This Month

An Iowa farm nowadays smacks more of well-oiled machine industry than of the husbandman; one half expects to see the blue pennant with a Navy “E” fluttering atop the silo, so precisely are the hens imprisoned on their trap nests, so sanitary are the milkers, so sturdy the barns. The farmer, Iowa style, spends his day away from the house and hard at it—successful, worried, and overworked— piloting his machines or psychoanalyzing his bulls.

Lee Anderson’s account of maple sugar (page 126) makes it appear that the Vermont farmer actually does some work at this time of year. There may even be some early hour during the summer months when he milks or chops or busies himself. But all I know is that whenever I have stopped at a Vermont farmhouse, the farmer himself has always answered the door; that he has been taking a nap, or silting comfortably in the kitchen, or finishing a tremendous meal, His barn roof has an easygoing sag in the middle. The place is small according to Western standards. It is littered with old implements and engines which the farmer has long since tired of using. The livestock are all out foraging for themselves, properly enough. There is probably no mortgage on the place because (a) no one would lend the farmer a significant sum, and (b) he wouldn’t borrow it under any circumstances. The taxes are negligible and so are the chores. The women of the household do the cooking, probably the gardening, and the neighbors bear a hand in the occasional butchering.

Fond of the ironical twist, the Vermont farmer enjoys having the rest of the country regard him as one who toils from dawn to dusk. Actually, he has contrived for himself a state of debt-free ease and leisure, with abundant spare time for thinking up the witticisms for which the state is celebrated.

What time the Vermonter has left, after drying out his kit of smart cracks and salting it down for the summer visitor, he devotes to his meals. The standard of cooking throughout the state — farmhouse, lunch-car, restaurant, or commercial hotel — seems to me the best in the land. I have never eaten a really bad meal in Vermont. I get the impression that all cooks in the state are sensitive about their professional standing; it would be a. disgrace to the cook and the community if a portion were niggardly or blotched. A soggy pie would be the talk of the countryside. Nowhere are breakfasts heartier or more enticing. To start the day on orange juice, coffee, and toast would stamp the guest as the victim of a wasting illness, not long for (his life. A motorist should reasonably expect to find a notable eating place every five or ten miles in almost any pari of the stale. In this res peel, Vermont is the nearest thing to pre-war rural France which we have in North America.

I could not help wishing for Vermont while driving in Virginia for a few weeks just before the war. My recollect ion is that we ate all our meals in drugstores, that we never sat down to a table which was not piled high with dirty dishes, that the whole process was in the hands of high school children. We tried once or twice to dine at hotels, but this involved standing in line and more dirty dishes when finally we sat down. There are handsome dining rooms in Williamsburg and their food is without fault, but too many people are always in need of it during “Garden Week.”

I shall always remember Williamsburg as the only inhabited town in the railed Slates where, with money in my pocket, I was wholly unable to obtain anything at all to eat for lunch. I believe it was the only meal I have ever missed, completely, in my life and, like the day forever lost in crossing the international date line, it can never be retrieved.

As to Southern cooking in general, the opinions of M. F. K. Fisher (page 128) are now open for discussion. C. W. M.