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  • Stephen D'Agostino

Pie Sale and Chili Cook-Off Are This Saturday

Updated: Jan 6, 2020

If you’ve ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner, you know it's work. I remember all the effort my grandmother put into preparing the meal for her family. In the mid-1980s, when the number of guests at her table was the greatest, she cooked for her three children, their two spouses, her eight grandsons, and one granddaughter-in-law. Her one great-grandchild, my nephew, was there, but, he was a baby and didn’t eat much. Though her stuffed mushrooms were meant for later, everyone snuck them out of the pan before the meal. When we sat, we started with lasagna (see my last name), followed by the turkey, cranberry sauce, green beans, sweet potatoes, yams, and stuffed artichokes. And, of course, we always had stuffing.

Last week, at the community lunch, the memories of her stuffing came back to me. I attended the lunch alone—Bill was away—and was happy to see that a seat was available at the head of the table with some familiar faces. I greeted Jim Hasson, and we checked in with each other on our mutual friend, June Donahue, in Callicoon Center, New York. I chatted with Pat Vittum about my house, which was her house from (I learned) 1952 to 1990. The house has changed a lot since then, and we tried to figure out how, deciding that the main structure of the old ranch was still there and the rest of the house—the addition in the back and the second story—were new. She also asked me if I’d seen the cemetery in the woods beside the property.

It’s easy to miss if you don’t know what you are looking for. There is one granite marker that only looks like a tombstone because it is standing upright. There is nothing etched on the stone that notes who lies below it. There are also similar looking, smaller stones, resting flat on the ground in the area. The short distances between some of the markers hint that the people buried below them were children.

Pat told me she used to take care of the stones when she lived there. It looks like no one has in a while. Come spring, I may revisit that idea.

Circling back to where I left off regarding Thanksgiving, Pat described how her mother made stuffing, which was far more traditional than what I grew up with. My grandmother’s Sicilian-style stuffing was rice studded with hamburger, raisins, onions, and celery. It was nice to share these memories with Pat.

Peter Vollers also joined our table, and we got to talking about biking, of course. The woman sitting next to me, Carol Rauscher, and I talked about our shared experiences biking up Bear Mountain in New York as part of long multi-day upstate bike rides. We both agreed that managing that mountain was the least fun part of our experiences. She and her husband, Bill, also shared stories of doing the 5-borough bike tour around New York City. It was something I always wanted to do, but in my 13 years in the city, I never got around to it. Hearing their stories, I lamented the lost opportunity.

Finally, when the meal was over, I met the last person sitting at our table, John Singleton. I had overheard conversations he was having with Peter, and I learned that his family is very much part of our community’s history. He told me that he reads my column every week (the first thing he does when he gets the paper, he said), which made me very happy. John, it was nice to meet you. I would love to hear your stories about Maude Edwards and about your family. As I was leaving, Pat Vittum invited me to the turkey dinner at the Thompson Center the next day. It's almost a different kind of turkey-trot around this time of year. The following day was busy for me, so I declined.

The community lunch is such a nice event. I’ve attended twice, and it has given me the opportunity to meet people I might not otherwise have. I get to hear great stories about Reading's past. I get to spend some time with some fantastic people, and we all get to enjoy great food and be part of our community. I know the next one is a year away, but I recommend that everyone who can attend, do so. It’s really a great benefit of living in a small town.

Of course, if everyone heeded my advice, it would mean more work for Tom Brennan, the man whose cooking skills make it all possible. Thank you, Tom!

Remember, for your Thanksgiving celebration, you can make it easier on yourself by grabbing a pie from the Pie Sale happening Saturday from 8am to noon at Town Hall. Then take your mind off this very American celebration and think chili. The Third Annual Chili Cook-Off also happens on Saturday at Town Hall from 11am to 1pm. If you haven’t committed yet, there is still time. All you really need to do is show up with your chili in a crockpot and an extension cord. Remember, Town Hall is an old building with not a lot of outlets!

If you don’t want to be a contestant, you can still join in the fun by being a judge. For $5 for adults and $1 for children under 12, you get to decide who has the best chili in Reading. It’s an awesome and tasty responsibility!

Happy birthday to Lydia Warren (November 23), Kris Blanchard (November 23), Devon Barbour (November 24), and Gary Vittum (November 25).

That’s the news from Reading! See you next week!

This column originally appeared in The Vermont Standard on November 21, 2019.

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