Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Maple or Bust

(the real deal)

Standing at the checkout at the local Shaws. Ray gives me a nudge, gestures towards the guy behind us in line. I look, seems normal to me. Ray nudges again, directing my gaze not towards the man but his lone purchase sitting in the conveyor belt. “Vermont Maid” table syrup.

Wait, what? Vermont Maid? TABLE SYRUP? Artificial sugar ooze in a lanky bottle built for Mrs. Buttersworth, containing no more than 2% real maple? And evil son's of bitches who make simulated food products, calling it Vermont Maid because it’s not MADE in Vermont because no Vermonter in their right mind would produce such an abomination.

I know there are sentient humans who prefer pouring a viscous stream of caramel colored corn syrup on their pancakes. Bless their souls, they’ll have to answer to their maker for that one and it’s really none of my business. But I thought all of those people lived far away, where maple trees are things of epic lore and snow is but a rumor. But in Vermont, sugaring is in the bones. Where every land owner dreams of building that lone sugar shack in the back woods so they can string up their trees with plastic tubing and hang buckets to catch the nectar in the spring. And if they have a sugar shack, they dream of tearing it down to build a bigger one.

And the syrup, you know that Grade A Amber fancy schmancy you’re paying 17 dollars for in a nail polish bottle? Fancy? Amber? Please. You might as well just canoodle with that Vermont Maid instead because you don’t know maple unless you’ve had Grade B or, oh heavens to Betsy, the glorious Grade C. Dark, thick, rich and decidedly maple. Not maple flavored, maple.  Vermonters stick a "fancy" label on the light stuff and send it out of state.  You know that the alternative label says "Suckers," don't you?  

I’m very sorry for that Vermonter in line at the grocery, who trucked all the way into town in his beat up Subaru (official state car of Vermont) and wet dog in tow (official fashion accessory of the state of Vermont) on a Sunday morning having just learned that his old lady made the pancakes but there was no syrup in the house. I'm not sorry that he had to pull on a pair of Carhartts and drive twenty minutes into town because any drive in Vermont is pretty much worth putting on socks for.  I'm sorry that he came all that way for that slatternly Vermont Maid.

And considering that that wacky global warming is spreading its hijinks our way and destroying maple production here and driving it all up north to Canada, we’d better savor every last drop and buy our very own backyard Vermont liquid gold while we can. So keep it real or keep it naked people!