News from Vermont #245 -- Lots a Lawpstahs
Hello again Maple People,
It's interesting how we get notions in our heads about certain foods linked to certain geographic areas like Vermont and its maple syrup...and thank God for that! I remember well the time in Florida when I ate oranges until, as my father would have put it, "had to head on a dead run for the woods!" Then there were the Chinese restaurants in San Francisco that stretched on like the Great Wall, and in New Orleans, a huge bowl of gumbo. One of my earliest and most cherished food associations, though, was Down East where, you guessed it, lobsters became "printed" indelibly in my eight-year-old brain.
Our family was fortunate to know the most quintessential of Down East couples, Gwen and Herb Thompson from South Bristol, Maine. South Bristol is on one of those many "fingers" reaching into the Atlantic from the mainland, this one starting at the mainland city of Damariscotta. The Thompsons had a small farm within a stone's throw of the ocean and what qualifies them, in my opinion, as Maine's most quintessential couple was their long-term tie to both the land and the ocean. They were in the ice business and their biggest clientele were the men who harvested lobsters all over that part of Maine. The Thompson Ice House started in 1826 when Asa Thompson dammed up a brook to create Thompson Pond. Members of the Thompson family annually harvested blocks of ice from the pond in the winter, stored them between layers of sawdust in the ice house, and sold them all year long. Herb, last of the Thompson "ice" line, sold the final block of natural ice in 1985, ending 159 years of family tradition!
Only a fool would attempt to simulate a true Down East accent on paper, an accent steeped in tradition like 159 years in the same business and location. A true Down East accent has everything to do with the level of face-scrunch and mouth-pucker (think a very troublesome raspberry seed lodged firmly in the front teeth), but for the purpose of this essay, I've got to try.
Poor Herb was a man of very few words, not because he was all that introverted but because Gwen simply wouldn't let him talk! She had a unique way of "involving him but not involving him" every time she opened her mouth..."Went up t' DAMNiscottah Sat'dy t'get a surhtain (certain) paht f' Hurhbbaht's cahr... isn't that right Hurhbbaht?...and on th'way home hit a deeah on a shahp turhn...isn't that right Hurhbbaht?...so when I got back t' South Bristol Hurhbbaht needed the cahr paht plus a new fendah t'boot...remembah that Hurhbbaht?"...and on she went to the next subject never even giving puckered lip service to the possibility of Herb's answer!
I remember our family traveling to Gwen and Herb's one time when I was eight years old and that's when my lobster "epiphany" happened. The Down East red carpet was already underway as we "VURHmontahs" drove into their yard.
"Hurhbbaht, go get some 'lawpstahs'. I'll go pick some sweet cawhn...the cawhn's just right, isn't it Hurhbbaht? and we'll have lawpstahs n' cawhn f' suppah."
Herb did as he was told, rushed off to one of his lobstermen ice customers and returned with what seemed to my eight-year-old soul a whole bushel of the squirming creatures. I had never seen live lobsters before, much less eaten one. It bothered me a bit to see Gwen drop them, alive, into the boiling water but my compassion evaporated when we sat down at the table and I had my first butter-slathered taste! I remember "digging" into that meal like I hadn't eaten for a week and at one point Herb sidled up to me, proving that he could indeed talk..."Lawpstahs'r richer'n th' devil Buhrr. Don't eat too much."
There was just one other time in my life that I experienced anything similar to that wonderful time at Gwen and Herb Thompson's place. It was over fifty years later and I was playing music for a gala corporate party in southern Vermont. We musicians were treated to the same meal as the party-goers and among the array of delectables was, you guessed it..."all we could eat" lobsters. All of a sudden there in southern Vermont, I became that eight-year-old again, cracking into one lobster after another. It was "hog heaven" all over again which reminds me of another of those "culinary associations"... yup, let's see, it was out in Iowa and there was this humongous pork sandwich...
Thanks to all you folks who emailed your concern for us after Hurricane Irene struck Vermont. We were so touched! As it turned out, we at Morse Farm were fine. We never got the high winds that might have knocked our maple trees down and as far as flooding goes...well, there's certainly an advantage to living up here on high ground! Although Vermont is largely "navigable" and back to business as usual (please tell all your friends who are considering a foliage trip to Vermont), there are a lot of folks who have lost their houses, businesses, or ways of life. Because of this, we have decided to do something to help those folks but we need your help...From today through September 23, we'll give 15% of the money you spend on Morse Farm products at www.morsefarm.com to Vermont flood victims. We're choosing United Ways of Vermont as our partner. United Ways of Vermont is our local Vermont United Way and they have been on the job helping flood victims since the disaster hit on August 28. Please consider helping our people so badly hurt by the flood either directly or with a purchase of Morse Farm products.
Thanks so much!