We would go to the Dakin Farm pancake breakfast every year. Before we were married, before we had kids, while pregnant, with babes in arms, we went. Being a city-dwelling transplant to Vermont, I loved to get that close to the making of the year’s maple syrup. I love how Dakin has tables splayed all over the store and you just sit next to the folks who live up the road, or the mayor, or the group who just came over after church.
I love how the family members and staff are there year after year. How someone from the Cuttings family seems to be within a few feet of the big evaporator at all times. I love walking in and seeing that the girls are bigger, that the nice guy who pours those huge perfect pancakes on the griddle is there again, ready to ladle molten butter all over whatever’s on your plate.
And I like how things have changed too, but not too much. Now they offer fresh fruit. And have an official price for vegetarians since they’re skipping all that piggy goodness. I like that they have this new line of well-priced pizzas and chili and are branching out while still churning out the syrup and bacon that put them on the proverbial food map.
This year we sat in our usual place in the back shipping room. Friends crowded in and so I stood and perched and got to survey the filled tables. To our left was a grown daughter with her mom and dad, mom in a wheelchair and needing to be fed, clearly in the grip of dementia and being loved so tenderly by her husband and daughter who offered up syrupy bites. The big group of Asian tourists with a new baby in the midst, looking around and smiling at it all. Groups of students from our local colleges, piling on the all-you-can-eat fare. A single dad looking like he’s barely keeping things together, but there they are, syrup dripping down their snowsuits and all. Z. walked up and looked around with me and said, “Wow.” Everyone comes to pancake breakfast. “Poor lady in a wheelchair,” he said. “It’s all right,” I told him, “she can still come to Dakin because she has people who love her.”
I think it’s Dakin where the boys learned the social graces of free samples, and was where they maybe learned that even though their parents divorced, life might not be too bad if everyone can sit together a table covered with a red and white plastic checked tablecloth and pass the syrup and talk about the day.
And I love this annual meandering day that takes us back up Route 7 to stop at Shelburne Farms, where the lambs seem to be popping out of ewes every time someone turns around. The air is bitter cold still, but we’re here with the farm babies and we know that spring really can’t be too far. Can it?
And the day was made better by not getting spit on by Freckles the guard llama as I did last year. Plus I had the bonus of being able to tell the story to everyone who was gathered around, and feel very farm-savvy by telling them to GET BACK when his ears lay against his head.
We talked and we played and the kids chased chickens and climbed big melting, dirty piles of snow. And we pondered the weird contradiction of adoring these new little animals who may be on our plates later this year, and felt good knowing we could be back in the same place, with the same conversation, next year.
Staging your own maple celebration? Here are a few favorite recipes from previous posts: