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.’
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.
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:
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:
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 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.
(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:
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:
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.
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.
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.