In celebration of the Vermont Farm Table Cookbook’s 10th anniversary, a new edition of the now classic cookbook by Tracey Medeiros is out this summer, and it’s just as community-driven and scrumptious as the first.
STORY BY MEGAN DEMAREST
PHOTOGRAPHY CRAIG LIGHT
When Vermonters hear stories of visitors falling in love with their state, they are not surprised in the least. For some, it’s the mountains during ski season or the leaf-peeping in the Fall that capture their hearts. For others, it’s the art and culture bursting at the seams or the genuinely friendly people. For many, it’s all of that and then some. While Tracey Medeiros falls into the latter group, her deep love of Vermont began, in part, with food. A New Englander originally from East Freetown, MA, Tracey moved to Vermont with her family in 2004. As a culinary professional and author of 6 cookbooks, she was naturally drawn to the farmers markets and to the makers of the local ingredients Vermonters have come to enjoy so much they are fridge and pantry staples in homes from Burlington to Pownal, from the Northeast Kingdom to Brattleboro, and everywhere in between.
Tracey’s love of food has been innate since childhood, when she remembers getting excited to watch Julia Child prepare dishes on TV and then, more importantly, to cook meals for her own family. She enrolled in the culinary program at Johnson & Wales (after graduating from Northeastern University and New York University), and with degree and experience in hand, went on to become a food writer, recipe developer, and tester. A deep interest in the sustainable food movement led her to be a strong supporter of farm-to-table cuisine, and as she became more familiar with her new home state, she learned about its rich history of honoring the land and providing wholesome ingredients to its residents.
As a first-time Vermonter, Tracey visited local libraries and bookstores in search of Vermont-specific cookbooks. As her research progressed, she found them to be few and far between, which led her to the brilliant idea of creating the first truly Vermont-based cookbook, highlighting farms and ingredients unique to the state. Seeing an absence, she filled the void. Thus, Dishing Up Vermont was fully realized in 2008 and served as a launchpad for her continuing mission to bring the Vermont food scene to households across the country. As she dug deeper into the roots of Vermont’s agricultural presence, she learned about the Vermont Fresh Network, which, in addition to promoting sustainable agricultural practices since 1996, encourages farmers, restauranteurs, and food producers to collaborate with each other and support the local farm-to-table movement. The Vermont Fresh Network has enabled the family farm to flourish and is a clear inspiration to Tracey in her work to give Vermont food providers a stronger voice and presence.
The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook, published in 2013, is Tracey’s second homage to Vermont’s homegrown food scene, and once again shared recipes received directly from food creators.
The 10th anniversary edition brings new dishes into the fold, while also giving loyal fans an opportunity to revisit with many of the original contributors a decade later. “Going to farmers markets and restaurants, seeing their hard work and dedication to all things food, illustrates the relationships between the two - and is a beautiful thing. These folks are not afraid to give each other credit, which can be a very rare thing,” observes Tracey. “When you see that kind of support, you fall in love even more with our food community.”
Despite her obvious impact on the culinary scene in Vermont, Tracey herself would tell anyone that the newest cookbook is not about her (in fact, they never are). It’s about the farms and farmers, the chefs and restaurants, the co-ops and the farmers markets; it’s about the people who help create and share the agricultural abundance that the Green Mountain State has to offer. This is Tracey’s curated love letter from the food providers of Vermont to literally everyone else. Profiles of the farms, the restaurants, and the people who make the culinary magic pop have been updated to reflect what is happening with them now. New places and faces have been included to keep up to date with the changing landscape of Vermont cuisine, and all of them—old and new—are the real stars of this cookbook. The scintillating photographs by Oliver Parini include barns, silos, cows, goats, and most importantly, the people, the ingredients, and their completed recipes, exhibited proudly and shared graciously. “I feel that this book is about hope, resilience, and love within a community, which comes across in every story and recipe. Year after year, these folks plant seeds never knowing what their yield will be. Day after day, they work from dawn until dusk to create community wellness. This is a wonderful gift. How can I not show my appreciation for these folks? They’ve given me a professional platform, so I feel very dedicated to them,” shares Tracey.
Listening to Tracey describe the places and people highlighted in the cookbook is like listening to an artist talking about her muse. The same can be said of her enthusiasm for the recipes themselves. When asked about one of her favorite new recipes in the 10th-anniversary edition, the sound in her voice changed, and one could almost taste the ingredients as she spoke the words. “One of the new recipes that I love is from the Reluctant Panther Inn in Manchester— Maplebrook Farms Burrata Salad, using local spinach, strawberries, basil pesto, pistachios, and aged balsamic vinegar. The burrata from Maplebrook Farms has a luscious, creamy center. The locally grown strawberries, when they’re in season, are so sweet - making this a beautiful dish. You also have the crunch from the pistachios, giving this salad another layer of texture… it’s just fabulous! I eat it all the time and cannot wait until the strawberries are in season. You may guarantee that once
a week I will be serving this dish!” Other notable favorites of Tracey’s include the Asparagus and Brown Rice from New Leaf Organics in Lincoln and the Tart aux Noix (Walnut Tart) from Susanna’s Catering in Morrisville, but of course, there is something for everyone’s taste buds in this cookbook and discovering personal favorites will be part of the joy of eating through it, cover to cover. All of this book’s contributors were very enthusiastic about sharing their recipes. “They want to share their love and devotion for the job that they do,” notes Tracey.
In the spirit of sharing the love, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Vermont Farm Table Cookbook, 10th Anniversary Edition goes to the Vermont Foodbank, a non-profit that is close to Tracey’s heart. “With everything that’s been going on, folks have been hit hard economically. Therefore, I felt that this wonderful organization deserved to be recognized. I have donated a portion of the proceeds over the last ten years to The Vermont Foodbank. Anything that I can do to help promote awareness of this wonderful organization gives me great satisfaction. I believe it is very important to always give back,” says Tracey.
On the surface, this cookbook is a lovely and rustic collection of recipes for breads, salads, savory pies, pasta, meats, drinks, desserts, and more, but look closer and it’s clear these recipes tell the stories of the communities from which they come and are representative of the incredible work ethic that goes into growing and cultivating the fresh food Vermonters relish. Tracey adds, “When you eat at a restaurant that has a chef that is passionate about the food they create—you feel the love, caring, and dedication in the meal that has been prepared for you.” It’s a dedication that goes beyond serving a delightful meal. From planting to plating, everyone who had a hand in bringing the dish to fruition cares deeply about the overall impact on the environment and the people who live in it.
“I think people could learn a lot from our little state,” opines Tracey. “Vermont is a leader, nationally and internationally, because farms are its lifeblood. Not only are we educating our own, but folks who are interested in what we are doing can learn from us. When it comes to community wellness, we set the example for other states.”