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Slayton: Start Of The Season

Holiday dinners are not what they used to be for my family. They’re smaller and quieter. Parents and grandparents on both sides of the family are long gone, and Liz and I are now the senior generation.

So dinner is no longer the family mob scene it once was. But I still get a good crowd-induced holiday buzz every year by going to the pre-Thanksgiving Farmer’s Market. It’s an annual feeding frenzy, held at Montpelier High school the weekend before turkey day, and for me it opens the holiday season.

This year the high school gym was crammed so full of people, it was hard to negotiate the aisles. As usual, I ran into several people I know there and we had semi-delirious, shouted conversations only partially audible above the other shouted conversations. The roar of the happy crowd reminded me of a huge, rushing waterfall.

This is the essence of shopping locally. I stopped first to talk with Lainie, who calls herself the “Lazy Lady” — a misnomer if there ever was one — and makes some of the most wonderful cheeses in North America. I bought a cube of her “Trillium” cheese — white, smooth, nutty-mushroomy flavor, and utterly delicious. I ogled turnips and carrots and bought some locally raised, grass-fed Greenfield Highland beef.

Then I bought a loaf of banana bread from Peg’s Pantry. The woman in charge (presumably Peg) told me her family had spent most of the preceding day baking. “We got done just before midnight,” she said.

I saw an old friend and asked how he’s doing. “We all have our issues,” he smiled. Yes, I had to admit, as the years continue to pile up on me too, we all do.

Nevertheless, I still like holiday chaos. And lately my need for boisterous human interaction that was previously filled by family dinners has been filled instead by the holiday Farmers Market. As I was lugging my purchases home, I saw a bumper sticker that seemed to sum up the day: “Cook Organic,” it said, “Not the Planet.”

Now, snow has come at last to our part of the world, and the annual hurly burly has begun.

And I don’t mind admitting that indeed I am thankful — now and all year long — for my neighbors, for the farmers and craftspeople in my community, and, well, for Vermont.

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