(Host) Vermonters are rewarded in many ways for the long winters and muddy springs they put up with. One of those rewards comes during a few weeks at the start of summer, when Vermont is rich with strawberries.
VPR’s Susan Keese visited the 77th annual strawberry supper in Dummerston, and files this report.
(Crowd chatting in line.)
(Keese) It’s a sweet, early summer evening. In Dummerston Center, people are lined up on the village green, waiting for seats to open up in the clapboard Grange Hall across the road.
It’s well known locally that the Dummerston Strawberry Shortcake Supper is worth waiting for.
(Janet Avery) “And they’re good this year – the strawberries are really good.”
(Keese) Janet Avery, Ruth Allard and Florence Howe are members of the Dummerston church, which puts on this yearly benefit. They’ve spent days getting things ready. Howe boiled macaroni for the salads that accompany the ham and baked bean main course.
(Avery) “We made the biscuits last night. A lot of people with a lot of bowls, and a lot of boxes of mix.”
(Woman, whispering) “Bisquik!”
(Keese) Now they’re in the busy kitchen, at the epicenter of the event, assembling the piece de resistance.
Allard slices a cake-pan-sized shortcake into two round flat slices. Dipping into a bucket full of red berries and juice, she slathers the bottom half. Then she adds the top slice and passes the plate to Howe, who cuts it into big pie-shaped pieces.
(Howe) “Now we cover it with a lot more strawberries.”
(Avery) “Every table gets a shortcake like this.”
(Howe) “They can have all they want. Some people just eat shortcake.”
(Avery) “Now we’re going to put the cream on, real cream. Those ladies are whipping the cream, they’re the whippers over there.”
(Keese) Once the whipped cream is on, Avery places a few extra fancy strawberries on top…
(Avery) “And send it off to the happy people.”
(Keese) Local teens carry the plates into rooms set with long tables where neighbors socialize with visitors from out of town.
(Kids) “Woo hoo! I want the big strawberries on top.”
(Parent) “I’ll be sure to get you one, don’t worry.”
(Kid) “Yummy! Mmm….”
(Parent) “So you want one of the ones on top?”
(Keese) The berries came from Dwight Miller’s farm a mile or so away.
(Dwight Miller) “My grandfather Armis Miller started growing strawberries back in the late 1800s.”
(Keese) Miller’s son Read Miller grows the strawberries now.
(Miller) “Read’s growing organic strawberries and that’s a little different. Come on in, we’ll find Read.”
(Keese) But the founder of the feast is busy washing dishes. It’s all part of the plan, says his father.
(Miller) “They got it down to a science, yes they have. Everybody pitches in and helps. We’re a community, that’s what it is. That’s the important thing.”
(Keese) Strawberry suppers will continue around Vermont through the Fourth of July weekend.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.
(Sound of neighbors laughing in the kitchen) “A little more cream on that one, I know she needs a little more, yes she does. A little more cream…”