November 28, 2017
Hello again Maple People,
I attended a lecture last night by Michael Moss, author, New York Times journalist, and Jack-of-all-junk food scams. Some of the tales he told of big food manufacturers hooking us all on refined sugar, salt, and fat were quite hair-raising…kinda made me proud of our small operation producing something natural and good for people, like maple syrup. And speaking of good food, I’m thinking right now about chicken pie supper season.
Some of my fondest memories are of chicken pie suppers put on by our churches and community groups throughout this Central Vermont. One fondly remembered was held at Memorial Hall on the shore of North Calais’ Number 10 Pond. Although I was very young when my family attended it, I still recall vividly and gastronomically that hardy and scrumptious delight. Memorial Hall, a rugged two story wood frame structure, stands on a small peninsula in one of Vermont’s prettiest settings. It’s an obvious holdover from our horse and buggy days, still marked by a road too narrow for modern traffic and multiple wood stoves for heat.
We entered over creaky hardwood floors with both close neighbors and casual friends. The combination of family-style seating and delectable aromas drew us even closer together as we sat row after row at cloth covered tables. No sooner had we gotten seated when familiar, apron-clad women appeared with gobs of steaming mashed potato, savory golden turnip, and the “magnet” that brought us together, homemade chicken pie. That magnet suddenly turned “catching up” talk to hunger-satisfying “oohs and aahs”. And somehow, we all left just enough room for a very generous portion of dessert pies…apple, pumpkin, mincemeat, and maple sugar…the perfect piece de resistance for a perfect night out.
Another of my chicken pie supper memories is a bit less alluring. Back in those days, we had a large flock of laying hens on our farm. A few of them were always having to be “retired” to the cooking pot. Right around “chicken pie supper time”, my father would catch those old birds and, with the aid of a sharp ax, a block of hard maple, and a squirming youngest son, would render them ready for the pot. When he was done, he’d load them in our family Chevrolet and deliver them to the women who had signed up for the cookin’. I’ll never forget Dad, grasping these plucked creatures by the necks, carrying them up to neighborhood doors and knocking. Contrary to today’s “joke dead chicken”, those women were expecting the deliveries and thanked him profusely!
I haven’t been to one of those suppers for a long time. That wonderful fare is no longer offered at Memorial Hall but, yes, they are still being held around Central Vermont and I certainly recommend them. Attending one, fond memories aside, would not be the same for me, though. I know how it was done back in simpler days…days when we knew right where our chickens came from. Heck we probably even knew their names!