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Foraging for Winter Comfort

Deep in the mountains of Vermont, winter snows blanket our landscape creating a silvery close-knit feeling for, us, the shepherds of this beautiful state. Venturing outside, we smell the sweet scent of freshly fallen powder– crisp, bright, and cold. We hear the sound of snowflakes, perfect little dendrites – like the quiet whisper of a distant secret. The temperatures, brisk, cloak us, nearly taking our breath away. We delight in this calm feeling of existence, as we search for sustenance, nourishment, and provisions – for mind, body and soul.

It is with excitement, and possibly greed, that we forage, so-to-speak, for winter comfort foods. We rise early under dark starry skies to fry up some bacon – soon to waft throughout the house and wake every soul - human and furry. Deep, dark, soulful coffee permeates the kitchen, as icicles slowly drip, drip on the eaves. A car headlight in the east forces a glance out the window. We hold that hot cup close, and let out a sigh for this sublime perfection.

Winter cooking compels us to sauté, spice-rub, slow-cook, wood-fire, glaze, and roast. It is these exact preparations that bring us back to the cabin in the woods, the mythical “forts” we built in the backyard, the 19th century galley in many of our homes in our precious Woodstock. In January, Sunday soup becomes ceremonial. The family meal commands our presence, in the good sense, of camaraderie and contentment. After an afternoon snowshoe trek, pasta with a garlic and basil infusion will lure us to the warmth of this place we call home – wet, cold clothing thrown on the floor in haste, as we are lured to the wooden spoon next to the bubbling pot on the stove. The glow of candlelight, the ruby glimmer of a glass of Cabernet, and the amber glow of ale add to the color scheme of a long winter’s day. We’ll do a crossword, play a game of checkers, call our mother, or just cuddle on the sofa. If you please, winter ecstasy in the purest form.

This season, we’ll forage our own general store for root vegetables, chanterelles, shallots, earthy stems of thyme, and golden potatoes. We’ll fill our market baskets with local artisanal cheese and nutty, wholesome crackers and flatbreads. Mustards, chutneys, and relishes will accompany our savory creations, adding lusty flavors to our meats, poultry, and seafood. We’ll bring home some good candles, yes to burn. A favorite childhood book will find a place on our coffee table. Hand and toe-warmers, lanterns, blankets, and warm socks will be a ready rescue for the imminent power outage, remembering that we’ll always have family and friends to keep us warm.

Stop by and visit with our “store” family, get to know us, and share your special stories and traditions. We would love that. A long winter may otherwise seem longer.

F.H. Gillingham & Sons is located at 16 Elm Street in Woodstock, Vermont. This year, we are celebrating our 131st anniversary. Stop by for a truly unbelievable Vermont general store experience.

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