As its subtitle promises, this handsomely-produced book offers 125 organic recipes to its readers, several of them by Medeiros herself, but the majority collected from Vermont’s farm-to-table chefs. Along with these recipes, it provides an armchair tour of Vermont’s organic farms and restaurants whose chefs are committed to cooking food that has not been genetically modified. Its foreword provides a brief history of Vermont’s place as the first state to pass a bill that required labeling of GMO foods. While the bill was preempted by a much weaker federal law, its passage has alerted other states to the need for transparency in food production at a time when 80% of packaged food currently for sale in supermarkets (and nearly all animal feed) contains GMOs. There is, this book demonstrates, an alternative to the products of agribusiness: healthy, delicious, locally-grown food with DNA that has not been tampered with.
As you page through the book, admiring Oliver Parini’s photographs of farmers, chefs, and the finished recipes, you gradually accumulate a general picture of Vermont’s 21st century farm-to-fork food scene. Practically every recipe is accompanied by a written profile of the people who have provided it. Thus, the tempting breakfast/brunch entry, “French Toast Casserole with Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Ice Cream” is paired with a profile of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. The next recipe, “Farm Fresh Quiche with Potato Crust” is paired with a profile of Earthwise Farm and Forest in Bethel. A later recipe, “Green Mountain Sandwich with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette,” is paired with a profile of its source, Wilmington’s Village Roost Café & Marketplace. A Wilmington reader can also find profiles of cafes and restaurants in Grafton, Newfane, North Bennington, and Peru – all within less than an hour’s drive. The farms and cafes in the book are scattered throughout Vermont, but the profiles are remarkably alike. Many of the chefs who have chosen to cook non-GMO food began with very different careers in cities, primarily New York. A few of the farmers have turned their family farms organic, but the majority are young couples who have been drawn to Vermont in the past decade by the state’s promise of communities that provide a ready market for organic, non-GMO food. In a larger agricultural world dominated by money, the farms are showcases of how much can be done with very little capital: many of the farms comprise only a few acres; Vermont Land Trust has helped finance others.
The recipes are delectable and clearly presented; another set of profiles introduces readers to lesser-know ingredients like ramps, Japanese knotweed, and Jerusalem artichokes. Offerings extend from breakfasts to desserts, from one that made a virtue of necessity in impoverished World War II Italy to Medeiros’s brand-new suggestions. While all are tempting, most assume the presence of kitchen equipment, culinary sophistication, and preparation time unavailable to the majority of home cooks. They are exactly what the book’s subtitle says: recipes from hardworking food-raising and cooking professionals.
Read it for inspiration and for guidance when you’re looking for an excellent meal or interesting trip, and take seriously its support of organic food. But when you come home from work at 5 pm with dinner to make, remember that non-GMOS can also be used in simpler dishes.
Laura Stevenson lives in Wilmington and her most recent novels, “Return in Kind” and “Liar from Vermont,” are both set on Boyd Hill Road.