I’ve lived in Vermont since just after World War II and, though I can’t count
myself a Vermonter by birth, I know a thing or two about the state – and
one thing I do know is that Vermonters congregate in the kitchen.
This was fine when the typical farmhouse had a big kitchen with a Glenwood
woodstove in the middle and a cold living room reserved primarily for wakes
and visits from the parson. Upstairs the cramped bedrooms got wisps of
leftover heat rising through floor vents from a Sam Daniels furnace in the
cellar and the Glenwood stove in the kitchen. These vents also unfortunately
functioned as an always-on house intercom, making the act of creation a
family affair unless performed in monastic silence. The freezing outhouse
was usually a good distance away and exerted a chilling effect on one's
digestive tract, much as the Russian gulag was known to have diminished
But to get back to the problem at hand: my wife and I both love to cook
and have long suffered too many guests in our kitchen – like cousin Ned
absent mindedly setting his wine glass down in a chafing dish full of melted
cheese or Aunt Martha splayed out on the counter like Jabba the Hut
blocking the counter towards which my wife is lurching with a sizzling
capon fresh from the oven.
Every effort to get guests into our heated living room with comfortable
seating, soft lighting and a cheery fireplace has been in vain.
Strategically placed hors d'oeuvres, even full liquor and wine bottles
have failed to move people out of the kitchen. They simply haul the
attractive goodies back into our work space or ignore them.
One Thanksgiving our dog - whom we had seriously considered
naming after our garbage disposal until we tried to tried calling "here
Insinkerator, here Insinkerator…" - found himself alone in the living
room, and consumed a whole tray of costly Vermont artisan cheeses
along with a bunch of lovingly labeled little flags indicating their farm of
origin, all of which later reappeared on the dining room floor.
Having a kitchen full of guests is fine as long as you don't actually
prepare food in your kitchen. The problem is we do – and we do it
We’ve tried many tactics and lures, but they all fail. My undereducated
cousin from Eden Mills used to say, "It's generic, runs in the genes.”
Maybe that’s as good an explanation as any about why Vermonters
insist on gathering in the kitchen.
But with the holidays here again, we’re feeling desperate.We’ve even
considered moving the wall oven and dishwasher into the living room
as end tables and preparing the food in there. It may not solve the
problem, but it may at least spread the guests around the house and
provide some entertainment for the struggling cooks.