Yankee Weather in the Hilltowns

Notes from Nan: Happy Thanksgiving!
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

For those of you who snickered at me putting up my storm windows yesterday in the snow, well for you I have 11—no, 12 words:

How was I supposed to know it was going to get cold?

Remember Fall Festival just a little over a month ago when it was 80 degrees and we were sitting on the steps of Town Hall in t-shirts eating fried dough? Remember last winter when it never snowed until February? Wouldn’t some fried dough with maple cream be good right about now?

Damn Yankee weather! In the south, it’s hot and you know it’s hot and it’s going to be hot even if you wish it were cold. Here, who knows?

But my storm windows are up, and boy, am I warmer! So nice, these storm windows! You know, I was thinking one day that storm windows in New Orleans are the huge sheets of plywood you put up when a hurricane is coming in order to keep flying lawn ornaments from taking your windows out. Given a choice, the ones here are much more useful in a varied-use sort of way.

You know what my favorite winter sport would be? Having it snow so deep that I would have to open the window to climb out. (I have two of those new-fangled windows that don’t need storms over them, so I could do that.) I think that would be so much fun! Don’t you?


So it’s Thanksgiving! And for our Friday night dinner we are going to have the opposite of turkey dinner:

  • Pacific Rim Stir-fry!
  • Chicken, Shrimp or Tofu with mixed vegetables
  • Served over Udon noodles.
  • Mixed Asian salad
  • Eaten with chopsticks! Unless you’re me and then you’ll have a fork!
  • And for dessert, Susanne is making Ginger Rice Pudding and Almond Cookies

You might not know this because I haven’t said a whole lot about it, but we have a new, additional chef Chez Elmer’s. Mary is here too and the two of them are collaborating on new menus and styles of cooking. Our new guy in the kitchen is Jim Dion, former co-owner of Gypsy Apple in Shelburne Falls! Jim cooks breakfast Tuesdays through Thursdays and is now collaborating with Mary on Friday night dinners. Mary wrangles the breakfast crowds on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.

And guess what! They got running so fast that they came up with a whole menu plan for the whole next month! I’m going to give it to you now so that you can plan your month. I’ll still send you e-mails every week, however just to remind you what we’re having and to remind you to clean your room, write if you get work and to let the dog out one last time before you go to bed.

Here are the entrée highlights:

  • November 30th: Lasagna
  • December 7th: Saurbraten
  • December 14th: Mexican Night
  • December 21st: Asian Glazed Seared Salmon

I’ll give you details as we go!

You know what I want to talk about here? MAPLE SYRUP.

Remember the treacherous winter of Ought-six and Ought-seven that was so warm that the maple trees never got good and worked up? Well sir, just like with oil, the less syrup there is, the higher the prices to the restaurant owner are, while I wasn’t paying attention, they went up to nearly double what they were when we first put this menu together.

Being a relatively inexperienced restaurant owner, I talked to several Restaurant Professionals and asked them what to do and they said: “Are you out of your mind? No one but sugarhouses serves real maple syrup!”

But see, I kind of think of us as a sugarhouse and the idea of selling something besides real maple syrup makes us think we’re not doing our job as a sugarhouse.

So that’s out.

And then they said, “Well, obviously you have to ration the syrup so that people can’t just pour it hilaty-larrup over their pancakes!” And that makes sense, but also makes us sad, as real maple syrup is one of those things that makes Elmer’s just so darn worth coming to.

So, here’s what I think: Use what you need, but try to think of the fact that that stuff is pure gold you’re pouring there and try not to just pour it on the table and the floor or give it to the dog or anything. We don’t generally allow dogs at the breakfast table in Elmer’s, but it’s the principle that I’m talking about here. Enjoy yourself and enjoy your pancakes and pretend that you live in the southeast where they’re having a water drought, but pretend that the drought is a syrup drought (which we actually have here!) and all the syrup lakes are drying up and so don’t use the syrup to water your plants or wash your car and please only use the syrup that you need. And hope we have a good, cold, New England winter here this year so that the trees will over-run with syrup or whatever it is they do to fill up those pitchers we have on the tables.

Thank you for listening.


It’s the Third Annual All Your Holiday Shopping at Home in Your Own Tiny Village Event!

Elmer’s is hosting Crafted in the Village on December 1st and 2nd , 9am – 5pm each day. It’s the third annual one—we did this two years ago when I first bought Elmer’s and then again last year. This year it’s getting bigger! St John’s Church will have artisans selling their wares and the Congregational Church will be hosting their annual Fair Trade Bazaar with food and other Fair Trade merchandise at the church. Elmer’s will be serving breakfast from 8 to noon, then brunch the rest of the day including gumbo, chicken Caesar salad and a big sandwich, the type of wich has yet to be determined ALL DAY both days! Artisans will have booths both at Town Hall and at 10 Norton Hill—the big white house directly across the street from Elmer’s! The house will be open to the public and vendors will have booths downstairs. Other artists in town will have open studios and maps to their studios will be available at Elmer’s. Cranston’s Tree Farm will be open and selling trees and it is just going to be one great time all over town!


Produce Pointer of the Week:
A classmate of mine spent many years in Russia. She learned to cook beets by baking them wrapped in aluminum foil. Cool the beets, then slice or grate them for salads or soups. -Donna

  • 1/2 mile from Elmer’s Store:
    PATTY FLAT FARM Joan and Joel Arsenault:
    collard greens, kale, leeks, red onions, red kuri and delicata squash.
  • 1 mile from Elmer’s Store:
    SANGHA FARM Maribeth and Derek Richie:
    beets (Heirloom and Red Ace) herbs (parsley), CURLY LEAF KALE (when itthe weather warms up), acorn squash, buttercup squash.
  • 2 miles from Elmer’s Store:
    SIDEHILL FARM Amy Klippenstein and Paul Lacinski:
    Fresh yogurt in 5 flavors.
  • 4 miles from Elmer’s Store:
    BROOK FARM ORCHARD Alan Surprenant:
    Liberty, Yellow Delicious apples.
  • 4 miles from Elmer’s Store:
    SPRING WATER GARDENS Will and Donna Elwell:
    cordwood (split and dried), garlic (for eating or for seed), herbs (curly parsley), long cayenne peppers, winterberry branches.
  • 10 miles from Elmer’s Store:
    SCOTT’S ORCHARD Ed, Colin, and Donna Scott:
    Macoun, Macintosh, and Empire apples. Pears, acorn squash, butternut squash, and buttercup squash.
  • 10 miles from Elmer’s Store:
    French shallots
  • 15 miles from Elmer’s Store:
    Fingerling potatoes
  • 20 miles from Elmer’s Store:
    DONOVAN FARM Ivan and Cinni Donovan :
    Red potatoes, Yukon Gold potatoes
  • Varying US and international sources:
    SQUASH, Produce Distributor:
    alfalfa sprouts (organic), avocados, bananas, garlic (organic), lemons, mesclun, onions (organic) (CA), PORTABELLA MUSHROOMS, CLUSTER TOMATOES (FL, OR, CA)

This week’s produce listed by proximity to Elmer’s Store; new items are capitalized.

(Thankfully they are not under capitalized!)—Ed note.

Okay! Happy Thanksgiving!

Check out previous Notes from Nan.

Nan Parati - Elmer's StoreNan Parati

Nan is the proprietor of Elmer’s Store in Ashfield, MA. A New England transplant from the Deep South, Nan shares her southern wit, wisdom and charm every week in her column, “Notes from Nan.” Share dinner with her every Friday at Elmer’s. Each weeks menu posted with her column. nanparati@aol.com

One Comment on “Yankee Weather in the Hilltowns

  1. can i wait to go to elmer’s? (hardly.) can i tell you how bummed i am that i will be missing the craft fair by exactly 1 week? can i just say that i love any gingerbread village that has its own library? and the knitted hats & drop spindle in that slideshow– and the pocket lady! the pocket lady!

    back to work for me– best!

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