Burlington International Airport has to be one of the most pleasant airports ever. As I was placing my belongings on the security belt the TSA officer cheerfully repeated, “Take out all your laptops, liquids, gels, and maple syrup.” As my bag started down the conveyor belt she joked, “No maple syrup? Are you sure? Can’t leave Vermont without syrup.” I smiled and replied that I had thought ahead and decided to check a bag in order to get my liquid gold back to Louisiana. Never mind that my purse was full of 2lbs of Macintosh and Fuji apples my mom and I had picked, she wanted to make sure I was taking a piece of Vermont home with me.
And that is the thing; Vermont is the kind of place you want to bring things home with you from. I don’t think I have returned empty handed from a visit since I left the state. During college I would bring back maple sugar candies for friends, and syrup and caramel 5star bars for myself. My brother was partial to beef jerky and Cabot super-sharp hunter cheddar. When I visited this past June I took the Megabus back to New York balancing a vase of fresh cut flowers from my mom’s garden on the seat next to me. Even after battling the masses at Penn station, I felt the peonies were worth it.
Now that I am more than a bus ride away I really stocked up. A jar of frozen pear-sauce (made from pears picked by mom), maple goat cheese, Shelburne farms smoked cheddar, VT summer sausage, maple flakes (so good!), and maple toffee chocolate, in addition to the basics (syrup and honey) were bubble-wrapped and tucked into my luggage. Scott looked on with amusement as I happily unwrapped my swag after he picked me up from the airport. I reminded him that he benefits from my devotion to Vermont goods (and he was damn happy when he tried the pear-sauce in the morning).
I have always been a proud Vermonter – yes I like Ben & Jerry’s, no I don’t love Phish – but it has only been in the last few years that I have begun to appreciate what an amazing state Vermont is. While in college I was most excited to go home to reunite (i.e. drink) with friends and family. I still look forward to that, but I’m also happy to marvel at the 360-degree beauty. This particular visit was for a friend who I met in elementary school’s wedding, it was one of the most beautiful ceremonies I’ve been to — the backdrop of Lake Champlain, wheat from their farm hanging in bundles as decorations, and epic food made it all the more special.
I also had the chance to go visit a friend from New York who was completing a graphic design residency for a local chocolate company and living on a commune. They happened to be having an apple cider pressing party the day I visited. There was heaps of apples, few shoes, lots of mullets, and questionable (but not gross) hygiene. After a tour of the farm (pigs, chickens, baby chicks, a greenhouse, a vegetable plot) and some playtime on a giant swing, we got into a serious rhythm of turning apples into cider. A river flowed by, leaves fell from the sky, and it could not have felt any more romantic. It was like a postcard, but better. Therein lies the beauty of the state; even though I’ve spent 18 falls in Vermont, it still feels magical. The covered bridges, snow capped mountains, and mélange of fall colors really do exist and are even more vibrant and captivating in person. The state is full of artists, artisans, and foodmakers who have a captive audience within local residents. Tourists or leaf-peepers, as fall visitors are kindly referred to, are welcome, but Vermont really is for Vermonters.