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Posts Tagged ‘Burlington’

Spreading Home-Cooked Love

Written by Melissa Pasanen on . Posted in Taste of the Landscape

A long time ago far away from Vermont, my husband was working the Christmas shift and I wanted to find something useful to do with myself. I remember naively calling some shelters and volunteer organizations only to be told, politely, that they were quite overwhelmed with offers of help around Christmas but could really use volunteers in February or July. I did eventually find an emergency kitchen that needed help serving a holiday meal and I still vividly remember one young family with a toddler, so appreciative of the hot meal and wrapped gift for their child.

Once our kids were old enough to help, we made this into a family tradition, including our two sons to help make food for a holiday meal offered on Christmas Day in the Old North End. For several years we’d all sit around and peel carrots, beets, turnips and parsnips for maple-roasted root vegetables; one December, we bagged up more than 100 gift packages of homemade granola. This year we cooked and delivered chili, from-scratch cornbread and creamy coleslaw for 40 to the Committee on Temporary Shelter’s Burlington location at the end of Christmas week. The meal featured many locally grown ingredients thanks to generous farmers who were happy for an opportunity to get their fresh, Vermont food out into the community. Delivering the meal and seeing the people who would eat what they’d helped cook made an impression on my teenage boys and a friend who also participated.

And yet every December, echoes of those requests for help in February still bounced around my head, but I always felt too busy or distracted by other community projects to go beyond the holiday cooking effort. This year, though, a perfect opportunity from COTS presented itself and I’m finally committing to making the time to help once a month, year-round, rather than just at the holidays. It’s a much smaller effort, making a small group dinner for a Wednesday night meeting, so I can basically just double a meal I’m already making for my family one day a month.

Cooking is something I enjoy, but feeding people is what I love, so why not spread a little home-cooked warmth around?

A good place to start looking for food-related (and other) volunteer opportunities is your local United Way. For example, United Way of Chittenden County’s Volunteer Connection page lists opportunities from cooking meals at the Winooski Teen Center to delivering Meals on Wheels in a few different towns.

Going Out (and Checking In) for Breakfast

Written by Melissa Pasanen on . Posted in Taste of the Landscape

Photo by Melissa Pasanen.

Several years ago, my younger son took music lessons in downtown Burlington every Saturday morning. About half the time, when some other activity was not scheduled right on top of the lesson, we’d cross the street afterwards for breakfast at Handy’s Lunch.

Handy’s is a three-generation landmark with a horseshoe-shaped counter, a warm welcome and strong coffee poured into classic, thick-walled, diner mugs. The food is also classic: good, straightforward breakfasts with crisp home fries and perfectly cooked eggs that aren’t trying to be anything more than they are.

As we ate, we’d enjoy the dynamics around the counter, joke about the legendary Yankees-Red Sox rivalry and just take a break from the jam-packed weekend schedule.

Those music lessons are long gone, as are the mornings when our two teenage sons woke up before 10 or 11 a.m., but we all miss the ritual of those Saturday morning breakfasts.

In our family (and those of most people I know), all four of us seem to be going in different directions at once, barreling toward the day that the boys will be gone for good.

Juggling the work schedules of three of us ― not to mention the boys’ sports and other extra-curriculars ― to find time to just hang out together is a challenge, even though we know it should be a priority.

One thing I still try to do is take the boys out to breakfast every so often, usually when they have a late-start morning at school. It’s an affordable and tasty investment in staying connected, not to mention a great way to start the day.
Some of our favorite places for breakfast in the Burlington area include Handy’s Lunch, the Dutch Mill, Mirabelles, and Penny Cluse. Around the state, we recommend The Mix Café in Jeffersonville, Stella’s in Hartland and Up For Breakfast in Manchester (coming in our winter issue). We’d love to hear about your favorite breakfast place! Email Vermont Life Food Editor Melissa Pasanen at or tell us via Twitter @VermontLife or on our Facebook page.

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