Tania and I enjoy Christopher Kimball and his show “America’s Test Kitchen,” we watch it every Saturday, but there’s a part of me that really hates that little bow-tie wearing motherscratcher. Perhaps the “inadequate” side of me? Because that’s what he brings out every time I get one of his “letters” in my email.
They’re not really letters. He only writes when he wants to sell me something. But he disguises his pitch in a friendly, personal update on what’s been going on in the Green Mountains in Vermont where he lives. The Green Mountains is a place where time has stopped and the people live the simple life in harmony with nature, a place where you have to imagine a warm fire crackles in the corner of every home, and a tray of cornbread is warming in every wood-burning oven. They live off the land up there in the Green Mountains, and life is rough at times, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
You can read his entire letter at the end of this post, but I wouldn’t bother if I were you because, like Garrison Keillor, it’s marinated in saccharine and oozing with so much sentimentality that you’ll barf. So I’ve done you the favor of condensing Christopher Kimball’s letter down to a short list of what he’s been up to lately. Go Christopher!:
He and his family are constantly tangling with bears on their front porch. (Each sentence, incidentally, seems to end with a little chuckle. “Hey, they’re part of the landscape, what can you do? Hehe!”)
His mom carries a gun and isn’t afraid of no bear. Yep, moms carry guns in the Green Mountains.
He has trained his son to be an excellent marksman.
He harvested the cornfield.
He planted a vegetable garden.
He “hived” the bees.
He weeded the strawberry patch.
He harvested apples.
He tended to his pastures.
He has pointed his cows out to pasture.
He’s searching for a bull.
He bottled his maple syrup.
He made a website for his maple syrup (where you can order a bottle or two).
He has written a BBQ book (you can also buy that.)
He made brisket for 14 guests. (“It was a great lunch.” So humble.)
He took a vacation in Eastern Europe.
He has made a slide show of the photos he took in Eastern Europe.
He attended the annual fireman’s dinner.
He is friends with a turkey hunter.
His friend the turkey hunter killed a boar.
His fire department won The Woodchuck Challenge. Again.
His friend’s son is so dedicated to the fire department that he tried to leave his own wedding to help put out a fire.
And this presumably all went down in the last month? Uhhh, I got my truck washed one day. Other than that I’ve mostly just sat around getting drunk and watching hockey…
—from the desk of David Carnie
I'm guessing that Chris Kimball and his neighbors live like this. And I'm guessing that this looks WAY BETTER than where you live… you fuckin' loser.
Dear Friend of America’s Test Kitchen,
Lions, tigers, and BEARS! One of our neighbors, Jayne Stuecklin, snapped this photo of a black bear headed for the hummingbird feeder on her back porch. My mother, who in her later years had a small cabin high up in the Adirondacks, used to carry a .22 pistol with her in case she ran into a bear on her porch. They were always trying to get at the bird feeders. Of course, my mother would never shoot a bear (or anything else) but it made her feel safer.
Our neighbor Tom and I headed up to the top of the mountain to shoot clay pigeons (he has a small trap) with Charlie, my 13-year-old. Tom took the first six with a 12-gauge and missed them all, I hit a couple with my 20-gauge, and then Charlie went 12 for 13 with a .410, which is the smallest-bore shotgun you can buy. The first time one of your kids really shows you up turns out to be enormously pleasurable. (But I am going to practice a lot before our next outing!)
The corn is in, the potatoes and vegetable garden are planted, I hived my four new packages of bees, the strawberry beds are weeded, the apple trees have blossomed and dropped, and the pastures are coming back nicely. The two Randall Linebacks (the heifer and cow) are headed up to summer pasture shortly and we are looking for a bull for breeding. The maple syrup is bottled and ready to go as soon as our website is up and running. (www.twopigsfarm.com). Everyone who has expressed interest in purchasing syrup will be notified by e-mail as soon as we are ready to ship in late June.
This time of year, I move a good deal of our cooking outside to the grill and my cookbook of choice is The Cook's Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue. I just made the Barbecued Brisket last weekend (for 14 guests) along with the Sweet-and-Sour Coleslaw and Barbecued Baked Beans. It was a great lunch. Some of my other favorite recipes from this collection are Grilled Chicken Alla Diavola (butterflied spicy grilled chicken), Grilled Pizza (which I serve as an appetizer all summer on the patio), and Grilled Corn with Spicy Chili Butter. If you order through this letter, you can receive this book at a substantial savings — 50% off ($17.50; list price $35.00) — and just in time for summer. I highly recommend this volume.
I have sorted through our photos from the recent trip to Eastern Europe and you can view a slideshow here. Highlights are the extraordinary astronomical clock in Prague in which a skeleton - Death - strikes the hour; a family portrait taken in a funhouse mirror; and a wonderful old European pastry shop in Vienna, plus inside the café at the Hotel Sacher.
We just attended the annual Fireman's Dinner just down the road from the Cook's Country house. The gag gifts are always distributed by Merritt Morey, who gave a map to one of the youngest members of the volunteer fire department who had some trouble navigating his way to a recent brushfire. I was taken aside by Rick, a local carpenter, who was out turkey hunting recently and came across a wild boar instead (which had escaped last year from a local game farm). Sure enough he bagged it and brought it back to his wife, Laura, who was not too thrilled about finding room for it in the freezer. The good news is that our fire department won the Woodchuck Challenge once again this year. (They are the 2006 champions.) All that training paid off. I also ran into Tiger Skidmore who left town about eight years ago. (I grew up with his father, Sonny.) Tiger used to wear six-guns strapped to his waist; these days he has settled down to work as a dispatcher for a trucking company and is a highly respected volunteer firefighter. As the story goes, he was about to walk down the aisle at his own wedding when his beeper went off, so he got up to leave since he always answered the call! Friends persuaded him to stay put.
That's about it from the Green Mountains. Enjoy the fine weather and the fresh strawberries.
Founder and Editor
America's Test Kitchen