There are very many good things about living in the United States of America. One of the good things is that because of its sheer size and the diversity of the population, there are all sorts of interesting local customs. It’s one of the things that I like best about travel – learning about fun and unique customs that you would never see in your home town.
I remember thinking about the size and diversity of the USA when we traveled in Europe. People are always talking about how cool it is that they drive small, gas-efficient cars in Europe. WELL OF COURSE THEY DO. Driving through France is like driving through Colorado. Well, maybe Texas. But I’m trying to make a point here. Try driving from Arizona to New Jersey in a car the size of a washing machine. No fun.
Anyway, I’m getting off on a tangent, because I really want to focus on the local customs. And in particular, the local customs in Vermont.
Our daughter Heather and her family live in Montpelier, Vermont. As we have been enjoying our lovely warm weather here in Arizona, they have been experiencing a typical New England winter – in some ways maybe not even as bitter as some, at least in Montpelier. We never fail to point out our lovely weather when we talk to them. If we are using Facetime, Bill will very often show them our sunshine and flowers. They are not amused. Particularly last week when they were hunkered down for an expected 22 inches of snow.
Lauren grew up in Vermont. She and Heather connected up in New York City, lived there for a bit, but decided the small town life was what they wanted once they began their family. While Heather was born and grew up in Denver, she is a small town girl at heart. So Montpelier is perfect for both of them.
Montpelier is an amazing community. There are only about 7,700 folks living there, despite the fact that it is the state’s capital. It is not unheard of to go for a walk and go from one end of town to the other. And it is a typical New England town. There are red, white, and blue buntings on the front porches, under which sit the home’s inhabitants reading a book. They will stop and wave to you whether they know you or not. If it wasn’t for the 22 inches of snow and the fact that I can’t get cell service, I would live there. Well, probably not, but it is a pretty town.
Vermont, as you likely know, is about all things maple. Now I am not particularly a fan of the maple flavor, unless it’s syrup on my pancakes (and then it’s really about the butter). But I will tell you that when we visited them last summer and I tasted my first
maple creemee, well my life changed forever. That, with a side of an apple donut, is heaven on earth. Despite my alleged ambivalence to maple, I ate me my share of maple creemees. I want one now.
When we were talking to them last week, our 4-year-old grandson Joseph mentioned they had eaten sugar-on-snow the weekend before. I assumed that was what Addie calls “Snow-Made Ice Cream” and mentioned that to Joseph.
Oh no, I was told. Sugar-on-snow has nothing to do with ice cream.
Here’s what I learned: in spring, when the days start getting warm but the nights are still cold, maple farmers begin tapping their trees as the sap begins to run. Vermonters – always looking for a way to celebrate maple – begin holding or attending sugar-on-snow parties or events. At these parties, the sap is brought to a boil. It is then poured
onto clean snow that has been collected for the express purpose of having the sap poured onto it. As the sap cools, it can be lifted onto a stick or fork and eaten. As it continues to cool, it hardens more and more. According to Lauren, the tradition is to serve the sugar-on-snow along with donuts (presumably the delicious apple donuts) and a dill pickle. The pickle is supposed to cut the sweetness of the maple taffy. I’m not sure what the purpose of the donut is except how can you go wrong serving a donut with anything?
I love that Joseph and his brother Micah are growing up learning their small-town traditions.