My Vermont Table: Recipes for All (Six) Seasons
“Accompanied by color photos, many of her recipes are simple to make, elegant to look at, and flavorful.”
Gesine Bullock-Prado, host of Food Network’s Baked in Vermont, is a pastry chef and cookbook author who moved from Hollywood to White River Junction, Vermont, where she lives with her family in what was a tavern built in 1793. Back then, the owners Freegrace and Jerusha Leavitt fed and housed travelers who journeyed between Boston and Montreal, and when the War of 1812 stopped imports from England, Freegrace made money by distilling potato whiskey using the tubers grown out back.
“On Sundays, the male parishioners from the church across the lane would warm themselves in the middle of an all-day sermon in front of the fires and, no doubt, an adult beverage. One of the most common beverages was known as a flip, a combination of dark beer, rum, and molasses,” she writes in her introduction to one of her Historic Vermont Recipes, this one for the above-mentioned flip. “Sometimes an egg was added for a creaminess. Instead of a cocktail shaker the barkeeper would stir the concoction with a flaming hot poker, giving the beverage a bitter caramel backbone. Alas, I'm not brave enough to brandish a hot poker at cocktail hour when our friends have returned from leaf peeping so a cocktail shaker will have to do.”
With this simple summation, Bullock-Prado shows both her delight with her adopted state as well as her commitment to its culinary traditions that she is seeking to preserve through her cookbooks, her cooking classes, and in the foods she serves family and friends.
She views Vermont as having six unique seasons that include not only the ones we all know but also the maple-forward mud season when it’s time to harvest the sap from maple trees for making such dishes as Maple Pulled Pork Sliders with Soft Buns and stick season. The latter is when the trees are bare and gourds grow in abundance. That's the time for such dishes as Spiced Pumpkin Cake, Cranberry Shrub Sauce, and Marlborough Pie, one of her Historic Vermont Recipes. Using these distinctive harvests, Bullock-Prado (if the name sounds familiar you probably known of her sister, actress Sandra Bullock), shares more than 100 recipes each with its own special story in her latest cookbook, My Vermont Table.
Accompanied by color photos, many of her recipes are simple to make, elegant to look at, and flavorful. There are family recipes including Roast Turkey ala Helga and Helga’s Potato Salad, both of which are her mother’s; her nephew Louis’s Bullock Brown Butter Banana Bread; and each year she uses her mother’s cast-iron lamb cake mold, for a rich and decadent Cardamon-Almond Cake. She helps readers eschew chemicals by supplying a recipe for corned beef that originated from the Top of the Notch Tea Room and Gift Shop in Plymouth that was opened between 1924 to 1942 and frequented by President Calvin when he was home in Vermont.
“One of the great charms of old-school Vermont recipes is that they are bracingly spare,” she writes noting how the corned beef from Top of the Notch compares with what we buy in the grocery store.
The president, she notes, wanted the tearoom owner to raise her prices to reflect the quality of her food but she never did.
And thus we again learn so much about this rural area of Vermont, which to Bullock-Prado is so very special.