You Belong in the Upper Valley If…

…your first thought when you need to buy something is, ‘I’ll just run down to Dan & Whit’s.’

Dan & Whit's General Store

Dan & Whit’s General Store

If you live in the Upper Valley of the Connecticut River, you don’t think twice about Dan & Whit’s Country Store of Norwich, Vermont. You just go in and get stuff as thoughtlessly as you open your fridge for a Coke. Or you explain where somebody lives as ‘about ten minutes from Dan & Whit’s.’ Maybe that’s why we locals sometimes forget how quintessentially Vermont D&W’s is.

The principle

The principle

In fact, you can’t get absolutely everything there, as the front window is careful to point out. But you can get all the important things:

The application

The application

 

 

 

Once you’re in, you encounter what looks like a small grocery store. You can get Spaghetti Os and Tide, sure. But you’ll also notice a high percentage of Vermont-made food items. Not all of them are kale:

Adds 3/4" of Vermont to your hips

Adds 3/4″ of pure Vermont to your hips

The Red Door Bakery of Marshfield Vermont does not make mimsy, everything-free baked goods. These are cookies that intend to be cookies. And succeed.

Across the aisle, you’ll find a product so packed with Vermonticity, you’ll be glad you moved here. The Cabot Creamery Cooperative is owned by the farmers whose milk it processes — a very Bernie Sanders set-up.

Cabot co-op cheese for your apple pie

Cabot co-op cheese for your apple pie

Cabot does make more than one product. It’s just that cheddar cheese drives all thought of yogurt from a Vermonter’s mind. Remember, come-heres, that cheddar is not an ingredient for dainty pastry puffs. It is meant to go with apple pie, eaten with a knife.

Now the grocery aisles are fading out. As you wander, the goods morph toward pans. And salt shakers. Thread. Glue. Cartoon stickers for the kids. Cork screws. Exactly what you imagine was spread from a Yankee peddler’s pack around 1850 (ex the stickers), enticingly open on the back porch.

The gizmo department fades away in turn. Clothing appears. Yes, you can get a Dan & Whit’s sweatshirt, if you insist. You can also get a big, touristy mug that proclaims all the traits that identify Vermonters.

Inevitable tourist kitsch. The part about hunting on your anniversary is true.

Inevitable tourist kitsch.

(Many of these statements are true. Especially the one about taking your wife hunting for your wedding anniversary.) On the other hand, real Vermonters come in looking for these:

Only real Yankees can wear these out.

Only real Yankees can wear these out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is where Dan & Whit’s becomes eerie. As you circle back around the little office, a door appears on your right. Another on your left. You pick one. You wander through a corridor that seems to have left the building. You turn right, left, right again. Stairwells gape in unexpected places. Physicists at nearby Dartmouth College have demonstrated that Dan & Whit’s back premises exist in hyperspace, and the store’s inside is larger than its outside.

After your first right turn comes proof that Dan & Whit’s does indeed carry all the things you actually need:

The first of the back rooms. These fall in the same category as beer: you need it, Dan & Whit's has it.

The first of the back rooms. These fall in the same category as beer: you need it, Dan & Whit’s has it.

Just remember that real Vermonters install these things themselves.

Press on, past topsoil, bird seed, dog food and above all Halite for winter sidewalks, 50 pound bags of it stacked almost to the ceiling. You will need this. Buy several.

Another doorway. The floor has been roughly — very roughly — horizontal all the way, but you know you are now in an underground environment, the bowels of Mother Earth. Here you find just what She believes you need.

In the suburbs you had grass in the back yard. Here, you have vegetables.

In the suburbs you had grass in the back yard. Here, you have vegetables.

Please do not disgrace yourself by asking for “green bean” seeds. There are seven varieties available. Also, please read the instructions on your new pressure cooker carefully before canning. Newbies may experience poisoning or explosions. It ain’t easy becoming a Vermonter.

What you do with all those vegetables

What you do with all those vegetables

 

 

You’ll find your way out eventually. (If you turn right one door too early, you will find yourself, embarrassingly, standing behind the meat counter.) Plunk your pressure cooker down on the counter, pay for it, and remember to take your new socks out before you use it.

Welcome to Vermont. Welcome home.

 

 

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About Heidi Wilson

I'm currently writing a mystery that takes place in New Hampshire and a novel about an artist who's working in Ireland and Hell. Former incarnations: stock market economist and professor of Greek. Go figure.

Posted on November 30, 2016, in Heidi Wilson, location, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. It’s never too late, Fran. Get that cheddar into the next book in your series. It isn’t Vermont without cheddar!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheddar and maple syrup. I used to buy it by the gallon. Now that I live in the Atlanta area, I can’t find maple syrup in anything but teeny tiny containers.

      Like

      • No need to be deprived, Fran! Go to

        http://www.keenenh.com/recreation/sugarhouses.asp

        for a long list of New Hampshire sugaring farms, with contact info. Most of them say “mail orders welcome.” And note that under Grafton County, three of the listings are in my own town of Orford NH. (But Paul Messer up at Sunday Mountain Maple Farm retired from the business last year.) I’m of two minds whether to recommend the Grafton County listings or those in Coos County. My fictional town of Oxbow, NH, is sandwiched right between them.

        Like

  2. My children (now grown) were both born in Vermont, and a favorite jaunt of ours was to the Cabot Creamery to take the (self-guided) tour, walking down the aisles and peering through huge windows at all the enormous vats and various doohickies. And then there were the samples at the end. Now I have to go to my neighborhood Publix to buy Cabot cheddar and Cabot Greek yogurt. Thanks for bringing back a lot of wonderful memories. Wish I’d thought to mention Cabot cheese in my most recent ScotShop mystery (set in Vermont).

    Like

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