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Slayton: Adamant Co-op

For its 80th Anniversary, the Adamant Co-op has published a cookbook that’s considerably more than a cookbook. Somehow it’s as much about the essence of Vermont as it is about food.

The Co-op was founded in 1935, during the Great Depression, and is therefore, the oldest continuously operating food cooperative in Vermont, and maybe the country. It has about a hundred families as members, and its tiny store occupies a weathered wood building that was once a boarding house for workers in the local granite quarries.

Today, the co-op’s little wood-heated grocery store is remarkably complete. It has homemade scones and muffins, a good beer and wine selection, and most of the other necessities of rural life. The store also houses the Adamant Post Office, and functions as the community’s nerve center.

Conversations there run from who needs help stacking their wood, to how old Mrs. Whatshername’s doing, and whether there are enough volunteers for the Friday night cookout. And so on.

The co-op’s new cookbook is more than just another collection of local recipes. It’s also a celebration of Adamant’s community life. And it’s an uncommonly attractive book, illustrated with the charming watercolors, oils, and sketches of local artist Janet MacLeod.

Shared food is obviously woven deeply into the common life of little Adamant. In the introduction, Eva Gumprecht writes, “the recipes are not so much about measurements and techniques…as they are about story and connection: stories of community, history, meals shared, food offered to a sick neighbor, given in celebration, in mourning, in the depth of winter, the height of summer…”
I’ve already tried a couple of the recipes in this book, so I know they work. From blueberry muffins to pulled pork and Eat More Kale Soup, to Kay’s peach cobbler, these recipes have fed Adamant and brought the little village together for many years. There’s even a recipe for a community supper of bean-hole beans. First ingredient: “40 pounds of beans”!

The short, equally tasty essays sprinkled throughout the book describe life as it centers around the Co-op. “We dice, chop, and bake ourselves through our hard times and our joy,” writes Barbara Floersch,” “No matter what the opinions or politics, we all feel obliged to help each other out. Maybe that’s one definition of community.”

In short, “The Adamant Co-op Cookbook” not only serves up practical, tasty recipes - it convinces me that the Vermont I know and love lives on, perhaps especially in small rural places like Adamant.

Tom Slayton is a longtime journalist, editor and author who lives in Montpelier.
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