visitors get a winter warm-up at the cider shed.

of retro rainbow-colored bulbs and evergreen boughs, which, when paired with the “Live Free or Die” sweatshirts and other locally made goods, gave us all the Christmas-y New England feels.

This merry vibe continued at the Strawbery Banke Museum’s Candlelight Stroll, one of the anchor events of Portsmouth’s Vintage Christ mas (now in its 18th year, the townwide celebra tion also features a gingerbread house contest and concerts and shows at the iconic Music Hall and other venues). We walked the out door museum’s pathways, talking to costumed role-players and learning how the holidays have evolved over the three centuries of history that Strawbery Banke encompasses. An almost sacred hush enveloped us as we sipped hot cider, sniffed the wafting bonfire smoke, and took in the wintry tableau—the stroll was very much, as Strawbery Banke curator Elizabeth Farish had described it, a “sensory experience.”

In an ideal world (or at least the Hollywood version), our wintery getaway would have included dining by the glow of a roaring fire. But while a blazing hearth wasn’t on offer at the acclaimed bistro Black Trumpet, there were flickering candles, exposed brick and beams, and chef Evan Mallett’s hearty, season-perfect menu. Also warming were the post-dinner black Manhattans and palomas on draft just a

STAY

▲ The Sailmaker’s House: A stylish 10-room inn that marries today’s amenities (keyless entry, Matouk linens) with meticulously preserved historic details. sailmakershouse.com

The Hotel Portsmouth: The newer sibling of Lark Hotels’ intimate Ale House Inn, offering 32 rooms and suites and Victorian-era charm. thehotelports mouth.com

Wentworth by the Sea, A Marriott Hotel & Spa: The grande dame of Portsmouth-area hotels, where snow flurries will surely enhance the postcard-perfect ocean views. marriott.com

SHOP

▲ Gus & Ruby Letterpress: Come for the holiday candles, stay for the pithy cards and lovely wrapping paper at this local print studio’s flagship store. gusandruby.com

Pickwick’s Mercantile: Staffers sporting fascinators are quick to recommend a tea or

COURTESY OF THE SAILMAKER’S HOUSE (ROOM); COURTESY OF GUS & RUBY LETTERPRESS (CANDLES)
64 | NEWENGLAND.COM Travel | WEEKEND AWAY
classi c holiday theater fun on t h e slopes WINTER IN CENTRAL MA discover locally ma d e gifts at DISCOVERCENTRALMA.ORG plan your next adventure and on social media visitor tip Check out our itineraries:

handcrafted perfume at this quirky shop, which has a second outpost at Strawbery Banke. pickwicksmercantile.com

Sault NE: Natty threads share shelf space with rugged totes, rope bracelets, and grooming products at Philip Saul’s menswear emporium. saultne.com

Treehouse Toys: Colorful, whimsical, and overflowing with games, dolls, puzzles, and books—this is what a toy shop should be. A destination for kids and kids-at-heart alike. treehousetoys.us

few blocks away, at the newish craft cocktail bar The Wilder.

Afterward, we ventured out into the chilly dark in high spirits, which were raised further by spotting a Santa crossing Congress Street and hearing a bagpiper playing holiday tunes. These characters seemed quite at home on Portsmouth’s lively late-night streets, under lampposts adorned with wreaths. So much so that I half expected passersby to break out in song: Baby, it’s cold outside….

Before leaving town, we returned to Straw bery Banke to lace up for our morning rink reservations at Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond. I hadn’t skated in at least a decade, and at first, the blades felt foreign. I started out cautiously, hugging the walls, before picking up speed and looping around the oval—even attempting a twirl as country-music carols crackled over the speakers.

Equally filled with childlike wonder, my husband remarked that it would be fun for our toddler to try skating there. I remembered then how Strawbery Banke’s Farish had summed up the Candlelight Stroll. “It just sort of makes you happy,” she said. “You can learn about history or you can create your own family traditions.”

The next time we take a Christmas trip to Portsmouth, it will be with our daughter. And it will be magical as any holiday movie.

PLAY ▲ Strawbery Banke

Museum: Not only can you learn about Christmases past on a magical Candlelight Stroll through the 10-acre campus, but you can also relive your childhood with a spin around the outdoor skating rink. strawberybanke.org

The Music Hall: This legendary venue really shines during the Vintage Christmas festivities, partnering with the Ogunquit Playhouse to put on a holiday production and hosting comedy shows and concerts. themusichall.org

from top : Falling snow gives Market Square just the right holiday feel; Black Trumpet chef-owner Evan Mallett at his Ceres Street bistro, recently nominated for a James Beard Award for outstanding hospitality.
66 | NEWENGLAND.COM Travel | WEEKEND AWAY
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CARVE YOUR WAY TO ADVENTURE. VOTED BEST boutique hotel/inn VOTED BEST romantic getaway We Make Memories 3 Blitzen Way • Rte. 16B, Jackson, NH 03846 info@christmasfarminn.com 603-383-4313 • ChristmasFarmInn.com We Make Memories 3 Blitzen Way • Rte. 16B, Jackson, NH 03846 info@christmasfarminn.com 603-383-4313 • ChristmasFarmInn.com lifestyle leisure and event resort offering first-class accommodations and exceptional caring service. Enjoy the warmth of our cozy pub, restaurant, indoor pool, hot tub, fitness center and AVEDA Spa. See our website for rates & packages –or call us today. Explore the White Mountains where every adventure is an experience of a lifetime! Ski some of the tallest peaks in the Northeast, snowshoe through a snow kissed forest, shriek with glee as you soar down a mountainside. W HITEMOUNTAIN S NE IRE Shows,Strolls,Skating,&Shoppinginoneof the"BestNewEnglandChristmasTowns*" *According to Yankee Magazine VintageChristmas inPortsmouth VINTAGECHRISTMASNH.ORG BOOK NOW 1-833-STAY-AMV YourWhite Mountain Vacation Destination www.thayersinn.com 603-444-6469 info@thayersinn.com Enjoy Old-World Charm Mixed with Modern Amenities for a Truly Unique Experience Walk to Restaurants, Shops, Attractions, and Activities Free Grab-&-Go Breakfast Free Hi Speed WiFi • Free Parking Distinctive and Charming Rooms Banquet and Meeting Space Our Littleton, NH Hotel A Historic New England Landmark Take a trip filled with merriment to the White Mountains and discover tax-free outlet shopping, local dining and services, and family events full of holiday magic. settlersgreen.com MAKE MEMORABLE MOMENTS VISIT LAKESREGION.ORG TO START PLANNING! VISIT LAKESREGION.ORG TO START PLANNING! FOLLOW US: @NHLAKESREGION 
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Downhill and Cross-Country Skiing. Visits to Santa’s Hut. Snowmobiling. Ice-Fishing events at Fisherville on Wolfeboro Bay. Art Galleries. Cozy Fireplaces. Skating. Festival of Trees. Snow-shoeing. Holiday Parade and A Four-Season Destination!

Downhill and Cross-Country Skiing. Visits to Santa’s Hut. Snowmobiling. Ice-Fishing events at Fisherville on Wolfeboro Bay. Art Galleries. Cozy Fireplaces. Skating. Festival of Trees. Snow-shoeing. Holiday Parade and New Year’s Eve Fireworks. Concerts.

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Downhill and Cross-Country Skiing. Visits to Santa’s Hut. Snowmobiling. Ice-Fishing events at Fisherville on Wolfeboro Bay. Art Galleries. Cozy Fireplaces. Skating. Festival of Trees. Snow-shoeing. Holiday Parade and New Year’s Eve Fireworks. Concerts. Ask for a FRee Brochure! at wolfeborochamber.com 603-569-2200 • 800-516-5324

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Downhill and Cross-Country Skiing. Visits to Santa’s Hut. Snowmobiling. Ice-Fishing events at Fisherville on Wolfeboro Bay. Art Galleries. Cozy Fireplaces. Skating. Festival of Trees. Snow-shoeing. Holiday Parade and New Year’s Eve Fireworks. Concerts.

Downhill and Cross-Country Skiing. Visits to Santa’s Hut. Snowmobiling. Ice-Fishing events at Fisherville on Wolfeboro Bay. Art Galleries. Cozy Fireplaces. Skating. Festival of Trees. Snow-shoeing. Holiday Parade and New Year’s Eve Fireworks. Concerts.

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Downhill and Cross-Country Skiing. Visits to Santa’s Hut. Snowmobiling. Ice-Fishing events at Fisherville on Wolfeboro Bay. Art Galleries. Cozy Fireplaces. Skating. Festival of Trees. Snow-shoeing. Holiday Parade and

“Work and Live Where You Love to Play” wolfeboronh.us at wolfeborochamber.com 603-569-2200 • 800-516-5324

Ask for a FREE Brochure! at wolfeborochamber.com 603-569-2200

“Work and Live Where You Love to Play” wolfeboronh.us

Ask for a FRee Brochure! at wolfeborochamber.com

Downhill and Cross-Country Skiing. Visits to Santa’s Hut. Snowmobiling. Ice-Fishing events at Fisherville on Wolfeboro Bay. Art Galleries. Cozy Fireplaces. Skating. Festival of Trees. Snow-shoeing. Holiday Parade and New Year’s Eve Fireworks. Concerts.

Downhill and Cross-Country Skiing. Visits to Santa’s Hut. Snowmobiling. Ice-Fishing events at Fisherville on Wolfeboro Bay. Art Galleries. Cozy Fireplaces. Skating. Festival of Trees. Snow-shoeing. Holiday Parade and

“Work and Live Where You Love to Play” wolfeboronh.us

Ask for a FRee Brochure! at wolfeborochamber.com 603-569-2200 • 800-516-5324

Ask for a FRee Brochure!at wolfeborochamber.com

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Holiday Shopping Towns

our loved ones worked hard to earn their “nice” list status this year, so don’t entrust their per fect presents to warehouse elves and delivery-truck drivers. Make this the season you take back holiday shop ping—back to the good old days when businesses were local, and magi cal retail displays buoyed the spirits of young and old. From big cities to small towns, New England’s merriest shopping destinations celebrate oneof-a-kind stores and boutiques; parkonce, find-everything convenience; and sparkling seasonal events that make gift-hunting a joy.

Compiled by Bill Scheller

CONNECTICUT

GUILFORD: Guilford’s town green is one of the loveliest in New England and may also be the most spacious: Each December, it welcomes thousands of locals and visitors to watch Guilford’s Christmas tree—not a cut import but a living evergreen—suddenly blaze with light. That night, several of the historic churches that face the green celebrate with events including a chili supper and holiday bazaar. Along Whitfield Street, boutiques Ella, Where She Shops, Flutterby, Tracy Brent Collection, and others draw shoppers, and the Spice and Tea Exchange lures gift givers wishing to stuff stockings with special fragrances. Over at the 1764 Thomas Griswold House, there’ll be cookies, cider, and caroling around the hearth. visitguilfordct.com

MYSTIC: On land and on the water, Mystic shines throughout the Christmas season. Main Street, home of shops such as Bank Square Books and Manufaktura Polish Stoneware, is ablaze with light—but so are the vessels in the harbor, decked out for the annual lighted boat parade and the arrival of Santa by tug. At Mystic Seaport, Lantern Light Village and its walking tours are just that: lantern-lit, though with kerosene rather than whale oil. Olde Mistick Village, just north of town, is not about to be outdone, with a December and January Holiday Lights Spectacular welcoming shoppers here to browse Alice’s Haunted Little Bookshop, select Aran sweaters and Belleek china at Irish Eyes, and indulge that sweet tooth at Munson’s Chocolates. mysticseaport.org; thisismystic.com

Bowen’s Wharf in Newport, Rhode Island
Load up on gifts and good cheer at sparkling destinations both big and small.
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Travel | DAY TRIPS ERIN MCGINN (Continued on p. 112)
GREATER MERRIMACK VALLEY Convention & Visitors Bureau
#AdventuresAwait
For more than a decade, three remarkable friends have been bringing holiday magic to Vermont’s Wilburton Inn.
JOHNSTON themerriest inn of all 76 | NEWENGLAND.COM
Janice Blair, Pamela Ogden, and Julia Scarincio decorate the tree at the Wilburton Inn, as its self-appointed ambassadors of good cheer.
| 77NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2022

one peaceful evening in Manchester, Vermont’s Wil burton Inn, the fresh-cut tree in the grand living room will stand tall, stout, and fragrant, but bare. The tumult of boxes, dragged down from the attic, will sit untouched. Canine inn concierge Jetson, a floppy-eared Cavalier King Charles spaniel, won’t have to share his mansion with a sleigh-load of other pups. And the Wilburton’s mischievous angels—three women from New York state whose friendship has been a constant through the ups and downs of four decades— will exchange gifts and reminisce about Christmases past in their head-to-toe-matching sleepwear: red robes, sequined hair bows, and black PJs printed with ginger bread girls teasing, “Bite Me.”

Tomorrow is Thursday, December 2. Tomorrow, three intense days of decorating and joy-making begin. “Even though it’s work here, it’s different work,” says trio member Julia Scarincio.

What started as a lark—decorating the tree while the Wilburton Inn’s owners slept—has become something more than a 16-year tradition. It’s a commitment. A chal

lenge. And after missing 2020 due to Covid restrictions, “the girls” have surprises up their fur-trimmed sleeves. It’s all a bit like improv theater, with twice-daily costume changes. No outfit is ever repeated.

“We don’t even know what’s going to happen next,” says Pamela Ogden. She’s the eldest of the three. The ring leader. A devoted grandmother and daycare provider who lets her hair down and her language slip when she’s at the Wilburton. The women are particularly secretive—but swaggeringly confident—about their entry in the upcom ing Manchester Merriment Lighted Tractor Parade, just three days away.

Up the mansion’s ornate staircase they climb, retreating to Room 5—the Best Friends Room, named in their honor. Their ruby robes are rhinestoned with their first initials on the back: P, J, and J. Janice Blair, a nurse, is the youngest. Dozens of photos of the trio are on display in the hallway outside their floral-papered guest room. Whether they’re dressed in matching holiday garb or springtime getups like butterfly costumes, they’re all smiles during their twiceannual stays.

Yet it was a life-changing event that first brought them

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for

clockwise from top left : Janice and Pamela hang garland over the fireplace and its portrait of the Wilburton Inn’s late matriarch, Georgette Levis; “the girls” open gag gifts from Melissa, one of Georgette and Albert Levis’s four children; outside the Best Friends Room, Janice spruces up the little pink tree that Melissa sent to the girls during Pamela’s illness; Tajlei Levis joins her sister Melissa in lighting menorahs sculpted by Vermont artist Piper Strong; a cuddly moment between two Wilburton guests.

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here from across the New York border 17 winters ago. Pamela’s marriage was ending when they arrived at this 11-bedroom Harvard-brick manse. “I was in a bad place,” she says. “I told the girls, ‘I need to get away.’”

“We did not know what an inn was,” says Julia, who manages a clothing store in Lake George. And they were unnerved to learn they’d be left to their own devices for the night while the Wilburton’s owners, Dr. Albert and Georgette Levis, returned to their own home. But soon the 1902 mansion, the hilltop centerpiece of a collection of rental homes and guest units that now sleeps 100 indi vidual or group travelers, “turned into our soft haven,” Julia says. “The fireplace. Being together. It was everything.”

Back home in upstate New York, with a baby and a bro ken heart, Pamela printed photos from their Vermont stay to fill spaces that once held pictures of her ex. “Before long, the whole wall was Wilburton. I knew it was real love,” she says. During the girls’ second annual holiday-season visit, it was her idea to decorate the Christmas tree under cover of night.

“You’re going to be in trouble,” Janice cautioned before pitching in.

Julia was hesitant, too. “I’m not a rule breaker.”

But when innkeeper Georgette swept in the next morn ing, she gushed, “It’s the most beautiful tree I’ve ever seen.”

ACCIDENTAL INNKEEPERS

A Greek Holocaust survivor and eminent psychiatrist, Albert Levis has always preferred real estate investments to money in the bank. Still, his family was shocked when they left his 50th birthday dinner at the Wilburton Inn in 1987 with a plan hatched to purchase the property that their waiter told them was about to be auctioned.

Georgette intuited from the start that stunning moun tain views weren’t all visitors craved. Guests came to the inn seeking connection. They were looking for something more in their lives. “People like being part of something bigger. Everyone likes feeling purposeful,” says her daugh ter Melissa, a writer and songstress whose children’s band, Moey’s Music Party, has a global following on Spotify. As she sings in Wilburton promo videos (and live, at the inn’s summer soirees), “We didn’t buy it to run it like a Hyatt.” And indeed, the Wilburton has always kept its own beat.

Even before Georgette’s passing in 2014, Melissa and her three siblings—playwright Tajlei, farmer and bread

from left : In a rare moment out of Christmas costume, Pamela sits beside innkeeper Albert Levis during a friendsand-family evening; a visiting pup named Pippi gets into the spirit. opposite : The living room’s fully decked-out tree provides a festive backdrop for singer-songwriter Melissa.
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pandemic has a silver lining, it’s the lessons it’s taught grown-ups about appreciating things previously taken for granted.

if the

baker Oliver, and psychologist Max—had begun to lend their ideas and creative talents to the inn’s offerings. And here, their father began realizing his dream of utilizing the mansion and its expansive grounds as an education center, where his theories about conflict resolution and the cre ative process could be explained via sculpture installations, exhibits, workshops, and everyday conversations.

MAKING SPIRITS BRIGHT

Dr. Levis’s teachings can be challenging to grasp, but at their heart, they emphasize wellness over illness in the arena of mental health. Every aspect of the Wilburton fosters the ability to look on the bright side of life and to not take things too seriously—playfulness, in other words.

“Everyone is welcome here; you can bring yourself,” says Melissa, who loves it when the mansion’s formal lines dis solve into a magnificent blank canvas for guests’ creative self-expression. You don’t need to cram your overnight bag with ugly Christmas sweaters and twinkling headgear. Then again, if you want to escape the mad world we live in, perhaps you do.

“The costumes make people want to talk to us,” Julia says. Her snowman dress is cinched at the waist with a red, white, and green scarf, and her shaggy white fur boots glow with mini lights. The triplets are back from Thursday morning breakfast in the village, where they caused their usual stir. Now, their labor of love begins in earnest. It’s not just the towering pine that cries out to be adorned. As Georgette’s portrait above the roaring wood fire surveys the scene, the women trim the elaborately carved original mantelpiece, the windows, the doorframes. It’s an all-day undertaking that will continue late into the night, when no one else is stirring.

The earliest guests to arrive, Michael and Nancy Kaleski, help hang ornaments while their four-legged compan ion, Pippi, gets reacquainted with Jetson. Like most who book dog-friendly rooms and cottages the first weekend in December, they’re here for the merry madness of the Wilbur ton’s annual Canine Christmas Slumber Party. Others who are gathering on this hilltop have come to celebrate Hanuk kah with extended family. “Frequently, we have simultane ous joy going on,” says Melissa.

“Our dad loves to see the inn used so well,” Tajlei chimes in.

Janice takes extra care fluffing the tinsel tree outside the Best Friends Room. To members of the public who will parade through during Saturday’s regional Holiday Inn Tour, coordinated by the Shires of Vermont, this little fuchsia tree won’t appear to be anything more than a storebought accent. But it speaks of intimate connections. Before 2020, the women had missed decorating the Wilburton only once, when Pamela was diagnosed with breast cancer and required surgery in Maryland. Her best friends spent two weeks by her side. Julia quit her job to be there; Janice

above : An aerial view of the c. 1902 Wilburton Inn, formerly the main house on a 500-acre “gentleman’s farm.” below : Melissa and Jetson, helping to bring home the big tree. opposite : Guests staying for the canine Christmas “slumber party” at the Wilburton take a stroll on the streets of Manchester.
NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2022

took all of her vacation time. And Melissa sent this shiny tree, along with Wilburton T-shirts and robes. “I wasn’t scared or anything,” Pamela remembers. “These girls were with me. They never left me once.”

GROWN-UP WONDER

The winter sun shoots through my third-floor window, rousing me from the purple-velvet-cloaked four-poster bed. I tiptoe downstairs to see what the elves have accomplished overnight. I peek at the tree: gorgeous. But the hubbub of ladders and lights and whirring vacuums sends me retreat ing to a bench seat on the staircase landing, clutching a steamy mug of joe.

Meesha Kropp breezes through, surveys the cleanup chaos, and proclaims, “Glitter days are here again!” The inn’s wedding planner, she also runs the front desk; she wit nesses the transformation that occurs between arrival and departure for practically every guest, not just the newly weds. In a phrase, she’s captured a universal hope for this holiday season: sparkling normalcy. If the pandemic has a silver lining, it’s the lessons it’s taught grown-ups about appreciating things previously taken for granted.

I’m eagerly awaiting Friday’s costume reveal, and Pamela, Julia, and Janice do not disappoint. They strut down the Wilburton staircase dressed as Santa’s three wives, with coordinating red velour and white fur shopping totes. And they’re off to Manchester Village to stimulate smiles and the local economy. But first: a traditional stop at the Equinox for lunch with “Doc,” as they affectionately call Dr. Levis.

“The ho ho hos are here!” Pamela announces as they stride through the elegant historic hotel in high-heeled black boots with white fur cuffs. The silliness turns serious over comfort food. This is the first time Doc has heard the full origin story behind the women’s cherished visits. It’s an emotionally raw revelation for Pamela, but one with a plot twist: She and her estranged husband, Malcolm, reunited 15 years later after taking their daughter to prom together. He’ll be driving the Wilburton float in tomorrow’s parade, with Doc and Tajlei seated in a place of honor on the flat bed. One float secret is out of Santa’s bag.

BARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING

A wild dash of events unfolds now, starting with Fri day night’s Ugly Christmas Sweater Fashion Parade and Party. Guests and their pups have dressed not just for portrait photos but to win bragging rights and gag prizes. The breeds are diverse, and so are the owners: couples of all ages, best friends, a mom and a daughter. Sharon Spe vock drove solo from West Virginia with little Winnie— and a weekend-long lineup of matching owner-and-dog attire. When the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars winner and entrepreneur Heather Saffer joins in dancing the hora around the menorah, so does her beloved dog, Donald.

every aspect

It feels like one big doggy-adoring family when the group reconvenes for a Saturday morning stroll through town. By Saturday night’s Slumber Party and Fireside Sing-a-Long, the comfort level is so high, we’re all in jammies (Pamela, Julia, and Janice have donned match ing Rudolph onesies), belting carols, and sharing holiday memories from varied religious and ethnic traditions.

The fire and newfound friendships provide a welcome surge of warmth. Just hours before, the outdoor tempera ture was plummeting toward the teens as we waited for the start of the lighted tractor parade. For the first time, the girls had invited their families to join the assembled crowd. Janice’s mom, dad, and husband made the trip, as did Julia’s son and daughter-in-law and Pamela’s four daughters, their husbands, and all six grandchildren. At last, they would glimpse the wonder these three conjure every time they slip into “only in Manchester” mode.

Twinkling tractors and floats rumble by, with children waving, music playing, and faux snow flying. And then, a sight that surpasses imagination: A dapper Doc and a divine Tajlei wave from their seat at the rear of the Wil burton’s flashy winter wonderland float. All eyes, though, especially the children’s, are on the three snow princesses with their cascading blonde wigs, fur-trimmed capes, and illuminated tiaras. No regal waves of the hand from these three—they’re kicking up their white go-go boots, hands in the air.

The crowd disperses quickly after Santa and Mrs. Claus appear. I was the only soul standing by, shivering, while the judges deliberated. I already knew, though, who’d be bringing home the $300 prize for best overall float. Because in every good holiday story, it is the loving, the selfless, the generous of spirit who experience miracles. Who reap joy as their reward.

of the Wilburton fosters the ability to look on the bright side of life and to not take things too seriously —playfulness, in other words.
A snapshot from the girls’ nonstop holiday fashion show (which calls for twice-daily outfit changes): From left, Pamela, Janice, and Julia step out in Mrs. Claus style for an afternoon of shopping in downtown Manchester.
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Holiday Inns

ANCHORAGE BY THE SEA Ogunquit, ME

Ogunquit’s shops and annual Christmas by the Sea festivities are within walking distance of this waterfront resort, and longtime owners the Ramsey family take their location in the midst of all that merriment very seriously. Up go white lights and swags of greenery. Seasonal cocktails (sometimes naughty, sometimes nice) await at Surf Point 360. And while this is a large property,

several of its buildings feel distinctly inn-like—as does the warmth of the employees, many of whom have greeted returning families for over 30 years. anchoragebythesea.com

HARRASEEKET INN Freeport, ME

The real fun isn’t just bringing a special ornament to hang on the Community Tree in the inn’s drawing room; it’s returning here, years from now, to search for (and likely find) your contribution. But this sweet tradition isn’t the only reason to make a holiday escape to this 94-room property, a Freeport mainstay ever since it was built around a 19th-century

Greek Revival house in 1984. You’ll never forget being in town during the annual 10-day Sparkle Celebration: Where else can you converse with Freeport’s famous talking Christmas tree and shop all night at L.L. Bean? harraseeketinn.com

INN AT ELLIS RIVER Jackson, NH

With romantic amenities such as in-room fireplaces and jetted tubs for two, this country inn is particularly inviting when the snow flies. While innkeepers John and Mary Kendzierski close down to focus on family during the two weeks before Christmas, they load up the first half

of December with holiday fun for guests. Reserve afternoon tea beside a decked-out tree, wear your ugliest Christmas sweater to the cookie swap and dramatic reading of A Christmas Carol, or time your visit for the region’s annual Inn-to-Inn Holiday Cookie Tour, when John and assistant innkeeper Christine Baumann bake 1,200-plus festive treats. innatellisriver.com

INN AT PLEASANT LAKE New London, NH

The view of Mount Kearsarge across the water has been a gift to this inn’s guests for more than 150 years. A fine dinner by Christmas-tree-light at

Anchorage by the Sea, Maine
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GET INTO THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON AT THESE JOLLY NEW ENGLAND OVERNIGHTS.
COURTESY PHOTOS

the on-site restaurant Oak & Grain is an experience to cherish, too—perhaps even more than anything you could wrap in pretty paper. To fully embrace the holiday spirit, come right after Christmas, when the inn’s vintage barn becomes a Gallery of Trees, all decorated by local businesses. You have until New Year’s Eve to vote for your favorite, and if you make a donation too, you can feel good knowing the winner will funnel all funds to a worthy local cause. innatpleasantlake.com

THE RED LION INN Stockbridge, MA

When Norman Rockwell’s famous Stockbridge Main

Street at Christmas was published in McCall’s in 1967, editors said of the painting: “Wherever you happen to hail from … we hope you will have, for a moment, the feeling of coming home for Christmas.” That’s still the emotion that this Main Street icon strives to elicit from its guests today. More than 30 Christmas trees and 700 feet of pine garland dress up the historic inn, and when you open the front door to the enormous Christmas tree and fireplace’s toasty warmth, it’s as if you’re stepping into a memory, even if it’s your first visit. Time your getaway to coincide with the town’s annual

Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas celebration, held the first weekend in December. redlioninn.com

WEEKAPAUG INN Westerly, RI

A traditional Italian Feast of the Fishes is a Christmas Eve standby here at this waterside historic inn. Slip into boots from the Hunter Borrowing Closet for a walk in any weather, warm up with a hot drink by a snap-crackling wood fire, make s’mores by the fire pit outdoors, and tuck in at night just the way (or better than) you would at home, with your pooch slumbering in an Annie Selke–designed dog bed by your side. weekapauginn.com

WESTBROOK INN Westbrook, CT

Merry is the prevailing spirit throughout a month of festivities in and around this Victorian B&B with contemporary polish. Head out for a community tree lighting, artisan bazaars, and Essex Steam Train’s North Pole Express rides; stay in to enjoy sweets and savories at the inn’s ticketed high Christmas tea. The parlor tree is adorned with pink blossoms, dainty teacups, and light-reflecting hotel keys; the great room’s tree decked out in peacock blue and gold. Wake up here Christmas morning, and you’ll find Santa’s left you a locally made gift. westbrookinn.com

Inn at Pleasant Lake, New Hampshire The Red Lion Inn, Massachusetts
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| 89NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2022 A Christmas Loon HEMMED IN BY DECEMBER ICE, A STRANDED BIRD INSPIRES HOPES OF A HOLIDAY MIRACLE. BY ROWAN JACOBSEN ILLUSTRATIONS BY LAUREN WEST

We began to worry about the loon in early December. What was it still doing here? For 18 years, we’d watched the loons come and go from the Vermont lake we live on, arriving in April as soon as the ice disappeared, raising a chick or two over the summer and fall, then heading for their winter fishing grounds off the New England coast in November, before the ice returned.

But this one didn’t go, and it was running out of time. Loons have solid bones built for diving, and feet set like propellers in the rear. Pure poetry underwater, they are complete klutzes on land, barely able to push along on their bellies, and they are heavy. Like a seaplane, they need a long stretch of open water to get airborne. An iced-in loon is a dead loon. Coyotes and eagles. Cold and starvation.

As the December days slipped by and the first tongues of ice began to extend from the coves, the dozen or so households that rim the lake grew anxious. It was the first order of conversation when we bumped into each other walking the road that hugs the western shore. It’s going to fly, right? What if it doesn’t?

That may sound like a lot of fuss about one bird, but loons have a special hold on the lakeside communities they share their summers with. It’s that mournful howl echoing off the hills, a finger of wildness running down your spine.

And yet, for all that wildness, they are also paragons of domesticity. The same pair of birds return year after year, making their nest in the sheltered cove, cruising past our docks on their daily rounds, dauntlessly serving an endless string of minnows to their fumbling chicks. They are one of us. So when a chick finally flies for the first time in late fall, heading for the Gulf of Maine or Nantucket Sound, from which it will return in a few years to set up its own home somewhere nearby, we get the quiet joy of completion.

For many New Englanders, this is a relatively new pleasure. The birds were nearly wiped out in the 19th and 20th centuries—victims of hunting, habitat loss, and lead poisoning from sinkers, which they sometimes ingest. Forty years ago, Vermont was down to seven nesting pairs. Massachusetts had none. Since then, a resurgence. Vermont just climbed to over 100 pairs, New Hampshire has more than 300, and Maine, with its vast expanse of glacial lakes, boasts 1,700. Even Massachusetts has more than 40 pairs.

Our own little lake, a half-mile oval, is only big enough to support a single pair, but we’ve been on an amazing run, fledging one or two chicks a year for 15 years. We credit our success to Eric Hanson, the biologist who has spearheaded the Vermont Loon Recovery Project for more than 20 years. Working on a shoestring budget that supports only a parttime position (he grooms ski trails in the winter), Eric has cultivated a network of hundreds of volunteers living on loon-likely lakes, teaching us to protect and improve nesting

sites, to educate anglers on loon-safe practices (no lead sinkers, no wakes, reel in if you see a loon eyeing your bait), and to steer kayakers away from nests and chicks.

Eric is always on call to field a question or rescue a loon in trouble, so he was my go-to in August of 2020, when our only chick of the year was killed and eaten by an eagle. My son found the carcass on the shoreline, ripped open like a piñata, the malefactor perched on a branch above like a cartoon villain.

Eagles and loons are bitter enemies. Loons shriek like air-raid sirens when they spot an incoming eagle. For years, I’d watched eagles dive-bomb loon chicks without ever taking any, and I’d stopped worrying, especially once the young were nearly full-grown and able to dive on their own, as this one had been. So the death came as a shock.

Get used to it, Eric counseled. In northern Maine, nearly half the loon chicks are lost to eagles. Even adults are vulnerable. As both loon and eagle populations grow, expect to see a lot more predation. It’s normal. It’s fine.

Sure. But this was one of us. In 2021, our loon pair produced no chicks for the first time in memory. It felt like our karma had turned.

By the winter solstice, a skein of ice covered most of the lake. With dismay, we watched the loon become trapped in an ever-shrinking pool in the center. No fish, no way out, and subfreezing nights that were only getting colder.

The village was abuzz with rescue plans. Several neighbors offered their skiffs. But it was impossible. The ice was too thick for boating and too thin for walking.

By Christmas Eve the loon’s world was down to a 10-foot hole, which the loon was keeping open with its watery pacing, like the pupil in the eye of a giant that couldn’t fall asleep.

Our neighbor, Karin McNeil, had a clear view of the unfolding tragedy from her living room window. Karin’s a romantic, known to call out to loons in hopes of a response. She wrote Eric Hanson, who checked the ice with his auger: two inches; not enough.

Eric does a handful of loon rescues every year. Some birds get entangled in fishing gear. Others land on ponds that are too small for takeoff, or on roads mistaken for rivers. Very few are ice rescues, because of the danger. The only time he’ll try it is when the ice gets thick and the hole closes, forcing the loon onto the ice, so it can’t dive. By then, however, the loon has endured weeks of cold and starvation. And eagles often get it first.

“Why bother with rescues at all?” I asked Eric. If loon populations are growing, what does it matter?

“It matters for that loon,” he replied. But that’s not all, he added. “It’s the people that bird touches. The story that bird tells.”

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At dusk we followed the road to the point closest to the loon’s hole, peering through the gloom. The loon flapped its wings halfheartedly and gave its Who’s out there? call, waiting for a reply that never came. It sounded weak.

A freezing rain fell all Christmas Day. Those of us with a lake view stared out at the grim, glassy scene and grappled with the gut punch that we were going to spend Christmas watching this loon die. When I passed Karin on the road, she was still working on ways to somehow get a boat out there. I tried, as gently as possible, to suggest that it might be out of our hands.

Karin’s husband, Ben, a longtime student of Buddhism, meditates at dawn, gazing out at the lake. The morning after Christmas, the rising light revealed a stark tableau: The loon, still in its hole, staring at an eagle perched on the edge. For a long time, the two adversaries regarded each other in silence, just a few feet apart. Then the eagle lifted off, turned a widening gyre around the hole, and flapped away.

What to make of this parley? Eric Hanson has no idea. Neither do I. I can picture the Far Side cartoon, but I can’t figure out the caption. All I know is that something lit a fire under that loon’s ass. Afterward, it finally tried to free itself, managing to flop its way out of the hole before crashing back onto the ice a few yards away. It turned and hopped awkwardly back to its shrinking prison.

But when Karin checked the ice a few hours later, the loon was gone. Sunk to the bottom of the lake? Or miraculous escape?

She called Eric Hanson. News! A motorist had reported a loon struggling on the road at a fork near the lake. Eric was en route but an hour away, and a game warden had been dispatched from a nearby town.

The directions were vague, but Karin thought they might refer to a spot south of the lake, where the hills converge below the dam. If so, the loon had managed to flap and flop a half mile before crashing into the snowy

road. She grabbed an old overcoat for loon catching and raced out the door. The world was still glazed in ice from the Christmas storm, so she covered the half mile to the road below the dam by foot. She looked up and down the road. No loon. Where does a loon on a road go? Most of the possibilities she could think of weren’t good.

Her mind was flitting through the handful of other spots that might fit the motorist’s description when a big black truck with the golden Vermont Fish & Wildlife logo came slowly up the road and stopped in front of her. The window rolled down and a young, clean-cut warden looked out. “I’m looking for a loon,” he said.

“Me, too,” Karin replied.

The warden, Mike Scott, parked his truck and joined the foot search. A hundred yards up the road, a trough in the snow the width of a loon belly dropped down a precipitous bank and disappeared into the trees in the direction of the swift creek that runs out of the lake. On either side of the trough were the scratch marks of webbed feet. Karin did her best loon call in the direction of the trail: Who’s out there?

I am! came the immediate reply. She spotted the loon in the creek, paddling hard to stay in place. She called several times, and every time, the loon answered.

Mike donned waders, grabbed a blanket, pulled on his elbow-length wildlife-wrangling gloves, and slid down the bank. Karin followed.

The loon grew increasingly agitated as Mike eased himself into the water downstream of it, feeling his way over the ice-encrusted rocks. Before he had his footing, the loon turned and charged downstream, striking with its daggerlike four-inch bill. Mike caught it by the neck, trying not to topple backward into the stream, and wrapped the blanket around its body. Holding it like a thrashing bagpipe, he carefully made his way out of the creek and up the bank.

Eric showed up a half hour later. While Mike held the loon still, Eric checked it for injuries, feeling his way along its wing and leg bones. It was healthy and plenty feisty. They eased it into a box—the loon taking Mike’s glove with it—and Eric took it to Lake Champlain, which doesn’t freeze over completely, working on a poem about staring into the deathly eye of an eagle as he drove.

Eric’s favorite loon-release point is a rocky promontory behind the ECHO Center, the science museum on the Burlington waterfront. He carried the box out to the point and opened it. The loon slid out onto the water, flapped once to zip its feathers back into place, hooted at him, and paddled away. It was the sixth bird of 2021 that had gotten a second chance thanks to Eric’s efforts. With any luck, it spent a week or two fattening up on Lake Champlain perch, then made its way to the sea. I pictured it there, ducking waves, as I watched the hole seal over. By New Year’s, a blanket of snow erased everything, and the lake at last fell into its winter slumber, dreaming of spring.

Karin did her best loon call in the direction of the trail: Who’s out there? I am! came the immediate reply.
| 91NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2022

JERRIANNE BOGGIS

The executive director of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire has made it her life’s work to share a more complete history of her home state.

JerriAnne Boggis’s story is an American story. Born in Jamaica, she came to the United States when she was 17 and eventually settled in New England, where she earned her college degree in computer science and later a master’s in creative writing from Southern New Hampshire University. She married, raised two sons, and helped build a business in Portsmouth that now employs half a dozen people.

But Boggis’s story is American in other ways, too. As a Black mother in one of the whitest states in the country, she struggled for years to find connections and a sense of home in a community where so few people looked like her. “Sometimes it could feel like I was the only Black person in the state,” she says. That began to change in 2002, when Boggis discovered the largely forgotten life and work of the 19th-century writer Harriet E. Wilson, North America’s first Black female novelist and a resident of Boggis’s adopted hometown of Milford, New Hampshire. In her novel Our Nig, Wilson draws on her own life to tell the story of a young girl who worked for years as an indentured servant. For Boggis, the discovery of Wilson was a revelation. Suddenly, there was a history and lineage of Black life for her to dig into. “It was like seeing this place where I live with different eyes,” she says.

And she wanted others to see what she did. In 2006, Boggis cemented Wilson’s legacy by leading efforts for a new downtown

92 | NEWENGLAND.COM
CONVERSATIONS

Milford monument in the writer’s honor—the state’s first memorial dedicated to a Black resident. Today, Boggis is helping to share more overlooked history as the executive director of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, a nonprofit that honors and promotes the stories of the state’s past Black residents and communities through public events and tours. These are celebrations of sorts, but also lessons in what’s lost when history is told from a single point of view. Many Black residents have left predominantly white states, Boggis says, not because they didn’t want to make a home there, but because they struggled to identify with those places. By fleshing out the past more completely, she argues, maybe those same residents will feel a stronger connection to where they live— much as she herself did.

I recently caught up with Boggis at her home in Milford to talk about her New England journey, as well as the work she and others are doing to expand the scope of how people see this region.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me a little bit about the family and culture you grew up in.

My mother was a high school teacher and my father was a civil servant at the minister of finance’s office. So the family—and there were six of us kids—was very public service oriented. We read a lot. My parents wanted all their kids to be learners, and our education was worldly. We didn’t hear only Jamaican stories— we heard Caribbean stories, British stories, American stories. We knew what was going on in the world.

You’ve said that a strong sense of history was part of your upbringing. How so?

Near the bridge I crossed to go to school was the Sam Sharpe tree. [Sam Sharpe led a slave rebellion in Jamaica in 1831.] That’s where he was hung, and everyone knew that. There was a sign right there. And there were

other markers around town that also told about not just the enslavement but the fight for liberation. These were visible representations of the past.

What effect did that have on you? You see yourself not as the victimized but as the warrior. There is a stability, there’s a grounding, there’s this sense of power in being able to overcome adversity. We knew the story of slavery but we also knew what we overcame to become free. So those words on those plaques became a part of who we are and our world view.

When you came to the U.S. at 17, what was the transition like for you? When you’re in the majority, you don’t have to think about who you are or how your race fits in with those around you. You’re not an other. That’s what I felt in Jamaica. In the

U.S. it was different—I had to prove myself. And I felt like I wasn’t just representing myself but representing my race. Never mind that I’m not actually African-American; many whites just assumed I was.

I started second-guessing myself. I lost my confidence in raising my hand in the classroom to give an answer. What if I say something that’s misunderstood? Because now I’m thinking about how I’m representing all these other people, not just myself. All these calculations add up; you stop putting your hand up and speaking freely.

How did those feelings shape you as the mother of two young boys growing up in a place like southern New Hampshire?

At first I didn’t think much about it. Their father is white, and so early on I thought they had the best of both worlds. They’re not Black, they’re not white, they’re coffee with cream. It was very naïve thinking.

Then when my boys were still young I got a wake-up call. A neighbor’s kid asked one of my sons how he could live with someone who is the N-word. And that’s when I started to immerse them in their Blackness. We started going to New York City, where my sisters and cousins live, like every other weekend. I figured my boys were going to get the white story about themselves just by living here—from their grandparents, from their father, from everything around them. But I also needed to be deliberate in making sure they understood their Blackness.

And then you discover Harriet E. Wilson. How did her story come into focus for you?

That was around 2002. I was in grad school at the time, and the local paper did a story on her. I had seen references to her book but it never dawned on me that it was by

94 | NEWENGLAND.COM

someone from New Hampshire. As far as I knew, New Hampshire had no real Black history. But now here is this story about Wilson—and not only that but she also lived in the town where I now live. There was a subsequent article about a teacher who said Wilson’s book was inappropriate for reading in high school, and that got me started on the project with a group of Black women from Nashua.

It almost seems fated. It did feel fated. You know I was never involved in the town before. I was just a housewife trying to find places where I could belong. I felt a stronger connection to New York, where my family lived. Then I find this story and it’s like, we have a history that goes back to the

1700s. That’s what I grew up with in Jamaica. I could now walk around and say, “Oh, Harriet probably saw a lot of the same houses I’m looking at right now. This is where she stood.” Those kinds of things.

And that helped you feel more at home? Oh, yeah. It created a connection to a place where I had no connection prior.

Why was it important to establish a monument to Wilson?

Henry Louis Gates had republished her book in 1983, and in 2002 she’d been forgotten again and there was not a single reference to her in the town. Nowhere. So it felt important to put up something permanent and visible. Because if you have a monument, you can’t erase that history again.

The work you did to establish the Wilson monument eventually led to your work at the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire. How are the two connected?

JerriAnne Boggis at the statue of Harriet E. Wilson, North America’s first Black female novelist, in Milford, New Hampshire.
We’re showing these [Black] communities did live here. They established farms, built businesses, raised families. We are reclaiming that history.
CHERYL SENTER | 95NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2022
(Continued on p. 120)
The author, Ben Hewitt, at his family’s rural homestead in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Though typically a rifle user, he wears the 9mm pistol he experimented with carrying in his daily life while working on this story.
96 |
By Ben Hewitt Photo by John Tulley
| 97 Loaded Questions WITH GUN VIOLENCE ELSEWHERE ROILING THE NATION, A NATIVE VERMONTER SETS OUT TO BETTER UNDERSTAND HIS FIREARMSFRIENDLY STATE.
|

On a hot Saturday afternoon in August 2021, I drove to the Enfield Outing Club in Enfield, New Hampshire, to learn about shooting guns. Specifically, I went there to learn about shooting handguns. I did this in part because hand guns have always made me a little uncomfortable, a feel ing I hoped could be mitigated, if not overcome, through greater competence and familiarity. I also went because although I don’t own a handgun myself, both of my teen age sons do. I enjoy shooting with them, and I thought I might enjoy it even more if I improved my skills.

I went also because I wanted to better understand the appeal of handguns. This may sound odd, given that I enjoy shooting myself (despite my unease), but I knew that for many, guns—and, it seemed to me, handguns in par ticular—represented something at once more meaningful and more personal than the simple pleasure of punching holes in tin cans with their kids.

Finally, I went because it had become obvious to me that a culture war was brewing in the heart of my beloved home state of Vermont. The evidence of this was not scant, and was most poignantly rendered by a dispute regarding a recently opened firearms training site in the once-sleepy town of Pawlet, which is located 25 miles south of Rut land, and is home to fewer than 1,500 people. There, a New Yorker named Daniel Banyai had purchased 30 acres of land and begun development of a tactical weapons train ing site. Banyai had been drawn to Vermont specifically because it allowed the unpermitted carrying of firearms, but he quickly found himself embroiled in a standoff with the town over zoning regulations, and, I think it’s fair to say, a cultural divide as intractable as the Taconic Moun tains overlooking the town. The standoff turned ugly,

which in turn attracted national media attention, and there were reports of neighbors installing video surveillance and acquiring bulletproof vests.

So yes, I think it’s clear that for some—perhaps many— of my fellow Vermonters, guns represented something more meaningful and personal than the pleasure of aerat ing beer cans with their kids. I had a sense of what some of these things might be, and I viewed them as creating a sort of hierarchical pyramid, one stacking atop the other, giving rise to something that transcends all the others. I wasn’t sure exactly what to call this “something”; I sensed that feeling was insufficient, and that perhaps idea or ideology or even identity was more accurate. And the way I understood it at the time, that idea is freedom, and it sat atop a pyramid constructed of competence, responsibility, security, and, quite frankly, power.

I’m not suggesting I was right about any of this, but it’s how I understood things at the time—even as I recognized that my understanding had been shaped at a distance and was therefore more rooted in assumptions and theory than lived experience. This recognition is what had compelled me to pay $130 to Spitfire Firearms Training to register for a class in handgun fundamentals. The two other stu dents who’d registered for the day-long class had failed to materialize, and so I found myself standing atop the closecropped grass of the Enfield Outing Club with not one but two instructors, a seemingly bottomless cache of ammo, and a dizzying array of guns at my disposal.

In essence, I was getting a private lesson in the basics of shooting handguns. But it soon became clear that I was getting something else, too, something I’d hoped for but wasn’t certain I’d find: an experiential window into a particular subset of gun culture that felt essential to truly understanding both the appeal of guns and, more broadly, how the conversation about firearms in Vermont (and everywhere else) has become so fraught. I wanted to under stand not merely how the firearms culture in Vermont is changing, but also why, and what that means in a state that’s long maintained an anomalous relationship to guns. We have the highest rate of gun ownership in New Eng land, along with some of the most permissive (or, depend ing on your perspective, constitutional) regulations. Yet despite our high rate of gun ownership, we have one of the lowest rates of gun violence in the nation. We are a leftleaning state with a Republican governor who recently signed new restrictions into law.

Indeed, perhaps the only thing that’s not anomalous about Vermont’s relationship to guns is the fact that here, like pretty much everywhere else, people are buying them at record rates. In 2020, Vermont gun purchases triggered 57,965 background checks; the previous record for a single

CHERYL SENTER/AP PHOTO (SCOTT); BEAR CIERI (HUNTERS); JOHN TULLY (LASHER-SOMMERS)
98 | NEWENGLAND.COM
O (Continued on p. 122)

top right : Young hunters head into the woods on a foggy early morning in Vermont, a state where more than 10 percent of residents hold hunting licenses.

left : Clai Lasher-Sommers, executive director of GunSense Vermont, a gun violence prevention organization founded in 2012.

When I asked the GoVT members if they were optimistic about the future of gun rights in Vermont, the answer was unambiguous: no. Or, at least, not very.
top left : Amid supporters of gun safety measures as well as those advocating for gun owners’ rights, Governor Phil Scott signs new firearms restrictions into law in 2018 at the Vermont State House.
| 99NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2022
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(Continued from p. 37)

GINGERSNAP BROWNIES

Dense and chewy like chocolate brownies, these delicious bars are packed with warm spice and molasses.

FOR THE BARS

16 gingersnap cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1¼ teaspoons ground ginger

1¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon table salt

¾ cup vegetable oil

¹⁄ 3 cup molasses

1 large egg

3 tablespoons water

FOR THE DRIZZLE

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons milk

Preheat your oven to 350 °F and set a rack in the middle position. Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with parch ment paper so that some of the paper hangs over two sides, like handles. Line the bottom of the pan with the gingersnap cookies, breaking them into smaller pieces as needed to fit. Using a stand or handheld mixer, combine all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and beat until evenly combined. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the center is puffed and set and the brownies begin to pull away from the sides, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set the pan

on a wire rack; when they have cooled, remove from the pan using the parch ment handles.

To make the drizzle, whisk the confectioners’ sugar with the milk in a medium bowl until smooth. Drizzle over the brownies in a pretty pattern. Let the glaze set for 15 minutes, then cut into pieces and serve. Yields 12 servings.

with the cream of tartar on medium speed until they begin to foam. Add ⅓ cup sugar in a very slow stream and beat on high until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the hot water and the cocoa powder. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ¾ cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Whisk the egg yolks, oil, and vanilla into the cocoa mixture. Add this to the dry ingredients, whisking until smooth (scrape the sides of the bowl halfway through). Now gently fold in a third of the egg whites until evenly combined. Add remaining egg whites and gently fold until evenly incorporated.

CHOCOLATE-PEPPERMINT CLOUD CAKE

The cake is a classic chocolate chiffon, easy to make using a handheld or a stand mixer. Crushed peppermint candies give the whipped cream frosting its gorgeous pink color.

FOR THE CAKE

6 large eggs, whites and yolks separated, at room temperature

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

¹⁄ 3 cup plus ¾ cup granulated sugar

²⁄ 3 cup steaming hot water

¹⁄ 3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

1¼ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon table salt

¹⁄ 3 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

FOR THE FROSTING

15 peppermint candies, finely crushed

1½ cups whipping cream

Preheat your oven to 325 °F and set a rack in the middle position. Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with parchment paper cut to fit, and set aside (do not grease).

In a very clean bowl, using a stand or handheld mixer, beat the egg whites

Pour batter into the prepared bak ing dish. Bake until the cake is set in the center and just begins to pull away from the sides, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove cake from oven; immediately invert pan onto a baking rack and let cool completely.

When the cake is cool, turn it rightside up. Take ⅓ cup of the crushed pep permint candies and set them aside for sprinkling over the cake.

To make the frosting, beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the remaining candy into the whipped cream. It will turn a pretty shade of pink. Spread this frosting over the cake in thick swirls. Sprinkle with reserved candy. The cake will keep in the refrigerator for up to two days but is best served right away. Yields 8 to 10 servings.

LEMON-PISTACHIO BUNDT CAKE WITH LEMON GLAZE

Here’s something bright and sunny for the darkest season of the year, with a

106 |
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deep flavor and a bright green and yellow color that come from the lemon and pistachios. Bake it in a fluted pan for a stunning centerpiece dessert.

FOR THE CAKE

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pan

2 cups granulated sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan

2 teaspoons table salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

½ cup unsalted pistachios (roasted), roughly chopped

Zest of 1 large lemon

3 tablespoons lemon juice

FOR THE GLAZE AND GARNISH

1½ cups confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Lemon zest curls

Chopped pistachios

Preheat your oven to 350 °F and set a rack to the middle position. Grease a Bundt pan with butter and sprinkle with flour; turn to coat and shake off excess. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using a stand or handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until pale and very fluffy, about 6 minutes. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl halfway through. Separately, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter mixture, beating well and scraping the bowl after each. With the mixer on low speed, add a third of the flour mixture to the batter and mix until just incorporated. Add half of the buttermilk and briefly mix. Repeat with another third of flour mixture, then the rest of the buttermilk, then the rest of the flour mixture. Fold in the pistachios, lemon zest, and lemon juice until smooth.

Pour batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake until the cake is

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pulling away from the sides and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes.

Remove the Bundt pan from the oven, turn it over onto a cooling rack, and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then lift the pan off the cake and let the cake cool to room temperature.

To make the glaze, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl until smooth.

Generously drizzle the cake with the glaze, letting it run down the sides. Let it set for 5 minutes, then sprinkle the top with lemon zest curls and crushed pistachios. Let the cake set for 10 min utes, then serve. Yields 10 to 12 servings.

CHOCOLATE-DIPPED SHORTBREAD STARS

These cookies look so pretty but take very little time to decorate. The trick to great flavor is to combine the simple, buttery shortbread with the richness of bittersweet chocolate (though you can use whatever style of chocolate you prefer).

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) salted butter, softened

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1½ teaspoons almond extract

1¼ teaspoons ground cardamom (optional)

½ teaspoon table salt

1¾ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup cornstarch

5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

Flaky sea salt (optional)

Preheat your oven to 300 °F and set racks to the upper and lower third posi

In a large bowl, using a stand or handheld mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, almond extract, carda mom, and salt. Add the flour and corn starch and beat until a dough forms. Gather into a ball, press into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to two days.

Gently roll the dough out onto a floured surface to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out your stars and transfer them to the prepared baking sheets. Gather and reroll the dough as needed.

Bake the cookies until pale golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. When cooled, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or a microwave. Dip half of each cookie into the melted chocolate, then return to the parchment paper and sprinkle with sea salt, if using. Yields about 2 dozen cookies.

PUMPKIN PIE CRUMBLE

Pumpkin spice fans will love this easy crumble. The trick is to apply the top ping about halfway through baking so it doesn’t sink to the bottom.

FOR THE FILLING

Butter for greasing pan

2 (15-ounce) cans pumpkin puree

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

3 large eggs

2½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon table salt

FOR THE TOPPING

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

½ cup rolled oats

½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

½ teaspoon table salt

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) chilled salted butter, cut into small pieces

Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat your oven to 350 °F and set a rack to the middle position. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with butter and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, cream, brown sugar, eggs, spice, and salt. Pour into the pre pared baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the topping: In the bowl of a stand mixer or food pro cessor, mix all the ingredients until the mixture looks like wet sand with some pea-sized lumps of butter.

After the filling has cooked for 20 minutes, the edges will be just set and the center will still be loose. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling, one handful at a time, starting with the edges. Return to the oven and bake until the center is set, 25 to 30 minutes more. If the top needs extra browning, run it briefly under a broiler (keep a close eye on it). Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Yields 8 to 10 servings.

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NEW LONDON: The city on the Thames has a fun take on shopping local: Print your Holiday Passbook, spend at least $25 at participating merchants to get a stamp, and turn in 10 stamps to enter a drawing for a hotel stay and dinner. On Friday after Thanksgiving, follow the wreath-encircled antique streetlights to Parade Plaza, where the Christmas tree lighting raises the curtain on a month of “Merry Days and Jolly Nights.” Shop the Custom House Museum Shop for nautical-themed gifts, and visit Flavours of Life for fairtrade fashion and home accessories. Hungry shoppers head for the cozy, inexpensive Dutch Tavern, or for the great river views at On the Waterfront. downtownnewlondonassociation.com

RIDGEFIELD: Wearing its 300 years of history handsomely, Ridgefield’s Main Street turns Christmas-card-perfect with storefronts reflecting trees swathed in white firefly lights. On weekend evenings in early December, the Holiday Stroll brings locals and visitors together, with caroling, singing toy soldiers, and ice sculpting demonstrations. Downtown’s

specialty retailers include must-stops such as Nancy O., with its luxurious yarns and accessories; the Toy Chest, stocked with distinctive playthings; and Audrey Road, the place for vintage-inspired clothing. Still browsing on Christmas Eve? Head for Books on the Common, open “till the last procrastinator leaves.” Refuel downtown, or catch one of the special Holiday Luncheons at the Keeler Tavern Museum, just south, where there’s also a Holiday Boutique on luncheon days. inridgefield.com

MAINE

BOOTHBAY/BOOTHBAY HARBOR: You’ll have a hard time finding anything that isn’t festooned with holiday lights in this seaside town, from Gardens Aglow at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens to parades of lighted fire trucks and boats (one bringing Santa) on successive weekends after Thanksgiving. Downtown shops open for the Saturdayevening Early Bird Sale a week before Turkey Day, greeting shoppers who traditionally show up at places like Gimbel & Sons Country Store and Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop

in pajamas and bathrobes. In midDecember, Men’s Night brings out the gents—in more subdued attire—for lastminute shopping. boothbayharbor.com

FREEPORT: It’s New England’s only place to shop at any hour, 365 days a year—and to talk to a Christmas tree. The conifer at the corner of Main and Bow streets chats with passersby during Sparkle Celebration, which kicks off December 2 with a Parade of Lights and the arrival of Santa. But the real magic in this coastal town is its 170-plus factory outlets, an array of specialty shops, and the alwaysopen L.L. Bean flagship store, where musical holiday light shows delight nightly. After stocking up on outdoor gear and saving a bundle at the outlets, pop into Wicked Whoopies to grab Maine’s official state treat, the whoopie pie, in both classic and gourmet flavors. visitfreeport.com

KENNEBUNKPORT: Kennebunkport goes out of its way to show it isn’t just a summer destination with its annual Christmas Prelude, a 12-day celebration (this year, Dec. 1–11) that includes a lobster trap Christmas tree, a pooch parade, multiple craft fairs, Christmas fireworks, and the chance to see Santa and his

Nicholson

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Travel | DAY TRIPS (Continued from p. 74)
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lobster elves arrive by lobster boat. The shoppers’ epicenter is Dock Square, where Daytrip Society offers unusual handmade clothing and housewares, and JAK Designs specializes in handmade knitwear and artisan jewelry. For natureinspired holiday decor, head over to Snug Harbor Farm in adjacent Kennebunk— and don’t leave without sampling the buttery pastries at Boulangerie. christmasprelude.com

PORTLAND: “Merry Madness” is the name of Portland’s Christmas game, and you’ll need to pick up a passport to participate (order online starting in late October). It’s a pocket-size booklet, good throughout December, that unlocks deals, discounts, and special offers at more than sixty city merchants. As you venture from shop to shop—perhaps taking in craft boutiques like Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine, or Waterlily Handmade Gifts—the windows are as enticing as the wares, with some 40 shops and restaurants competing for a “best holiday display” award. All around downtown, Pandora’s Winter Lights brighten the nights (as will a stop for fries at Duckfat). portlandmaine.com

MASSACHUSETTS

GREAT BARRINGTON: This southern Berkshires town goes all out for Christmas on one big day—this year, December 10—with its Shop, Sip & Stroll celebration. There’ll be a hayride, games and crafts for kids, buskers, a youth choir concert, and the town tree lighting, followed by fireworks. On and around merrily lit Main Street, find unique shops such as Tom’s Toys, stocking everything from dolls to trucks to classic games; Karen Allen Fiber Arts, with carefully curated women’s designer apparel and other textiles; and Yellow House Books, specializing in used and rare volumes. Break for lunch at Marjoram & Roux—and after “Shop” and “Stroll,” the “Sip” part of the day might mean a visit to the handsome bar at Number Ten steakhouse. southernberkshirechamber.com

NEWBURYPORT: Santa arrives at Newburyport Harbor on the Monday after Thanksgiving, courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard, and hosts the tree lighting festivities in Market Square. On each of the following three Fridays, downtown merchants stay open late for Invitation Nights, and treat shoppers to light refreshments. The lights shine brightest on State Street, with shops such as Best of British and Green Thumb Vintage Goods—but don’t

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forget to stroll over to the boutiques in the nearby Tannery, perhaps pausing for fish and chips at State Street’s Port Tavern. Next stop: Custom House Maritime Museum, with its nautically themed holiday tree and gift shop. newburyport.com

NORTHAMPTON: The holiday lighting might not be as over the top as in some towns, but Northampton’s compact Victorian center features an annual evening Holiday Stroll, plus galleries and boutiques that elevate gift giving to an art form. Whether the goods are quirky or classic, Main Street’s merchants make wandering its three long blocks a visual adventure. Handcrafted items—including many by New England makers— abound. Browse handmade jewelry, ceramics, kitchenware, and more at two downtown favorites, Kestrel and Pinch. To refuel, try artisanal baked goods, sandwiches, and the wintertime “Hot Bowl of Goodness” at Woodstar Café. And don’t miss Bag Day, a late November tradition in which thrifty shoppers save up to 20 percent at participating retailers. northamptonchamber.com

ROCKPORT: How else would Santa arrive in Rockport? He’ll come ashore via lobster boat on the first Saturday in December to preside at the Dock Square tree lighting. Later in the month, Rockport celebrates its 77th Nativity pageant and torchlit parade. As in the rest of the year, Christmas shopping in Rockport is all about Main Street and narrow Bearskin Neck, jutting to the Atlantic off Dock Square. The accent is on local craftsmanship at the Glass House (art glass and jewelry) and James Russell Goldsmiths, and on fun at Happy Whale Toys and Games and the venerable Tuck’s Candy Factory. And have a lobster roll at the Bearskin Neck Bistro … the lobster may have arrived with Santa. rockportusa.com

NEW HAMPSHIRE

CONCORD: New Hampshire’s capital launches the season with a gala Christmas Parade, featuring pipe-anddrum corps, clowns, antique vehicles, dancers, and, of course, Santa. Along Main Street, in the shadow of the State House, gift-hunting opportunities abound—look for Goldsmiths Gallery, home of custom jewelry designs; Fabulous Looks Boutique, for women’s fashions; Celeste Oliva, purveying extra-virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars; and the flagship shop of the League of New Hampshire

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Craftsmen, where Granite State artisans display woodenware, blown glass, fabric creations, pottery, prints, and the league’s Christmas ornament, different each year. Craft beers are here, too, along with burgers and more at the Barley House. concordchamber.com

LITTLETON: Cradled against the rushing Ammonoosuc River, Littleton welcomes the Christmas season with a Thanksgiving weekend parade highlighted by Santa’s arrival on a float pulled by massive draft horses. Holiday lights twinkle in the cupola of 1850 Thayers Inn, oldest hostelry in New Hampshire’s North Country, as shoppers stroll Main Street and browse Chutters, home of America’s longest candy counter; Little Village Toy and Book Shop; Just L, for midcentury modern antiques; and Lahout’s, for skiwear and winter apparel. Have breakfast at the Littleton Diner, then head over to the Rocks Christmas Tree Farm in nearby Bethlehem to cut your own tannenbaum. Back in Littleton, celebrate with one of Shilling Beer’s craft brews. golittleton.com

NORTH CONWAY: North Conway’s Christmas-lit, mansard-roofed Victorian depot is the place to catch Conway Scenic Railroad’s Bartlett Holiday Special and Santa’s Holiday Express, for magical tours through the snowy countryside. Getting down to shopping business, head south of town to the outlets at Settler’s Green, which hosts its tree lighting on the first Saturday in December, and L.L. Bean’s factory store. In the village, the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen showcases Granite State artisanry, and at Zeb’s General Store, purveying only New England products, shoppers create their own gift baskets. Flatbread Company, at the historic Eastern Slope Inn, crafts pizzas using organic ingredients. northconwaynh.com

PORTSMOUTH: Take a Christmas season walk through history with Strawbery Banke’s Candlelight Stroll, on the evenings of December 4, 11, and 18 (make sure to reserve your place early). Here in Portsmouth’s oldest quarter, you’ll meet costumed role-players, and wander streets lit by candles and bedecked with vintage decorations. Downtown Portsmouth lets electricity brighten the holiday display, and welcomes Santa with a parade and tree lighting on November 28. The red brick seaport hosts an eclectic array of shops, such as Riverrun Books (check out the vintage

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typewriters), Ireland on the Square, and the Portsmouth Candle Company. vintagechristmasnh.com

RHODE ISLAND

NEWPORT: Shoppers revisiting the Gilded Age in Newport will feel like hitting the shops with a pocketful of 20-dollar gold pieces. From late November through early January, three of the town’s famous “cottages”—The Breakers, The Elms, and Marble House—are bedecked in wreaths, evergreen swags, dozens of lavishly ornamented trees, and other periodappropriate decorations, while the Sparkling Lights display illuminates The Breakers’ grounds. Down by the waterfront, Newport’s compact colonial downtown harbors artisan galleries and boutiques such as Anchor Bend Glassworks, All Fired Up Pottery, and the myriad shops of Long Wharf Mall. On nearby Bowen’s Wharf, come in out of the chill for steak or seafood at Bowen’s Wine Bar and Grille. discovernewport.org

PROVIDENCE: Yes, Providence lights a Christmas tree—this year, on Saturday, December 3, in front of City Hall. The city also boasts a unique holiday spectacle: the display of floating torches called Waterfire, at sunset that same afternoon in Waterplace Park. From here, it’s a short walk to Providence Place Mall, right across from the gorgeously lit Rhode Island State House, where scores of national retailers have set up shop. Elsewhere downtown, the 1828 Arcade, America’s oldest indoor mall, hosts quirky shops including bookstore Lovecraft Arts & Sciences, honoring Providence’s master of weird fiction. Stick around the Arcade for a bite at Rogue Island Kitchen, or head up to Providence’s Federal Hill section and its renowned Italian restaurants. goprovidence.com

WICKFORD: Santa shows up twice in Wickford: once at the tree lighting, which kicks off the town’s Festival of Lights on the first weekend in December, and again the next day when he arrives by boat. But he’s got nothing on his helpers, townspeople and visitors who show up that Saturday in their “elfiest attire” at Sweet Marie’s Tea Cottage for cocoa, cookies, and the start of the annual Elf Parade. Downtown, a short stroll along Main Street takes in shops such as Different Drummer, with a trove of handcrafts and local artwork; home goods purveyor Flatfish Cottage; and artisan boutique Serendipity. wickfordvillage.org

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Travel | DAY TRIPS

VERMONT

BRATTLEBORO: Sip hot cocoa as the tree is lit in downtown’s Pliny Park on the first Friday in December, then browse Brattleboro’s red brick downtown, where Vermont’s “shop local” spirit shines at shops like Boomerang, with its collection of throwback chic clothing; Altiplano, purveyor of Guatemalanmade jewelry; Vermont Artisan Designs, showcasing the work of Vermont craftspeople and fine artists; Turn It Up!, where CDs make room for vinyl; and three independent bookstores. Procrastinators aren’t forgotten here, with the Brattleboro Winter Farmers’ Market holding an annual Christmas Eve Market featuring handcrafted gifts and local specialty foods. Take a sushi break at Shin-La, or top off a successful day’s shopping with dinner at upscale Peter Havens. brattleborochamber.org

BURLINGTON: Pedestrian-only Church Street is where the holidays happen in Vermont’s pocket metropolis. On the day after Thanksgiving, caroling along Church Street Marketplace leads into the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree and a 100,000-bulb illumination along a four-block stretch that’s home to dozens of shops that include women’s apparel boutiques Dear Lucy and Whim, fine haberdasher Michael Kehoe, local crafts purveyor Frog Hollow,

Crow Bookshop, eclectic housewares emporium Homeport, and stocked-tothe-ceiling Outdoor Gear Exchange. No shopper goes hungry or thirsty here, with perennial favorites Leunig’s bistro and Pascolo Ristorante, and Irish pub Ri-Ra, right on the Marketplace, and the Vermont Pub and Brewery one block away. churchstreetmarketplace.com

MANCHESTER: Lots of towns have Christmas parades, but Manchester may have the only parade made up of tractors, each bejeweled with hundreds of lights. But while Santa rolls into town on a tractor, his helpers are already busy exploring southern Vermont’s biggest concentration of outlet shops, with names like Pendleton, Talbots, J.Crew, Michael Kors, and Armani; heading downtown to browse Northshire books, Vermont’s largest independent bookstore; or popping into The Italian Market for something Saint Nick might like better than cookies and milk. Just outside town, Robert Todd Lincoln’s Hildene is decorated for Christmas 1912, and the Wilburton Inn decks its halls in spectacular fashion. manchestervermont.com

MIDDLEBURY: You would actually have to live in this handsome college town to visit the entire cast of artisans, makers, and farmers packed into its 40 square miles; luckily, their crafts and wares are readily found throughout downtown.

Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op is stocked with all things local, Vermont’s Own Products is the go-to for things like aged cheese and maple syrup (their fudge alone is worth the stop), and The Vermont Book Shop spotlights resident authors like Bill McKibben and Julia Alvarez on its packed shelves. For a little holiday sparkle, stop in at Middlebury-based Danforth Pewter, whose handcrafted creations include tree ornaments that are works of art. Meanwhile the annual December festival A Very Merry Middlebury offers specials, pop-ups, and promotions around town. experiencemiddlebury.com

WOODSTOCK: With its classic town green, three covered bridges, and walkable cluster of downtown shops and restaurants, Woodstock is a postcardperfect Christmas season setting. The whole town is the venue for Wassail Weekend, December 9–12, with a parade, carriage rides, caroling, tree lighting, special events at Billings Farm, and a roaring Yule Log fire on the Green. Browse classic general store merchandise and souvenirs at the sprawling, 134-yearold landmark F.H. Gillingham & Sons; discover local artists at the Woodstock Gallery; and head over to the Woodstock Farmers’ Market for Vermont-made delicacies. Chilly? Warm up by the great hearth in the lobby of the Woodstock Inn. woodstockvt.com

Middlebury, Vermont
| 117NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2022
COREY HENDRICKSON

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Conversations

(Continued from p. 95)

People are shocked to find out that New Hampshire has a Black history. I didn’t know Black people lived here. That kind of thing. I was at a gathering at the African Burial Ground [in Portsmouth] and this person turns to me and says, “So all those slaves on their way to Canada were buried there?” On their way to Canada? Are you trying to say they never lived here?

So we’re showing that these communities did live here. They established farms, built businesses, raised families. We are reclaiming that history.

For someone like me, a middleaged white guy who grew up in New Hampshire, what’s lost when I don’t learn about this history?

Your whole story. We’ve been in touch with the descendants of New Hampshire families who we know owned slaves, and they don’t want to talk about it. There’s a real reluctance to acknowledge that part of their history. What does it mean when you have to erase a part of your own story? It means you’re not accepting of who you are. It means you’re refusing to accept the culture in which we live and the stories of other people.

Now there is a woman whose family owned the Moffatt-Ladd House in Portsmouth; it was the home of William Whipple, a Revolutionary War general and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. They were big slave owners and a big part of the slave trade. She’s traced all this history, and today she has an understanding for how her family got to be well-off. Knowing those stories, knowing that history, I think allows you to develop more empathy. You see how a structure was set up to disadvantage one group and give advantage to another. And if you can break down those structures, you may not have a George Floyd incident.

Are you optimistic we can get there? I have to be.

But there’s been real resistance to some of this work. Last year New Hampshire passed a law that restricts how public school educators can teach or talk about things like racism, sexism, and discrimination. How has that impacted what you do?

You’re talking about the “divisive concepts” bill. It hasn’t really impacted us because we’re a private organization and we don’t rely on state funds. But it has created a chilling effect on teachers because it’s just vague enough that teachers aren’t sure what they can and cannot do. What we’re doing is trying to be more deliberate in creating curriculum or tours that address where a [school group] is in the classroom without sugarcoating history. Some of our tour guides have been hassled on the street. Five years ago I’m not sure that would have happened, but that’s the environment we now live in.

You’ve also been the target of some personal attacks—could you talk a little about that?

This was before Covid. A group of businesses and other organizations got together to see what we could do around diversity, equity, and inclusion in the state. Tucker Carlson got hold of that and said we were trying to change New Hampshire. I received this call from a woman who took it personally that my existence and my telling of these stories was threatening her way of life and her child’s way of life. I had to think about that. It made

me understand the fear a little bit more on their side. That she believed so strongly that what we were doing was jeopardizing the privilege her child never asked for. I may not ever be able to reach her, but thinking as a mother trying to protect her child, I could understand that. But it’s not going to stop me from doing the work. Because her kid’s not going to go out and be shot by the police because of their skin color—my kids could be.

Tell me about some of the surprising lives and histories you’ve come across as you’ve built the Black Heritage Trail. There’s Nancy Prince in Hancock, whose story is fascinating: She ends up in Russia, where she and her husband work for the tsar. Then she goes to Jamaica to work on the liberation movement there. Then she returns to New Hampshire.

Or you have Wentworth Cheswell of Newmarket, who was elected town constable [in 1768], the first Black person to be voted into public office in the whole country. There’s Richard Potter, who’s the first Black magician in the country. And of course there’s Ona Judge [an enslaved woman in George Washington’s household], who defies Washington and escapes to Portsmouth.

The story about Judge certainly counters the idol worship we’ve built around Washington, doesn’t it? But makes it a fuller story. You see the good and the bad. We’re not creating these myths, or these gods. We’re presenting these people as humans.

What’s the connective tissue among all these stories you’re sharing? These are all American stories: overcoming adversities, rising to success against all the odds. Those are the hero stories we always want to talk about when we talk about America, except these heroes have Black faces.

For more information about the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, including tours and events, go to blackheritagetrailnh.org

These are all American stories: overcoming adversities, rising to success against all the odds.
120 | NEWENGLAND.COM

“SAILING BY NOBSKA”

In the Afternoon Wind

Forrest Pirovano’s painting “Sailing by Nobska” shows Nobska Point Light from the water

Nobska Point Lighthouse, a classic New England-style lighthouse, situated at the entrance to Woods Hole Harbor, Massachusetts welcomes tens of thousands of visitors each year to the northerly side of Vineyard Sound. Established in 1828, this lighthouse serves to protect boats and ships in Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay. Today, most People view this lighthouse from a passing ferry boat as they travel between Martha’s Vineyard and Woods Hole. Our sailboat is sailing by Nobska on a lovely summer day. This beautiful limited-edition print of an original oil painting, individually numbered and signed by the artist captures the majestic appearance of this world-famous lighthouse.

This exquisite print is bordered by a museum-quality white-on-white double mat, measuring 11x14 inches. Framed in either a black or white 1½-inch-deep wood frame, this limited-edition print measures 12¼x15¼ inches and is priced at only $149. Matted but unframed this print is priced at $109. Prices include shipping and packaging.

Forrest Pirovano is a Cape Cod artist whose paintings capture the picturesque landscape and seascapes of the Cape, which have a universal appeal. His paintings often include the many antique wooden sailboats and iconic lighthouses for which Cape Cod is known.

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Loaded Questions

(Continued from p. 98)

year stands at 41,550, recorded in 2018. Nationally, there were a record 39.7 million firearms sold in 2020; in 1999, when the FBI first began collecting data, there were 9.1 mil lion firearm sales nationally. These numbers gain further resonance when considered in a broader context: In the U.S., there are currently 120.5 guns in private ownership for every 100 citizens. This is more than twice the next-highest country, which is Yemen, with 52.8 firearms per 100 citizens. Just to our north, in Canada, there are a relatively paltry 34.7 guns per 100 citizens.

As I would learn, the issues and arguments and emotions at play are so complex that the answers to my ques tions would prove evasive and, in some cases, elusive. At times, it felt as if I were slowly opening a set of nesting dolls; within each question resided another, and within that one, still another, and so on, with seemingly no end.

But on that August afternoon in Enfield, I knew none of this. My attention was elsewhere: on the gun in my hand, on the trigger under my finger, on the target before me. On my breath and my stance, on the noise and even on the smell—oil, metal, pow der, sunburnt grass, my own sweat. And also, it must be said, on the way it felt when I ejected a depleted maga zine, cleared the chamber, and saw that my shots were grouped in a tight cluster, evidence that I was—to my great surprise, and perhaps even to the surprise of my instructors—a pretty darn good shot.

How did I feel in those moments? I felt satisfied. I felt competent. I felt good. Really, there’s no other way to say it: I felt powerful.

To understand why many people love guns (and also why many don’t), it’s important to know about guns. Because I think many people’s aversion to firearms is, at least in part,

rooted in their lack of familiarity with them. To the uninitiated, guns can seem mysterious and dangerous, and inherently unsafe—even unpredict able, as if they might go off at any time. Or at least that’s the way they seemed to me, having been raised in a family where guns were neither pres ent nor much discussed.

The first gun I purchased was a single-shot .22 rifle. I bought it used, probably paying $60 or $70 for it. I got it because we kept livestock, and having a firearm on hand to deliver a mercy kill in the event of injury or ter minal illness seemed like the respon sible thing to do. I fired it just enough to become familiar with its operation, and then I left it to gather dust in a tucked-away corner of my office.

The second gun I bought was for my sons. They were 7 and 9 at the time, ages that seem just as startlingly young to me now as they did then, but probably won’t seem surprising to anyone raised in a hunting family, where learning to handle a firearm is often as much a part of childhood as learning to ride a bicycle. We were not a hunting family, but the boys— owing to being raised on a rural homestead where the taking of life for sustenance was both commonplace and unhidden, and perhaps also feel ing some sort of primal instinct that presented as a deep fascination with hunting and survival—wanted noth ing so much as to become the genera tion that changed that.

This did not seem like a passing fancy; already, at these tender ages,

it had persisted for years. So, after much discussion, my wife, Penny, and I decided it was time. Yes, it was a dif ficult and uncomfortable decision, but we wanted to honor and support their interests, and we recognized that firearms are woven into the culture of rural Vermont, as commonplace as many of the other tools the people in our community rely on. To us, teaching our sons how to safely and respectfully operate a gun seemed like the correct thing to do.

What I remember most about that gun, which I bought new for $89, was how toylike it felt. It had a plas tic stock, and being a youth model it was sized in miniature, almost as if it had been placed in a dryer at too high a temperature. I was alone when I bought it, and while everything about the transaction was perfectly legal, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was doing something illicit. And worse yet, I was doing it on behalf of my children.

The preceding paragraph con tains two truths about firearms that can be a bit surprising to the uniniti ated. The first is just how inexpensive they can be. It’s possible to buy per fectly functional and entirely lethal firearms for approximately as much as it costs to fill the tank on your pickup truck.

The second is just how easy it is—in Vermont, at least—to lawfully procure a firearm, and not merely for one’s self, but for one’s child. The mandated background check gen erally doesn’t take more than a few minutes, and then it’s simply a mat ter of payment. For those of us on the right side of the law, buying a gun is a far less onerous process than buying a new

Vermont has always had some of the least restric tive gun laws in the coun try. This is exemplified by the laws pertaining to carrying a firearm, either concealed or openly (for obvious reasons, this is generally a handgun). In Vermont, as in 23 other states, lawful gun owners of a certain

My attention was on the gun in my hand, on the trigger under my finger, on the target before me. On my breath and my stance, on the noise and even on the smell—oil, metal, powder, sunburnt grass, my own sweat.
122 | NEWENGLAND.COM
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age (ranging from 18 to 21) can legally carry a firearm without a permit. This is often referred to as “permit less carry” or “constitutional carry,” though it’s also been known as “Ver mont carry,” since its origin in this state was March 4, 1791. The second state in the union to legalize permit less carry was Alaska, in 2003. The other states to adopt permitless carry have all done so since 2010.

Vermont’s reputation as a state where the right to bear arms is largely aligned with a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment took a hit in 2018, when Governor Phil Scott, a Republican, signed new gun regulations into law. The regulations included a ban on magazines over 10 rounds, more-restrictive privatetransfer laws, and an increase in the minimum purchase age to 21 with exceptions for law enforcement and those who’ve passed hunter safety. They also outlawed so-called “bump stocks,” such as the one used by the shooter in the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that claimed 58 lives. Bump stocks harness the energy of a gun’s recoil to effectively transform it into a fully automatic firearm.

The idea of a Republican governor signing more-restrictive gun regula tions is nearly unthinkable in 21stcentury America. But then, so too was the Vermont incident that Scott said had provoked “deep reflection” regard ing his position on gun laws. In early 2018, an 18-year-old former student of Fair Haven Union High School was found in possession of a newly acquired shotgun, ammunition, books on the Columbine school shooting, a gas mask, a video recorder, and a journal detailing his plan, which he’d titled “The journal of an active shooter.” His plans were uncovered after he’d texted a friend that he 100 percent supported the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, in which 17 people were killed and 17 more wounded. Suddenly, Vermont’s proud relationship to guns, in which high rates of ownership and permissive laws had not translated into commen surate rates of violence, seemed at risk of fracture.

Depending on whom you talk to, Scott’s willingness to sign morerestrictive gun measures was a betrayal, an act of courage, a political calculation (Vermont is a politically progressive state, where Republi can politicians are often rewarded for relatively centrist positions), a common-sense response to the situ ation at hand, or some combination of all four. He was immediately pil loried by the National Rifle Associa tion, which had previously awarded him an “A” rating for statements made during his 2016 campaign in which he said he saw no need for new gun laws in Vermont. Upon his signing of the 2018 regulations, NRA spokes woman Dana Loesch unloaded on Scott. “This governor in Vermont completely gave a one-finger salute to the Constitution and to gun own ers. He is no friend of firearm owners, and I hope that all firearm owners remember this betrayal the next time he’s up for re-election.”

Of course, not everyone saw it that way, including Clai Lasher-Sommers, executive director of GunSense Ver mont, a nonprofit organization that lobbied extensively for the legisla tion. I visited Lasher-Sommers at her home in New Hampshire, just across the Vermont border, and only a few miles down the road from her child hood home, where, when she was 13, her abusive stepfather shot her in the back with a hunting rifle. It was not a mistake.

It’s no surprise that being purpose fully shot by another person would instill a visceral regard for the lethal power of firearms, as well as a belief that the world would be a safer place if guns were not so readily available.

It’s more surprising that someone with these beliefs, who has spent a consid erable portion of her adult life advocat ing for more restrictive gun legislation, would live in a household where guns are present. Among the first things I saw upon entering Lasher-Sommers’s house were the mounted heads of a deer and a moose shot by her partner, Bill; one of the last things I saw before leaving was the large, steel safe where he stores his firearms.

Like everyone I spoke with who advocates for gun legislation, LasherSommers is quick to point out that she has no intention or desire to under mine anyone’s right to hunt or ability to obtain the firearms necessary for hunting. “To me, the ethos of hunting and fishing is something I respect,” she told me as we sat in her kitchen, eating ham sandwiches. “I mean, obviously, I have dead animals on my wall. But right now, deer in Vermont are safer than humans in Vermont.”

Before leaving, I asked LasherSommers if there was a single piece of legislation that she felt would make a real difference in her quest to reduce gun violence. She answered with out hesitation. “A registry. If we had licensing in every state, we wouldn’t have nearly so many problems.”

Do you think that’s a realistic goal in Vermont? I asked.

She shook her head. “You have to understand the culture where you live.” Another head shake. “And that’s not the culture where we live.”

Ihad the idea that I would carry a handgun, at least for a while. For about a week, I debated the merits of open versus con cealed carry. I determined that while concealed carry could offer insights into how carrying affected me, open carry would also confer an under standing of how others behave around this new, gun-toting version of me, which I figured would ultimately be more interesting.

Journalistically speaking, this was not an original idea: In 2010, Harper’s Magazine published a story by the late Dan Baum titled “Happiness Is

Firearms are woven into the culture of rural Vermont, as commonplace as many of the other tools the people in our community rely on.
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a Worn Gun,” in which the author routinely carried a handgun for sev eral months. Carrying a gun gives you a sense of guardianship, even a kind of moral superiority , wrote Baum, who chose to conceal his gun. You are the vigilant one, the sheepdog watching the flock, the coiled wrath of God. To snatch out your gun and wave it around would not only invite catastrophe but also sacrifice that righteous high ground and embarrass you in the worst possible way. I don’t know how many gun carri ers have read Robert Heinlein, but all of them can quote him: “An armed society is a polite society.”

I liked the idea of embodying qualities of vigilance and guardian ship, and, if I’m to be entirely honest, at least a dash of moral superiority. So I holstered Rye’s 9mm Smith & Wes son to my belt, and for a few hours, I toted it around as I did my daily tasks at home, thinking that once I became more accustomed to it, I’d venture out into the wider world, my son’s pistol on display for all to see.

But even wearing it so close to home, my human interactions limited to my family, I felt supremely uncom fortable. The physical presence of the gun wasn’t so bad: It weighed less than three pounds, and while it wasn’t exactly unobtrusive, resting there against my right hip, it was unob trusive enough, at least in a material sense. It struck me as being almost exactly as inconvenient as wearing one of those zippered pouches you sometimes see on people’s hips, and it seemed quite a bit more convenient than carrying a handbag.

Psychologically speaking, though, it was an entirely different story. Even though I’d handled and shot plenty of guns, and even though I’d worn a holstered gun while shooting, car rying a pistol while conducting the workaday business of my life felt—I don’t know—maybe “sinister” is the right word. There I was, washing dishes, the handle of my pistol visible in my peripheral vision. And there I was, strolling down to the mailbox to gather the day’s correspondence, my 9mm at the ready. And there I

was again, standing just outside our front door, talking with my wife about nothing particularly impor tant, but even if it had been, I’m not sure I’d have remembered it, because my attention was not on our conver sation but rather on the gun. It was as if it exerted a gravitational pull on my mind, as if it were a magnet, and my attention a scrap of ferrous metal. No matter what else I was doing, my awareness felt stuck to the gun on my hip.

Would I have eventually become accustomed to it? I suspect so. And surely one could argue that my short experiment with open carry was col ored by the fact that I was carrying at home, where I feel the least sense of threat. Perhaps if I’d dared venture beyond the boundaries of our peace ful rural property, into a world that is by all accounts becoming at once less predictable and more heavily armed, being in a state of perpetual arma ment would have felt more comfort ing. True, Vermont is by all accounts a good place to be if you’d rather not get shot. On average, about 75 Vermont ers die by gunshot annually, giving it a rate of 11.6 deaths per 100,000 residents, which places it 37th nation ally. And of these deaths, 86 percent are self-inflicted.

Yet no one can deny that we live in an era in which grade-school chil dren are murdered in classrooms, and in which Black people are hunted in supermarkets. And as the 2018 Fair Haven Union High School incident illustrates, there’s no question that the possibility of gun violence on an entirely different scale exists in Vermont, too.

Some argue that is reason enough

to stand up for our right to bear arms, and to fight regulations that impinge this right in any way, shape, or form. For not only do these regu lations diminish our ability (and thus deny us the opportunity to fulfill our responsibility) to protect ourselves and others, they violate our basic con stitutional rights as Americans, as enshrined in the Second Amendment: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. It’s not a complicated piece of language, and the phrase “shall not be infringed” is about as unambiguous as it gets.

On the other hand, it seems worth pointing out that the Second Amend ment was ratified on December 15, 1791, when the arms in question were capable of firing approximately three rounds per minute and boasted an effective range of about 150 feet. For comparison’s sake, an AR-15 fitted with a bump stock is capable of fir ing upward of 700 rounds per min ute, and has an effective range of 400 yards or more.

Yet it’s also true that the U.S. mili tary’s capabilities have evolved signif icantly over the past 230 years, and if a well-regulated militia is indeed neces sary to the security of a free state, does it not make sense that the right of the people to keep and bear arms should bestow upon them the right to keep and bear arms at least equal to those who might oppress them?

M y quest to better understand the per spective of those who would answer yes to that question led me to VFW Post 648 in Rutland, Vermont, on a Sun day afternoon in June 2022, for the monthly meeting of the Gun Own ers of Vermont, an organization that describes itself as “a non-partisan, pro-gun organization committed to a no-compromise position on fire arm ownership rights.” GoVT, as it’s known, was formed in 1997 and works within Vermont to elect pro–Second Amendment politicians,

It was as if the gun exerted a gravitational pull on my mind.... No matter what else I was doing, my awareness felt stuck to the gun on my hip.
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as well as block any gun regulations it views as being unconstitutional. Given its originalist interpretation of the Constitution, this means any gun regulations.

I parked just down the block from the VFW, behind a pickup festooned with an array of pro-gun stickers. There was one that depicted a series of firearms standing on end in ascend ing order of size, from a small pistol to a large, semiautomatic tacticalstyle rifle, with the words My Family emblazoned beneath them. There was another that read Second Amendment: America’s Constitutional Homeland Security, and still another bearing the Greek phrase Molon Labe, along with its translation, Come and Take Them.

It was Father’s Day, and the VFW was quiet. There were two people at the bar drinking beer and eating ham burgers. The meeting took place in a room adjacent to the bar; there were 10 members present and one member who’d called in via Zoom. There was one woman. Everyone was white, and all were on the upper side of middle age, with the sole exception of the group’s president, Eric Davis, a tall, stocky, baseball hat–wearing fellow of 41 who owns and operates a small waste-management company.

Much in the way I’d been so acutely aware of Rye’s pistol on my hip, I was keenly aware of the strong likelihood that many people in the room were carrying guns. None were visible, and the VFW had posted a handwritten note on the door that read Firearms Not Allowed in the Building, but when Davis mentioned the sign and said, “I’m not going to ask how many of you guys are carry ing,” there was a collective chuckle that sounded to me like a collective acknowledgement that yes, indeed, many were carrying guns.

The agenda for the meeting was loose, and the group spent much of the next two hours discussing the headwinds they faced, as well as the cultural and political changes they saw shaping the conversation around gun rights. When I asked outright if they were optimistic about the future

of gun rights in Vermont, the answer was unambiguous: no. Or, at least, not very. “It’s tough,” said Davis, shaking his head. “Every time we go through a cycle of shootings, public opinion drifts further away.” Meanwhile, it’s become harder and harder for the group to identify and endorse viable political candidates. “The kind of people we want in office, number one, don’t have the stomach for that kind of thing and, number two, are working their tails off just to get by,” he said. “Good people don’t want to rule over fellow people, and mobilizing conser vative and libertarian voters is kind of like herding cats.”

The last major political candidate GoVT officially endorsed was Gov ernor Phil Scott, in 2016, the same man who signed significant gun leg islation two years later. “He stood in a room with us and said, ‘I’m one of you guys,’” said Davis. “That man’s moral compass is a sock that blows around in the wind of public opinion.” There were more chuckles and murmurs of agreement.

Later, I called Davis at his home so I could try to better understand what GoVT hoped to accomplish by staking out a no-compromise posi tion, and if there might be any form of compromise the group would deem acceptable. After all, even Davis had acknowledged that the tide seemed to be turning in favor of more restrictive legislation. Was an absolutist posi tion still the most politically—not to mention culturally—savvy posi tion to take? Might it not make sense to support something as seemingly

innocuous as universal background checks, which according to most poll ing are favored by more than 90 per cent of Americans?

The short answer, it seemed, was no.

“We just keep conceding more and more ground every time. It’s like get ting pecked to death by a chicken,” said Davis. “Every time the other side gains something, they’re right back asking for more regulations.” In his view, and in the view of the organiza tion, the focus on guns as the weapon of choice for most mass murderers is a convenient distraction from the underlying issue of mental health. “We don’t have a gun problem, we have a psychological problem, but it’s only guns that get the attention.” He pointed to a recent incident in his hometown, in which a man had bro ken into the home of the state labor commissioner and threatened the commissioner’s family with a knife. No one was injured, and the man was taken into custody for a psychiatric evaluation. Later that night, after being released, he took his life. “If he’d been carrying a gun, the story would have been about guns. But since he was carrying a knife, it’s a mental health story. Think about it: If someone runs someone over with their car on purpose, it’s a mental health story, not a car story.”

I asked Davis what he would do personally if Vermont’s regulatory environment becomes less favorable to gun owners. Would he go so far as to leave the state, perhaps move to someplace like Alaska, or Wyo ming, both among the most gunfriendly states in the U.S.? He sighed. “I threaten to all the time, but to be honest, I don’t think so. I was born and raised here. I have family here. I love this place.”

While I’d assumed he grew up in a family of gun people, that wasn’t the case. “There were guns in my family, but it wasn’t a big thing. I really got into guns in my late 20s,” he told me.

“I like the technical aspects of it, and the skill, but I don’t hunt at all.”

Why? I asked.

“I just don’t like killing things.”

I thought about the unbearably sad fact that for many parents—even in this peaceful little state—the simple act of sending their children to school has become fraught with anxiety.
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On the drive home from the GoVT meeting, I thought again about Vermont’s evolving rela tionship to guns. I thought about a conversation I’d had with the owner of our local gun store soon after the 2018 regulations had been announced but before they’d gone into effect, and I remembered him telling me how he’d never been busier, and how it was like this every time new regulations were imminent, or when an administration that was perceived as unfriendly to gun rights was preparing to take office.

I thought about Vermont’s chang ing demographics and the continuing privatization of its land base into eversmaller and often posted parcels, and how that does not bode well for a thriv ing hunting culture and, by extension, a population of people with a working knowledge of firearms. Not as imple ments of carnage, or as symbols of (and the means to have) power over oth ers, or even as the last line of defense against another human or tyrannical government, but first and foremost as tools to be treated with respect. I even thought about how my aversion to car rying a firearm is in some regards an aversion enabled by privilege. I live a peaceful life, in a peaceful community, and I belong to exactly none of the cat egories of people who disproportion ately find themselves the victims of gun violence, and who might wish to arm themselves against threats that I, by and large, do not face. One might say that I can afford to make the choice not to carry a gun.

Of course, I thought about the unbearably sad fact that for many parents—even in this peaceful little state, with one of the lowest rates of gun violence in the nation—the simple act of sending their children to school has become fraught with anxiety. At the meeting, I’d heard the oft-repeated argument that we protect our banks and politicians with guns; why wouldn’t we protect our children with guns, too? On its face, it’s a logi cal question, and yet I realized that I felt profoundly demoralized by it and by the simple fact that we live amid

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circumstances that make such an argu ment relevant. It seems as damning a statement about who we’ve become as any I can think of, and I wish I could tell you that I know how we become something different than a nation that suffers more mass shootings in a single year than there are days in a single year.

The truth is, I have no idea how to bring this story to a satisfying conclu sion. Because the truth is, I don’t think there is a satisfying conclusion.

Dear Reader,

The drawing you see above is called For Now and Ever It is completely composed of dots of ink. After writing the poem, I worked with a quill pen and placed thousands of these dots, one at a time, to create this gift in honor of the the love of two of my dearest friends.

Now, I have decided to offer For Now and Ever to those who have known and value its sentiment as well. Each litho is numbered and signed by hand and precisely captures the detail of the drawing. As an anniversary, wedding, or Valentine’s gift for your husband or wife, or for a special couple within your circle of friends, I believe you will find it most appropriate.

Measuring 14” by 16”, it is available either fully-framed in a subtle copper tone with handcut double mats of pewter and rust at $145*, or in the mats alone at $105*. Please add $18.95 for insured shipping. Returns/exchanges within 30 days.

My best wishes are with you.

Sextonart Inc. • P.O. Box 581 • Rutherford, CA 94573 (415) 989-1630

All major credit cards are welcomed. Please call between 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, 7 days a week.

Checks are also accepted. Please include a phone number.

*California residents please include 8.0% tax

Please visit our website at www.robertsexton.com

Here’s what I suspect will happen: We will lurch onward, both as a state, and as a nation. We will continue argu ing over precisely who has the right to own those guns, what the capacities of those guns should be, and even where we’re allowed to carry them (indeed, in March 2022, Governor Scott signed a bill banning guns from hospitals). Those who advocate for an original ist reading of the Second Amendment will continue to gather in living rooms and VFWs and at shooting ranges to share their frustration at what they view as the continued erosion of their constitutional rights, while those who advocate for even more stringent regu lations—such as the universal registry that Clai Lasher-Sommers hopes will someday come to pass—will have to be content with less consequential restric tions. Meanwhile, Vermonters will continue buying guns in record num bers, adding to the estimated 393 mil lion firearms circulating among private citizens of this nation.

As for myself, I’ll continue to enjoy shooting with my sons, and perhaps even more so, given my increased pro ficiency. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to be grateful to live in a place like Vermont, where, for the most part, we seem to have proven ourselves worthy of the great responsibility that comes from owning guns, and where, for the most part, we treat one another with respect. To paraphrase Robert Heinlein, we are an armed state, and we are a polite state. I suppose that to me, it’s the latter that matters most.

Ben Hewitt’s “Life in the Kingdom” column will return in the January/ February issue of Yankee

A Most Unusual Gift of Love
the poem
“There is no moment of my life when you are not a part of me;you hold my heart; you guard my soul;you guide my dreams so tenderly.And if my will might be done,and all I long for could come true,with perfect joy I would chooseto share eternity with you.”
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reads:
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October 1, 2022: Yankee-Bi-monthly, pub lished at Dublin, Cheshire County, New Hampshire 03444. Published by Yankee Publishing Incorporated. Yankee Publish ing Inc. Employee Ownership Trust, 1121 Main St., Dublin, NH 03444.

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tax) by check, money order, MasterCard, Visa, or Discover number and expiration date to Micron Corp. Call Toll-Free 1-800-456-0734 www.MicronCorp.com/yankee Dept. 2141, 89 Access Rd. Norwood, MA 02062 Cleans the air you breathe without noisy fans or costly filters Made in USA GETS RID OF RATS, MICE, BATS, SQUIRRELS, ROACHES & OTHER PESTS. CLEARS THE AIR OF SMOKE, POLLEN, POLLUTION. ® 269 Proctor Hill Road • Hollis, NH 03049 603-465-7270 restorationmotors.com RESTORATION SPECIALISTS Specializing in Restoring Your Muscle Car or Your Classic Auto Have you been thinking about restoring your classic? Why wait? Give us a call today! No job too big or small. Free Tours. 1933 Auburn 1970 Road Runner Celebrating 30 Years! | 135NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2022 NEW ENGLAND’S MARKETPLACE August 2013 Issue: proof carefully. Approval must be returned by responsible for errors once proof has been signed— or if not returned by the above date. that color proof/pdf is to show color break only. Colors do not accurately actual printed advertisement as it will appear in the publication. Hyannis, MA I 508.771.6549 I fax 508.771.3769 mark them clearly.________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ Date ___________________ new proof necessary) Signature: _________________________________________________ needed. (send new proof) Signature: ______________________________________________ Issue:_________________________ RABIDEAU MEDIA GROUP RABIDEAU MEDIA GROUP ONION LIGHTS ANCHOR LIGHTS CHANDELIERS • SCONCES SOLIDCOPPER SOLID BRASS 17 Jan Sebastian Dr., Unit #1, Sandwich, MA 02563 SANDWICH LANTERN August 2013 Issue: proof carefully. Approval must be returned by _______________________ for errors once proof has been signed— or if not returned by the above date. color proof/pdf is to show color break only. Colors do not accurately actual printed advertisement as it will appear in the publication. Hyannis, MA I 508.771.6549 I fax 508.771.3769 mark them clearly.________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ Date ___________________ proof necessary) Signature: _________________________________________________ needed. (send new proof) Signature: ______________________________________________ Issue:_________________________ RABIDEAU MEDIA GROUP RABIDEAU MEDIA GROUP CHANDELIERS • SCONCES Available in: SOLIDCOPPER or SOLID BRASS 17 Jan Sebastian Dr., Unit #1, Sandwich, MA 02563 508-833-0515 www.sandwichlantern.com on Cape Cod HANDMADE On Location Since 1988 made in USA

Joe Yonan

As a cookbook author and food editor (formerly of The Boston Globe, now of The Washington Post), Joe Yonan was a chronicler of how we source, cook, and eat food long before his sister, Rebekah, and her husband, Peter Kellman, moved to southern Maine to live on a homestead. But his exposure to their modern-day Eden, where they grow vegetables, mushrooms, beans, walnuts, rye, wheat, fruit, and more, reshaped his life and his approach to how he thinks and writes about food. We talked with Yonan about urban farming, why he gave up meat, and how the best Thanksgivings are spent on the farm.

Q. Before you got to know homesteading through your sister, you were a very urban guy. How did you eat in those days?

I was a big farmers’ market shopper, and I still am. I really enjoyed having access to the freshest-possible food and talking to farmers about things. But I wasn’t really growing very much myself. I always thought that I couldn’t do it.

Q. What changed your mind?

It was my experience going up to the homestead that got me into gardening and growing some of my own food.

I started in a community garden plot. Then I spent a full year on the homestead in 2012, and Rebekah basically taught me how to grow my own food. So when I moved back to D.C., I knew I needed a place that had garden space.

Q. While living on the homestead, you also became a vegetarian. Why?

I was gradually moving in that direction. One day I opened up my freezer and there were hundreds of dollars’ worth of the most beautiful humanely raised meat that I hadn’t been cooking. Then, when I got to the homestead, my brother-in-law ordered some pigs. But I was less and less interested—and this was going to be my project! Then he began reading The China Study [which details the benefits of a whole-food, vegan diet]. He got 60 or 70 pages in, and he canceled the pig order. Which was a relief.

Also, it’s one thing to shop at the farmers’ market, but it’s not the same as walking out your door and picking your salad from the garden. You cannot get it fresher than that.

Q. How much can people with regular backyards or city plots grow for themselves?

You can grow a lot! When I moved back to D.C., I planted a garden in the tiny front yard of my townhouse. But with space and time limitations, you have to make decisions about what you’re going to do. So while it didn’t make sense to grow melons or winter squash, because they take up a lot of space, I could grow greens, kale, tomatoes, and enough garlic to last me almost all year.

Q. How did living on the homestead change your sense of the holidays?

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love having Thanksgiving on the homestead because it reminds you that it’s a harvest festival, and it’s glorious to be able to celebrate a successful harvest. Rebekah and Peter always grow so many gorgeous staples, especially for vegetarians—pumpkins, squashes, root vegetables. We fire up the wood oven and then we just start putting trays of food in, pushing and pulling them out as they cook. It just kisses everything with smoke and you have these gorgeous vegetables and it’s fantastic. Sometimes there’s turkey someone has given them. I also try to do something a little “chef-ier,” maybe some centerpiece dish. And we bake a million pies.

That’s it. It’s glorious. And the weather’s always so gorgeous. The light is so special. It’s just all golden and crisp. It’s what Thanksgiving is meant to be.

Joe Yonan is featured on season six of Weekends with Yankee , which airs on public television stations nationwide. To find out how to watch, go to weekendswithyankee.com.

Catching up with the national food and dining expert and featured Weekends with Yankee guest.
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