By Jordan Werner Barry
A Brutal Moment
The glass in front of me was familiar. A wine glass, stemmed, standing elegant and tall in contrast with the rough-hewn wood table underneath it. Its contents shimmered, the color of the evening’s post-rain golden hour. I could see it sparkling, the bubbles rising softly from the bottom of the glass and bursting eagerly when they reached the surface. How many meals in Paris start with the same scene? Something celebratory, but with the casual Parisian air that makes every occasion seem worthy of celebration. As I picked up the glass and anticipated my first sip, I remembered all the meals I’ve had that started just this way—a toast, clinking glasses—and realized how special it was that the glass was full of cidre instead of Champagne.
Brutus had only been open for nine days. I had been in Paris for four. It was fate. There are very few restaurants around the world that have lists of cider, not wine, and Brutus—a self-described Bar à Cidre—was the very first to open in Paris. We arrived at 99 Rue des Dames half an hour before they opened, and must have terrified the staff. We were a group of loud Americans without a reservation lingering by the door, excitedly pointing to the posted menu. This was not a happenstance dinner plan; it was our destination. I had somehow convinced eleven other people to trek to the Seventeenth Arrondissement to drink cider, and at least a bit of my enthusiasm seemed to have spread to the rest of the group.
A wary gentleman unlocked the door and ushered us in, greeting us first in French and moving quickly to English. He wanted to know why we were here, and we were happy to tell him. “She’s a cider expert!” one of my colleagues shared, despite my modest protest. “We’re from New York,” I said, almost as a qualifier to my experience. That must have been good enough for him, as he immediately asked me a litany of questions about cider in the United States. Was the industry really booming? Were they foraging for apples as much as they say they are? Had I ever been to Wassail? Apparently pleased with my answers, he led us to the two largest tables and handed us a pile of menus. Now the real test had begun.
The menu was a wooden block, about the size of a clipboard, with at least fifteen pages fastened on with a strap of leather and golden screws. Each one of those fifteen pages was filled with cider, and every bit of it was written in French. I can work my way around a wine list in French thanks to the number of words we don’t bother to translate, but this was a different story. I recognized some of the producer names—Domaine Dupont, Eric Bordelet, Cyril Zangs—but the organization of the list was mostly a mystery. Nouvelle Vague? Surprenant? Légéreté? Thank goodness for Google Translate, and for the gusto the group shared for working our way through the whole darn menu. If we couldn’t figure out what the words meant by reading them, we might as well taste them all and reverse-engineer the translations. The ciders were inexpensive, low in alcohol, and begging us to drink them.
I made my best guess and ordered us the “Titanic Extra Brut” from Ciderie Le Père Mahieu to start. Coming from the Contentin AOP in northwestern Normandy, it was a perfect balance of acid and tannin, completely dry, and good at pretending to be a Champagne. If none of us knew we were at a cider bar, we might have been fooled into thinking it had been made from grapes. Even though I drink a lot of cider, I find that it’s easiest to explain flavors and styles using tasting notes and references from wine. They’re both complicated worlds filled with geographic regulations and varietals with distinct flavors, but they’re made using the same process. For most people, the language of wine is at least a little familiar, and using it can make cider seem more approachable. In this case, we all agreed that it was the perfect way to start a meal.
Brutus isn’t just a bar, it’s also a crepêrie. Crepes and cider are a classic pairing from Normandy and Brittany, the two cider-producing regions in France, and Brutus serves a huge variety of savory galettes and sweet crepes. Since we were such a large group, we tried nearly one of everything. With every bite, I felt the comfort of this pairing. The ciders we tried balanced the richness of the cheese and crème fraiche in the savory crepes with acidity, minerality, and tannin, but they also highlighted the sweetness of the salted caramel and ice cream in the desserts. It’s a specific concept, sure, but it’s one that has been proving itself since well before cider’s recent boom. There’s a lot of truth behind the saying, “What grows together goes together,” and the menu at Brutus really shows off the agricultural bounty of northern France.
Seven bottles or so later, we had finally exhausted our appetites and our palates. After asking for l’addition and sharing our glowing praise with one of the owners, it was time for us to leave this little dreamland we had been in for a few hours. I was completely satisfied and satiated (on top of being slightly sauced), and stunned by the shear existence of this little restaurant. I spend a lot of time thinking about cider—what it tastes like, where it’s made, how people are drinking it—and most of that time, I feel like I have to explain and justify my interest. Why do I care so much, and why should the people around me care, too? There are only a few places where those questions don’t come up. Sitting around a barrel in a tasting room or standing amongst the trees in an orchard, we’re all on the same page, but we’re focused on a single producer, or what’s happening right in front of us. It’s about one style, or a handful of apple varieties, or the terroir of a single hillside. There’s an individualistic focus, almost a sales pitch. The cider world doesn’t lack a sense of community, but it lacks places that summarize, synthesize, and revel in all that the community is doing. New York has Wassail, but it struggles to hold its own against the wine bars that pop up on every corner. In order for consumers to understand the scope, variety, and depth of the cider industry, we need to embrace the idea of the cider bar.
Brutus is creating a place for cider in Paris. When I walked under its blue awning and through the glass door, I was in a world where cider was not just an agricultural product from a region in France that doesn’t produce wine, an afterthought. Cider was a luxury, an intentional accompaniment to my meal, and something to be taken seriously. It was dry, sweet, and everywhere in between, and it was both sparkling and still. Most of all, cider was something to celebrate, and I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to take part in that celebration.
Consider The Onion
September 22, 2016
It was the kind of Vermont summer afternoon that I imagine while I'm walking past wet piles of garbage in the New York springtime slush. The sun was beaming through the trees, and the breeze kissed our cheeks, and we could smell the warm dirt as we walked into the garden. On a whim I had invited twelve friends to gather at my parents' house along the Battenkill River in my hometown of Arlington. A group drove down from Burlington with cars full of Heady Topper and farm-fresh cheese. The rest of us came from New York City, overheated and desperate for fresh air. The two groups were strangers to each other; separate parts of my life were coming together for the first time, and everyone had a harvest basket in their hands. We had vegetables to pick and dinner to make.
We made introductions over rows of green beans and around bunches of arugula. My dad yelled over the fence, "You won't believe the onions!" I was sure he was joking, because the only thing I believed about onions was that they wouldn't grow in this garden. I have clear childhood memories of planting potatoes on the second Saturday in May, pulling beetles off of leaves in July, and harvesting the last snow-covered Brussels sprouts on Thanksgiving Day, all the while laughing about how we couldn't grow onions.
We set down our baskets and walked over to the onions, and I stared in shock as my dad pulled up one of the biggest, brightest red onions I had ever seen. As he tossed the tall green top into the compost, one of my city friends said, "All that for one onion? I can get a pound of onions for a dollar!" The whole group dissolved into laughter, picked up our baskets, and headed inside to cook.
As we washed and chopped, our talking was as busy as our hands. I noticed my two groups of friends relaxing around each other, sharing stories and tasks. I also noticed that all of their stories were about food. I was showing my friends my food culture and they, in turn, were sharing theirs. We made pizzas on the charcoal grill and savored the sweet vegetables we had just picked. We chatted about learning to cook, the best meals we had ever had, and how the hell onions could be so inexpensive. Food became a vehicle for getting to know each other, and it was a better conversation starter than any icebreaker game we could have played. When I think of the reasons that I study food, I imagine that weekend. Food connects us. We all eat, and eating gives us stories to tell.
An Immune Myth?
For as long as I have admired French culture—years of filling my wardrobe with striped shirts and having a glass of wine with lunch—the image of the baguette has been the symbol that has stuck out in my mind. Sure, we have great bakeries here in New York, but we don’t value them the way that the French do! The French love their baguettes so much that they go out to buy one every morning! Stories about French food culture are plentiful, and they all highlight the overwhelming pride that the French take in the procurement, preparation, and pleasurable eating of food. Amongst all of the dishes and ingredients we think of as uniquely French, the baguette is the most visible. Baguettes stick out of every bag and bicycle basket on the street. A baguette can be breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It stands on its own, the top ripped off when it’s fresh out of the oven, but it is also a perfect vehicle for cheese, butter, jam, and pâté. The baguette, in all of its long, golden-brown glory, has held all the myths I believed about French food culture inside of its crust.
I headed to Paris fully aware of my preconceived notions, and prepared for my baguette myth to be busted. Most food myths these days are just that; they live as romantic, nostalgic relics of older ways of eating, long ago displaced by industrialization, modernization, and globalization. I was ready to face the reality of frozen baguettes at Picard, and empty storefronts where boulangeries once stood. What I found, though, was a “myth” as strong and alive as the levain that starts every loaf. Baguettes were everywhere.
The first baguette I encountered in Paris was abandoned on the sidewalk, propped up against a classic limestone building. Were baguettes so ubiquitous that they had become something so easily tossed aside? Not only was the baguette alive and well, it was overabundant! Busy boulangeries dotted the streets, and I saw plenty of baguettes peeking out of purses. The romantic bakeries, summed up by our experience in the basement of Poilâne, were making bread that lived up to my long-held expectations.
I quickly stopped being shocked by the truth of the myth and started looking at how the Parisians were performing it. While we were all crowded into la Goutte d’Or, a customer came into the brewery—clearly a regular, based on his jovial conversation with the brewer—and set his baguette on the counter. That action didn’t surprise me, since I’ve often set my own bags down while I was shopping. Why did I notice, then? The baguette was completely bare! Unwrapped, unprotected, and sitting directly on the counter. Did this guy realize how unsanitary he was being? I was completely disgusted, but also curious. Later that night, when talking to a Parisian native, I brought up the unprotected baguette for clarification. That couldn’t be normal, right? Leopold, in a perfectly French, casual manner, simply said, “Baguettes are immune.” His justification—that the bumps on the bottom make it so that only part of the baguette’s surface is touching the counter—didn’t satisfy my disbelief. This bread was so normal, such a part of the culture, that it didn’t need to be wrapped up, protected, or sterilized. Did the French just have different health code standards, or was this bread truly mythical and immune from the dirt of everyday life?
I haven’t been able to escape the baguette since returning to the reality of my everyday life. I’m not eating them each morning with the same fervor that I did in Paris, but I am working on a project that centers around the mysterious world of bread. I have been transcribing hours upon hours of tapes from some of the best bakers in the world, including Appolonia Poilâne and Eric Kayser. In each of these interviews, these professionals share the meaning of bread in their lives—livelihood and passion, nostalgia and craft—and the baguette plays a central role. The French bakers describe it as the pinnacle of baking, and the American bakers complain about the difficulty of making it. One tape even says, “A day in France is not really complete without interacting with a baguette.” Listening to these perspectives fall along cultural lines has reinforced the mythical role of the baguette in French culture and kept it as a central character in the American desire to celebrate French food. The baguettes themselves may not be immune, but the myth of the French baguette certainly seems to be.
November 19, 2015
What makes a good wine list? At Wassail, the answer has nothing to do with wine. Sure, you’ll hear the bartenders talking about tannins and acid, body and bubbles—but inside this restaurant and bar on Orchard Street, they’re using those terms to describe cider. Cider-focused restaurants are a new phenomenon, but American cider production is booming and cidermakers are delivering varietal- and terroir-driven ciders that deserve to be showcased. According to Wassail’s Cider Director, Dan Pucci, the restaurant is a tribute to the city’s early history. “New York is hallowed ground for apples. Cider was America’s first table wine, and by celebrating that, we’re paying homage to the apple trees that once grew here,” Pucci said. Wassail’s beverage program features more than 90 ciders, both on draft and by-the-bottle, as well as apple-influenced cocktails. The restaurant’s well curated food menu is inspired by the cuisines of cidermaking regions and dedicated to exploring the pairing qualities of cider. With everything they serve, Wassail is working to educate its customers about the diversity of cider and all of the ways it can be enjoyed.
The cider list at Wassail features ciders from around the globe, and is broken down both by region and by style. The menu is designed with approachability and education in mind, as the number of customers who are familiar with cider is small and the styles can be confusing. Thankfully, though, the scope is broad enough that the list includes unique, hard-to-find ciders for the real “cider nerds,” because, as Pucci said, “where else would those be?” When he’s adding ciders to the list, Pucci values variety. The menu typically includes 12-16 different ciders on draught, organized into an “American Flight,” miscellaneous domestic offerings, and an “International Flight.” The emphasis on American ciders shows the range that cider can have—from sparkling to completely still, dry to sweet, approachable and quaffable to funky and earthy. Draft offerings range from $5-15 per glass, with most around $8.
The bottle list changes less frequently than the draft list, with more than 90 ciders represented. The organization is easy to follow, even if you’re completely new to cider. North American ciders are separated into three categories: Fruit, Savory, and Wild. Within those categories, the bottles are organized by producer, noting the size of the bottle (which can vary significantly with ciders, unlike the 750-mL standard for wine), and brief descriptions of tasting notes, carbonation level, and other important signifiers. Beyond North America, the bottles are arranged in geographic categories: Sidra-Spain, Sagardoa-Basque, Cider-Britain, Cidre-France, Cider-Elsewhere. Additionally, part of the list is dedicated to Ice Cider, Pommeau, Eau de Vie, Calvados, and Apple Brandy. Wassail does offer a small selection of craft beer and wine to appease customers who aren’t looking for cider, and those are chosen to complement the regions and styles of the ciders on the list.
Because the cider industry is evolving so quickly, the staff at Wassail has mostly come to cider from elsewhere in the foodservice world. When hiring, Pucci said, “We look for qualified restaurant people, because cider programs are so rare. If you do the service right, it’s easy to learn the cider.” For that reason, training involves lots of tasting, immersion in events, talking with cidermakers, and adapting to cider ingredients and stories. Eric Endsley, Wassail’s head bartender, said that learning to compartmentalize similarities between cider and his wine background has been helpful, especially when he guides customers who are new to cider. “I like to ask, ‘What would you be drinking if you weren’t here?’ Using wine as a reference helps me lead the customer to something they’ll enjoy,” said Endsley. Pucci organizes cider in major categories, focusing on ‘sweet,’ ‘dry,’ and ‘funky.’ Within those general guidelines, he considers the cider’s body, carbonation, alcohol content, and tasting notes—the variety on the list makes it easy to appease a Riesling drinker and can lead to an exciting discovery for someone who defaults to tannic red wines.
Wassail’s employees act as teachers, bartenders, sommeliers, and cider industry representatives all at the same time, and the restaurant’s comfortable atmosphere makes it easy to sit down and have a conversation about cider. On a typical evening, the crowd usually dies down after the kitchen closes, and the atmosphere feels more like a wine bar than a restaurant. Warm, low lighting, dark wood, white marble, minimalist taps, and even a traditional Waes Hael scene depicted on a spinning lampshade make the décor cozy, inviting, and distinctly tied to cider’s traditions. For most of its customers, Wassail’s focus on cider makes it a destination. The staff is happy to serve a beer or make a classic cocktail when necessary, though. “We’re doing something high-end and super specific in a neighborhood that gets a little rowdy,” said Endsley. “Sometimes we get the bro-verflow.”
The American cider industry is having a renaissance, and Wassail is its gathering place. Its singular focus on exploring and promoting cider give it a unique perspective in the restaurant industry and in New York City, and make developing and serving the beverage list an adventure for Pucci and his staff. Wassail is successful because all aspects of the restaurant are thoughtful, passionate, and welcoming, and the cider list (and its connection to its burgeoning industry) clearly reflects that.
April 3, 2017
My go-to Chinese food delivery order is an egg roll, pork fried dumplings, orange chicken, and fried rice. It’s a combination that I eat at least once a month, and the flavors are so familiar that I can taste them as soon as I hit “submit order” on Seamless. The ingredients, though—and the history of where these dishes come from and how they developed—had always been a total mystery to me.
Last Friday, the HRN team headed to the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD), and all of my mysteries were solved. The current exhibit at MOFAD is Chow: Making the Chinese American Restaurant. Walking into the museum’s warehouse space right off of McCarren Park in Williamsburg, we were all blown away by the floor-to-ceiling wall of white and red take-out boxes. Our guide, MOFAD’s Partnerships Manager Kate Dobday, encouraged us to enter the exhibit by walking through this “Curtain of Many.” After five minutes of taking boomerangs and playing with the boxes, Kate wrangled us back together and explained the curtain’s significance. The curtain is made of more than 7,000 take-out boxes, strung together by hand (thanks to very patient MOFAD staff and volunteers). Each box represents seven of the 50,000+ Chinese restaurants in America. Ready for a knockout fact? There are more Chinese restaurants in the United States than all of the Burger King, Wendy’s, and McDonald’s combined.
Chow: Making the Chinese American Restaurant celebrates the birth and evolution of Chinese American restaurants, tracing their nearly 170-year history and sparking conversation about food culture, immigration, and what it means to be American. Chinese Americans faced almost a century of exclusionary immigration laws, but during that time they created one of the country’s most beloved cuisines. Chinese restaurant owners took their traditional dishes and adapted them to American palates, creating classics that we still eat today, like Chop Suey. The dish’s origin story is murky, but it is undoubtedly American.
Next, we traced the evolution of the cuisine over time by checking out the huge menu timeline. The display is a collection of menus from Chinese American restaurants dating back to 1910, organized by decade. Besides being shocked by the early prices (10 cents for a meal deal!), we were amazed to see which dishes stood the test of time. Did Wonton soup taste the same in 1940 as it does today? I found myself wishing that the next part of the exhibit were a time machine.
It wasn’t a time machine, but the next part of the exhibit took my mind off that wish pretty quickly. Ms. Cleo, the museum’s 1,500-pound fortune cookie machine, was being temperamental while we were there, but thankfully had produced enough cookies to fulfill our snacking needs. Our cookies were filled with messages of goodwill from people around the world, which we found out were part of MOFAD’s Project Fortune. At projectfortune.mofad.org, you can submit messages that will end up in the hands of museum-goers. We gave it our best shot, submitting a slightly sarcastic, “Don’t worry, the grass isn’t much greener.” Maybe we should have eaten more cookies first.
While we were waiting for the final part of the exhibit, we snuck into the remnants of MOFAD’s first exhibition, Flavor: Making It and Faking It. The museum still displays a few interactive smell machines, which had been part of a tasting and smelling adventure that highlighted the $25 billion flavor industry. We had a blast making combos on the Smell Synth, mimicking a fine bourbon by combining the scents of smoke, maple, and booze, then weirding ourselves out by making a bang-on scent of orange soda with orange and nail polish remover.
The Chow exhibition saves the tastiest part for last: a live cooking demo. We learned all about using cornstarch as a thickening agent while chef John Hutt whipped up beef and black pepper dumplings in the Chow Culinary Studio for each of us. The recipe, created by Chef Lee Anne Wong of Koko Head Cafe, is the recipe of the month for the exhibit, and is worth the trip on its own. After those delicious bites, we were treated to beer from Brooklyn Brewery (a great pairing with dumplings, by the way), and MOFAD Executive Director Peter Kim’s hilariously accurate impression of Heritage Radio Network founder, Patrick Martins. All-in-all, we think the museum should change its name to MOFUN.
Magic In West Kerry
July 20, 2015
The pub was dark, with just a pair of customers sitting by the window. Filled with knick-knacks and secluded nooks, a gentle scent of stale beer, and a stately gentleman pouring pints behind the bar, everything seemed as it should for a rural pub in West Kerry. Until we looked at the beer taps, that is. We weren’t after Guinness, but it would have been hard to find it if we were. Paul, the stately gentleman, spoke softly and listed three beers: a cask conditioned dark ale, a golden ale, and a red ale. Those were the day’s choices, their descriptions, and the closest they had to brand names. Sure, there were bottles of whiskey behind him and other beers tucked off to his left, but the three he listed were the only real options.
The West Kerry Brewery started eight years ago, after Paul and Adrienne, who was out delivering beer during our visit, took a trip around the Northeast United States. They happened to visit a number of microbreweries, and they noticed the way these businesses fit so well into their local communities—especially in the smaller, more rural areas. Back home in rural Ireland, Paul and Adrienne already owned Bricks Pub, though they had been trying to sell it. After their trip, they realized that they had an opportunity on their hands. “Everything in Ireland was foul,” said Paul. With a bold idea and a big dose of inspiration, they took a brief brewing course and bought brewing equipment in the UK. “We learned a basic recipe and then ignored what everyone else was doing,” said Paul. “Fairly typical of Adrienne to want to be different.” Their pub had been around (in one form or another) since the 1890s, when it sat near the local creamery and served as a shopping hub and local meeting spot. After the creamery closed, the pace of the pub slowed and business just trudged along for many years. With this new venture, though, Paul and Adrienne were happy to still have the pub—the pub’s license meant that they could sell the beer they made on site, which would be difficult or even impossible to do if they were simply a brewery.
As far as scale goes, the West Kerry Brewery could be considered micro-micro. In fact, Paul stated that “the only commercial brewery smaller than us is The Roadside Tavern in County Clare.” The brewery makes beer twice a week, producing 700 liters each time. Distribution is centered in Dingle, with a wholesaler in Dublin who gets 10% of the total to supply the rest of the country. The beers they make vary, but they’re always ales because of the way yeast is added during the brewing process. Seasonally, they’re turning to local ingredients to make flavored beer; adding blackberries picked from the hedgerow to a porter, or elderflowers and rosehips from the garden to a golden ale. “Hundreds of years ago, when hops weren’t available, people flavored beer with whatever was around them,” said Paul. “I noticed we’ve got plenty of nettles, but I don’t particularly want the job of picking them.” Using these ingredients, yeast cultivated in Bandon, and their own well water (plus sourcing their malted barley in Ireland) gives the beer a strong sense of place. “We think about the terroir, and want the beer to be rooted in the local area,” said Paul.
Highlighting “local” is a trend both in Ireland and in the craft brewing industry. According to Paul, “Our emphasis on local is just going back to the way things were and really the way things should be.” It’s a beautiful sentiment, echoed by John Duffy of Beoir.ie (in the article “Irish Craft Beer Goes Mainstream” from the Irish Times), “My line has always been that it’s a renormalization of the way Irish brewing used to be, before the 20th century.” The notion of a super small, barely distributed, highly localized beer that is connected to the wild landscape would cause a ruckus in the United States. The American hype surrounding craft beer, especially when it’s exclusive, is driving the industry to grow and fostering creativity. Does that sort of hype exist in Ireland, or are Paul and Adrienne relying on their neighbors to support them?
The West Kerry Brewery wasn’t teeming with tourists (other than our group), but does tourism play a role in keeping their lights on? Creans, made at the Dingle Brewing Company, was clearly curated as a tourism experience (with the side product being a drinkable, refreshing beer)—and they’re exporting that image onto airplanes and into pubs in Boston. It’s not a bad way of brewing beer, but it’s certainly a different model. In fact, our tour guide told us, “We try to be a bit above ‘craft,’ but we’re craft when it suits us.” After visiting West Kerry, that claim seems like an affront to the true micro (or micro-micro) brewers. Perhaps there’s a place for a gateway beer like Creans, introducing Irish drinkers to a “crafty” beer and showing tourists a flourishing Irish industry, but it feels disingenuous after spending time with Paul and Adrienne. Faced with these two extremes of “craft” brewing, it will be interesting to see how the industry evolves in Ireland. Will it go where the money is, catering to tourists and exporting itself? Will communities rally around their pubs even if they don’t have Guinness? Personally, the romanticism of the West Kerry Brewery has skewed my view and has me wishing for a Wild Atlantic Way dotted with pubs producing their own beer, connecting to the landscape, and doing it how it used to be done.
Cherry Bombe: Not Your Mother’s Food Magazine
Content Analysis through a Food & Gender Lens
Cherry Bombe is a feminist publication, but that’s not the point. It is a magazine that champions women the same way that Ms. Magazine has since the 1970s—celebrating the successes and innovations of women, tackling highly-gendered topics, and facing down gender stereotypes—but its modern approach to feminism is such that being feminist isn’t the focus, it’s the happy byproduct. In fact, based on its design and exterior appearance, Cherry Bombe is an enigma; the uninitiated could glimpse at its cover and not know whether to categorize it with Cosmopolitan, Ms., or Martha. The joy of Cherry Bombe is its irreverent design, and how, as it is with modern women and third-wave feminism, gender is more than skin deep.
The cover of each of Cherry Bombe’s six issues, published biannually since 2013, is starkly white and matte-finished, with just the title, the issue number, and one large photo on the front. There are no headlines on either side to entice readers to crack it open, and the only hint at the issue’s theme is a cryptic phrase on the binding. “Tastemakers,” “Baked,” “Girl Crush,” “New School/Old School,” “Pet Project,” and “Eat My Words” all sound like appropriate subjects for a magazine about women and food, but those vague phrases are a far cry from the “Crack the BRO CODE to Win Big @ Work” or “Wild Dates: That Big Bang is the Sound of His Head Exploding!” on the April 2016 cover of Cosmopolitan (a magazine that many people think of first when the phrase ‘women’s magazine’ is mentioned). Without those teasers, how does a prospective reader take the leap of paying $20 for an issue and lifting the nearly two-pound brick of a magazine off of the newsstand? Cherry Bombe’s minimalist approach to the idea of a magazine cover is an unusual marketing strategy, and a hint at the cheeky approach the magazine takes throughout each issue.
The draw of a Cherry Bombe cover is all in that singular photo. For each of the magazine’s six issues, the cover photo has been a woman (or two) with a prop. The women are all celebrities in the food world (and also outside it, in the case of supermodel Karlie Kloss and actress Lena Dunham). Their clothing is casual and sometimes comedic; Christina Tosi sports a shirt that reads “Doughs Over Bros” on her front cover, and Ruth Reichl wears a sweater with a cartoon cherry (and a burning fuse at the end of the stem) on hers. There’s no cleavage, but there also aren’t any frilly aprons. These photos are of women being themselves, looking like they do in real life. The props, though, feel more significant. Karlie Kloss is licking cookie dough off of a spoon on Issue No.1, Kristen Kish is chomping into an apple on Issue No.4, and Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner are holding maraschino cherries between their teeth on Issue No.6. These three cover photos are of women eating food, and eating food suggestively. There might not be a racy headline, but there’s meaning behind each image. The fact that Lena Dunham is wearing a fuzzy pink sweater (hiding her body more than she ever does on her television show) while she suggestively bites a cherry is the real key to Cherry Bombe—there’s not just one way for women to deal with food.
Flipping through the pages of an issue of Cherry Bombe, the visuals immediately stand out, even though there are many pages with only text. Every photo is carefully curated and mesmerizing, but the tone and style of the photography and illustration is completely different from page to page. The color schemes change like moods—soft, light, and airy pink flowers on one page give way to dark, high-contrast photos of hands chopping a whole fish in half with a large, sharp knife just a few pages later. There are photos of women farming in green fields and sunshine, and silhouettes of restaurant owners in dark kitchens. There are comical sketches of animal heads on top of women’s bodies, and close-ups of cocktails that look like science experiments. Looking at an issue of Cherry Bombe (without even reading the words) is like having a long conversation with a good friend over a glass of wine; the mood ebbs and flows, and the tone dips between happy and sad. The visuals evoke laughter, despair, success, disappointment, comfort, and awkwardness. The handling of these visuals and their layout throughout each issue is a great contrast to the straightforward, minimalist covers. The pages of Cherry Bombe show the depth, moodiness, and range of emotion that women sometimes feel, and the bright, positive covers represent the cheerful, put-together personas that society expects them to show to the world.
The range of moods and feelings represented by the visuals in Cherry Bombe also highlight the different relationships that women have with food. Food can be livelihood, hobby, and duty. It can bring both respite and dread. Many magazines, especially women’s magazines and food publications that have been published for many years, only show the positive, bright, exterior personas of women and their relationships to food. That exterior stereotype is appealing in the magazine industry because it sells lots of copies. Cheerful photos of women who have it all together entice readers to buy the magazines, in hopes that they can emulate the perfect woman on the cover. Cherry Bombe doesn’t try to sell any illusions of perfection. The messaging that Cherry Bombe’s design, visuals, and tone send to its readers is that it’s okay to be excited, successful, and strong while still being feminine; and it’s also okay to refuse to be feminine at all.
Cherry Bombe shows women embracing and taking control of traditional female stereotypes, but it also shows women who actively reject them. The dichotomy of classic femininity and gender norms versus Judith Butler’s idea of “gender trouble” is a great theme of the third-wave of feminism. Butler wrote, “…gender is in no way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceed; rather, it is an identity tenuously constituted in time – an identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts.” (p. 519) A woman no longer needs to reject something because it is a stereotype, if the stereotype is something she wishes to perform. Third-wave feminism, and the path that the movement is currently taking, has an aura of “we can do what we want!” Women are not fighting for the right to vote, or focusing their efforts on single issues—the mindset of third-wave feminism is that a woman can choose her own identity and perform it freely, no matter what it might be. Like moods, identities are fluid and shifting, and the binaries of male and female, feminine and unfeminine are no longer absolute. The third wave of feminism acknowledges that it can’t escape gender, but it is working to re-determine what gender means. Cherry Bombe is positioning itself firmly in the third wave, because it is playing with ideas of gender and identity, cultural norms of mood and public persona, and subverting the historical protocol for dealing with gender in magazines. Cherry Bombe expresses and celebrates all of the identities that women and feminism could want to perform.
Chipotle: For the Brave and Strong
Chipotle’s latest advertisement in the New York City subway system shows a cylinder of aluminum foil with the tagline, “Culinary Monsterpiece.” Chipotle is a well-established national brand, but its recent trouble with food safety has put it in an interesting predicament: Chipotle needs its customers to come back. One way of winning back loyal customers would be to reassure them, make them feel comfortable, and play up the small-scale, emotionally driven sourcing choices that Chipotle has been known for in the past. Instead, this Chipotle advertisement is conveying masculinity, and appealing to men’s stereotypical sense of competition.
The imagery of a mysterious, foil-wrapped, phallic object is saying, “It is manly to eat this, even though literally anything could be inside that aluminum foil—I dare you to dig in.” It sends the message that eating potentially (though hopefully not) contaminated food is macho, and eating it puts you in the category of thrill-seeker. Chipotle is not in a place to appeal to anyone’s delicate sensibilities after instances of E. coli and norovirus. It makes sense, then, that they would market to the brave, the tough, the iron-stomached, the hungry; all of which lead to the assumption that they are marketing to men. Furthermore, including the word “monster” implies an oversized portion, perfect fuel for the stereotype of men requiring super-sized amounts of food in order to be satisfied. The advertisement is challenging men to get back in line at Chipotle, throw caution to the wind, and finish the whole burrito. “Besides, aren’t you hungry enough to eat a monster-sized unidentified object?”
The Vermont Food Brand: Snacking on Cheddar and Maple Syrup during a Performance of “Nationalism”
I live in one of the most vibrant food cities in the world, and can walk through a grocery store with a cheese case that rivals the size of my apartment. Why, then, do I always zero in on the small section with the tags that say, “Made in Vermont?” Nostalgia for food from home is something that isn’t unique to me, but I’ve noticed that it is especially strong among my fellow Vermont “expats.” I’ve had conversations with old friends and strangers alike about our willingness to pay $5.99 for a block of Cabot cheddar, knowing full well that it should only be $3.99 (and a dollar less on Thursdays, before the new week’s shipment arrives). I have an app that alerts me when a bar in the New York gets a keg of beer from Hill Farmstead, and that’s still the only reason I’ve ever gone to Queens. I once paid $10 and waited two hours for a pint of maple creemee to be delivered to my apartment from a store in Brooklyn called “Corner of Vermont,” and slurped at the melted mess with a sense of complete satisfaction.
What is the mystique of Vermont’s food products? It obviously exists beyond my specific tastes, because the official, state-sanctioned and regulated “Made in Vermont” label is a nationwide marketing strategy. Vermont has successful international brands, including Ben & Jerry’s, King Arthur Flour, and Keurig Green Mountain Coffee, and it has more obscure cult products that draw high prices throughout the United States. The Alchemist Brewery’s Heady Topper sells for an astonishing $17 per can at a bar in Brooklyn, and is frequently sold out. Beyond the pure quality of its products, Vermont is telling a beautiful story through its food. It is a story that harkens back to the state’s agrarian heritage, vibrant landscape, and fiercely independent work ethic. This story, filled with images of cows grazing next to covered bridges and farmers putting jars of Switchel in a stream to keep them cool, can be traced to historical realities about life in Vermont yet is still a valid depiction of the state’s brand today. That brand, in the context of selling products outside of Vermont’s borders, is an economic success story. Furthermore, the Vermont brand has become such a source of pride among Vermonters that it has encouraged a state ideology, and I would argue that the ideology has become so powerful that it has evolved into a performance of imagined “nationalism”.
The “Vermonter” is often summed-up in a contradictory way: self-reliant with a strong sense of community. Standoffish at first, you have to prove to a Vermonter that you’re worth having around. If you can do that, you’ll have an honest and loyal friend for life, and you will be woven into a deep network of sharing and tolerance. These qualities, rare in the modern world, fueled Vermont’s cultural development and continue to drive its communities, economy, and brand today. At the beginning of Vermont’s history, its first inhabitants were eager to leave the established colonies of Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire and head into the inhospitable hills of the Green Mountains. They were drawn by the freedom of undeveloped wilderness and the idea of making an independent life. The land they found was difficult but fertile, and communities sprung up in the valleys to support the farmsteads that dotted the hills. An agricultural economy emerged, along with outspoken leaders who organized town meetings and created their own laws. (Albers, 2000, p. 113) As one of Vermont’s ‘founding fathers,’ Ira Allen, so aptly said, “The Genius of Vermont was fruitful in resources; even in the gulph of difficulties and on the verge of ruin she waxed strong, extended her wings, and made herself known among the nations of the earth.” (Bryan & McClaughry, 1989, p. 12)
Vermont’s independence as a republic only lasted until 1791, but that strength didn’t go away with statehood. Joining the United States gave Vermont stable trade partners for their agricultural products and ushered in a period of economic growth, but it also gave Vermonters a set of other states to compare themselves to. The Allen brothers and their Green Mountain Boys were hesitant to give up their rough-around-the-edges ways, and felt that the way that Vermont’s culture and society were developing didn’t necessarily fit into the mold that New York and the other states desired for them. Ethan Allen famously confronted the ‘Yorkers,’ when he said, “Sir, the gods of the hills are not the gods of the valleys.” (Muller, 2007) His point, besides being a show of strength, was that the unique principles that Vermonters were relying on to shape their communities would resist conforming to the ways of the cities and flatlands of the other states. (Bryan & McClaughry, 1989, p. 14)
Rather than adapt its values and local governance to that of its neighboring states, early Vermonters set out to attract the types of people who would fit in to the communities they had already established. Descriptions of Vermont as a fertile and productive landscape spread by word of mouth, but the state’s writers and poets also pitched in. “The marketing of Vermont as a bucolic paradise has a long history…. Vermont’s earliest spin doctors were working overtime in the late eighteenth century.” (Albers, 2000, p. 94) Thomas Rowley, in his poem “To Rutland Go,” (from Albers, 2000) writes:
West of the Mountain Green
Lies Rutland fair;
The best that e’er was seen
For soil and air:
Kind zephyr’s pleasant breeze,
Whispers among the trees,
Where men may live at ease,
With prudent care.
Rowley’s promises were embellished for poetic effect, but his words helped draw in like-minded citizens, and the values that Vermonters held so closely only continued to develop as part of the state’s subconscious. As time wore on and the Industrial Revolution took hold elsewhere in the United States, Vermont remained a largely agricultural state. Farmers turned from small-scale sheep and wheat farming (largely lost to the open lands of the west) to dairy, and became a main supplier of milk and cheese to the booming industrial cities of the late 1800s. (Albers, 2000, p. 206) The demand for Vermont’s dairy products from Boston and New York created the landscape that persists in Vermont today – cows grazing outside of red barns, round bales of hay scattered in fields along dirt roads, and villages bustling with general stores, churches with white steeples, and local schools – and that is the image that most people now conjure up as soon as the state is mentioned.
The food industry in Vermont quickly realized the power of its bucolic villages and productive farms. By promoting their dairy products as being “from Vermont,” they were selling an authentic image and an implied freshness and quality. The city buyers bought in to the marketing, and the brand continued to grow into a successful tool for selling all sorts of agricultural products from the state. Soon, the maple syrup that farmers made as a way of diversifying their income was synonymous with the state. “Long before coffee and chocolate marketers ever thought of promoting single-estate foods, before single-vineyard wines were common in California, Vermont was full of single-sugarbush syrups.” (Jacobsen, 2010, p. 18) Maple, like dairy before it, was promoted as being small-scale, authentic, and higher quality than the syrup from other states. Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee said, “History has demonstrated that where Vermont farmers have taken advantage of their location, resources, brand, environment and local and regional markets to develop and distribute products that appeal to consumers, many have prospered.” (Allbee, 2010) The 2006 Rule CF 120 Representation of Vermont Origin Rule was a response to that brand success. The state government realized that many companies were marketing products as being “Made in Vermont,” and wanted to make sure that those claims were accurate. This rule is a huge statement about the implied value of the Vermont brand, and was an important step taken to protect it.
Beyond legal regulation, the state of Vermont has made a concerted effort to define the meaning of the “Vermont brand.” It’s easy to let the idyllic scenes of a Vermont postcard hold the whole meaning of the brand, because those scenes are a great tool for selling cheese and maple syrup. The state has been careful to keep that imagery from being too nostalgic, though, by focusing on the strength of the local food systems and the stories of the farmers and artisans who are working to preserve the landscape in the state today. Sticking to the successes of the businesses and products that are supporting the state’s economy right now as the heft of the brand seems to be a more legitimate portrayal than some of the brand definitions that were tried in the past. For example, Amy Trubek shares the debate from the 2005 Governor’s Summit on the Vermont Destination:
One faction had wanted the state’s primary slogan to be “A Beckoning Country.” Others, however, worried that it did not truly reflect the Vermont sensibility, and so the slogan was changed to “A Special World.” The second choice, he [the Secretary of Marketing and Tourism] felt, perpetuated an insularity that interfered with economic development. This fear of being too romantic, too idealistic, or too protective of a vision of Vermont that ultimately did not foster economic progress was an underlying theme in many discussions. (Trubek, 2008, p. 214)
In essence, the debate only shows that the meaning and details of the Vermont brand are hard to define. The great success of the Governor’s Summit is not a unanimous definition, but the fact that nobody involved in the conversation is denying that the brand exists and has value.
The state government’s involvement in developing the Vermont brand is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, it is giving legitimacy to the notion that Vermont has valuable food products and that those products are an important part of the state economy. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the government’s involvement is hinting at the existence of a state ideology. It’s clear that Vermont’s citizens have shared a set of beliefs and a statewide culture since its earliest history, but the fact that those beliefs and that culture are part of the political discourse shows that there is something bigger going on. At this point, the Vermonter’s desire for authenticity and independence and the value that the landscape holds is so entrenched in the state’s subconscious that it is manifesting in the laws that are being made to govern and preserve the state; and those laws are thereby ensuring that the collective values continue to be understood by each citizen of the state. You won’t see a single billboard while you drive through Vermont, because the government recognized the value of keeping the landscape free from advertisements. A Vermonter will likely tell you about the lack of billboards, because that law is a source of pride throughout the state. The fact that billboards are a common topic of conversation (even in their absence) is a perfect example of the influence of the state ideology.
Cultural norms, which run strong in Vermont, are constantly reinforced and can be harder to break than laws. As in Anne Allison’s example of mothers in Japan making elaborate obentō boxes for their children to take for lunch at school, culture and its expectations are so strong that it doesn’t need to be a written law to be strictly adhered to by most of the population. At that level, the state ideology is “no longer enforced from outside, it is adopted as one’s own.” (Allison, 2013, p. 166) The ideology she is struggling with could be considered oppressive, but a state ideology isn’t always a negative force. There is no law in Vermont requiring food producers to connect to the ‘authenticity’ and ‘taste of place’ of their products, but most producers make those connections clearly. WhistlePig Rye Whiskey markets its spirits as being “as hardy as the early Vermont patriots,” and their business as somewhere that the “soil and history may be rich, but WhistlePig Farm is a simple place.” (www.whistlepigwhiskey.com) Caledonia Spirits writes that their Bar Hill Gin is “rooted in the agriculture of Vermont,” and a “celebration of our special connection to the land.” (www.caledoniaspirits.com) Vermont Creamery says that purchasing their butter and cheese is “supporting a farmer and the working rural landscape that characterizes Vermont.” (www.vermontcreamery.com)
The connection between marketing and the state ideology is explicit. Buying agricultural, value-added products from Vermont is a statement in support of rural heritage, small farms, and the hard work it takes to keep them running. As an even starker example, Lake Champlain Chocolates advertises that, “Vermont is more than an address for this chocolate company. It’s home – where we live, who we are, and how we do business…. Why did we go local so long before it was cool? Call it Vermont instincts.” (www.lakechamplainchocolates.com) Beyond subtly using elements of the state ideology, Lake Champlain Chocolates is labeling it “instincts!” And, in many cases, the connection that individuals (and even businesses) have to the values of the state do feel so natural, positive, and ingrained that they could be considered instinctual. Frank Bryan and John McClaughry write, “The Vermonter’s attachment to his land has recognized its aesthetic and productive and sometimes its market values, but more commonly it has been an attachment of the soul.” (Bryan & McClaughry, 1989, p. 221) The state ideology that exists in Vermont is not one of oppression, like Anne Allison’s obentō boxes. It is an ideology that celebrates Vermont and creates an astonishing sense of pride in its people.
Vermonters have a deep emotional connection to their state that doesn’t exist many places in the world. The “quiet but deep-seated attachment of the Vermonter to his native soil” (Bryan & McClaughry, 1989, p. 221) becomes even more obvious when Vermonters move away from their beloved state. Vermont “expats” leave for many reasons, but they usually leave begrudgingly. In interviews with several Vermont expats, I found that seeking out and purchasing food products from Vermont was a common way of connecting to their homeland. Katie, who recently moved from Burlington, Vermont to Washington, D.C., has been actively searching for familiar Vermont products and trying to incorporate them into a convenient grocery shopping routine. She is not impressed with the quantity or variety available, though, and even likened their existence to the mythical lake monster of Lake Champlain, saying, “It’s kind of like Champ. Tons of people have said they’ve seen them, but I have yet to spot much for myself.” (K. Corliss, personal communication, November 17, 2015)
Katie went on to say that she was able to find a few products from Vermont, including Cabot Cheddar, King Arthur Flour, and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. She clarified that the scale of each of these companies put them in a different category from the products she was really looking for and “I don’t really consider them Vermont products, but it hasn’t stopped me from buying them anyway and they really make me think of home.” (K. Corliss, personal communication, November 17, 2015) In this example, Katie is reclassifying what she considers a “Vermont product” to fit the restrictions of her new environment. Her state loyalty is stronger than her distaste for the fact that Ben & Jerry’s is owned by Unilever. Isabelle, who moved from Lincoln, Vermont to Santa Fe, New Mexico three years ago, talked of the strong local food culture in New Mexico, saying that there might not be much room for other brands to take root there. Right after that, though, she mentioned a cheese shop that “is having a serious love affair with Vermont. The owner told me he believes Vermont makes the best cheese in the country, and he stocks his store with Shelburne Farms, Jasper Hill, and Blue Ledge as well as Vermont jams and pickles.” (I. Clark, personal communication, November 20, 2015) Isabelle’s experience talking with the owner of the cheese shop about Vermont’s bounty is common among expats. The pride that Vermonters have for their state is magnified when they leave, and something as simple as seeing Jasper Hill’s Alpha Tolman can easily spark a conversation with a stranger – even in the opposite corner of the United States.
Vermont has the second-smallest population in the United States, but it is politically and culturally louder than many other states around the country. Bernie Sanders, Phish, Ben & Jerry, Robert Frost, and Calvin Coolidge are just a few of the notable Vermonters who have helped to spring the state into the national spotlight. Eccentric as some of the celebrities on that list may be, they’ve given Vermont a voice and made it clear to the rest of the country that Vermont is not, as is sometimes assumed, part of Canada. Non-Vermonters knowing nothing about Vermont is a common joke, but the reality of being a small, northern state makes it easy to show off the good parts and hide the bad. Kevin Barry, an expat from Burlington now living in Brooklyn, New York, said, “Vermont is this place that nobody really knows anything about, so it’s easy to convince them that we’re just beer and ice cream.” (K. Barry, personal communication, December 1, 2015) The image of the Vermont brand – complete with Holsteins and maple syrup buckets – is easily packaged and sent out around the country, and the buzz that Bernie and our other national figures create only adds to the mystique. Vermonters don’t mind if you think we’re eccentric, and we are actually encouraging you to think that way. “Vermont’s wild beginning, its intellectual traditions following their radicals… and most of all its posture as the renegade republic of the north… set in place a self-portrait of the individualism that no other state (save, perhaps, Texas) can match.” (Bryan & McClaughry, 1989, p. 30) We like being different.
Vermont delights in its individualism, celebrates its culture and history, and sells a positive image with its brand. This whole package, wrapped up together and shared with the world, is a performance of “nationalism.” The word ‘nation’, as it applies to the countries of the world that are outlined on a map, can be an empty term because borders are easily and frequently changed. Within those official nations, though, are groups of people who share culture, language, and even food. Helen Ting and Benedict Anderson both suggest that it is more useful to understand ‘nation’ as something symbolic or imagined by the people sharing those important elements of their society. Ting writes,
“Social practice is the medium through which the symbolic world of nationhood is reenacted… At the individual level, our “nation-views” and identification with the nation (or positioning within the figured world of nationhood) are formed through the complex interaction of interpersonal, structural, and self-appropriation dynamics, through the mediation of (often dominant) discourses and social practices or collective activities.” (Ting, 2008, p. 465)
Based on this understanding, Vermont is acting as a “nation.” The people of Vermont share a unique history, a subconscious state ideology, and a vibrant culture (manifested most clearly in its food). Furthermore, Benedict Anderson writes that nations hold “profound emotional legitimacy” and are “conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship.” (Anderson, 2006, p. 4, p. 7) The emotion that Vermonters attach to their home and the sense of community that automatically forms between people with Vermont roots are proof that “nationalism” is at play.
Granted, Vermont is not its own country. It is situated in the political and cultural constraints of the United States, no matter how many secessionist movements have risen up over the years (or how frequently the Second Vermont Republic group still petitions the state congress to secede). According to Anderson, though, “Nationalism has to be understood by aligning it, not with self-consciously held political ideologies, but with the large cultural systems that preceded it, out of which – as well as against which – it came into being.” (Anderson, 2006, p. 12) The fact that Vermont is not recognized as its own, separate country makes its sense of “nationalism” even stronger. It is a reaction to being lumped into American culture. Vermonters don’t want to be associated with the capitalism, environmental degradation, and fast food that are synonymous with the United States. The “nation” of Vermont was built on independent thought and a lifestyle that considers its values and interacts with them constantly. That constant interaction shapes nationalism in the same way that it can shape culture; its existence is firm and stable, but the daily realities can be pushed and pulled over time. Ting writes, “The significance (indeed the existence) of cultural worlds in our lives as well as nation-views for that matter, does not derive from holding them “in mind” as some whole image… but from recreating them through work and in interactions with others.” (Ting, 2008, p. 465)
The Gullah women that Josephine Beoku-Betts studies have a similar sense of “nationalism,” and are dealing with the same threat of being overwhelmed by a generic American culture. Their “nationalism” comes from using memory as a vehicle for preservation, and they even go as far as to instill a fabricated memory in younger generations to keep the shared values and food practices alive. Beoku-Betts writes, “By claiming features of the food system as their own… the Gullah women maintain the credibility and validity of a familiar and recognizable tradition in resistance to pressure to conform to dominant cultural practices.” (Beoku-Betts, 2002, p. 288) The Vermont state ideology has the same effect as the more individualized passing down of memories by the Gullah women, and both are more organic and legitimate than the way that formally established nations indoctrinate citizens with their origin stories, pledges, songs, and traditions. Vermont claims their brand as their own, and even if it is exaggerated or overly idyllic, using it to market food products is a way of resisting the dominant cultural practices of the United States. Performing a dynamic, unique, and individualized sense of “nationalism” through its brand is the modern day equivalent of Ethan Allen standing up to the ‘Yorkers.’ Even as its landscape and realities have changed over nearly 225 years, Vermont has kept its fierce individualism and sense of fight; and those qualities are what will preserve Vermont’s values for years to come.
To contrast Vermont’s imagined “nationalism”, Richard Wilk discusses the creation and definition of ‘Belizean cuisine.’ Belize, although it is an official nation (unlike Vermont or the Gullah women), struggles to perform nationalism. Its colonial past and mix of cultures have been barriers to a cohesive sense of national identity. “Belizeans know their flag, anthem, capital, and great founding father, and they now know they should have a culture to go with them.” (Wilk, 2013, p. 377) By working to determine a cohesive Belizean cuisine, citizens have opened a discussion of their shared values. Belize is approaching nationalism from the opposite perspective of Vermont – they are a “nation,” but they don’t have the meat and bones that support a cohesive sense of belonging and being “Belizean” among their people. Vermont, thanks to its deep-rooted, widespread sense of identity and shared values, is almost a more successful “nation” than Belize, albeit an unrecognized one.
As much as Vermont’s “nationalism” might be imagined, it is a beneficial mindset for the state. It can seem impossible to preserve the independent, value-driven culture of a small population against the threats of today’s overwhelming, uniform, and oppressive American society. Vermont’s dedication to its past and hope for a vibrant, related future are the inspiration for its performance of “nationalism,” and its state ideology and branding are the script. As long as Vermonters proudly tell stories of how the Green Mountain Boys stood up to the early United States government, Vermont’s culture will thrive. Whenever a Vermonter moves across the country and shares their love of the cheese, beer, and maple syrup from home, Vermont’s culture will be reinforced and spread. As long as covered bridges stand in good repair and town meetings happen every year, Vermont’s culture will remain connected to its roots. Whenever a farmer or artisan produces something beautiful and preserves the landscape from commercial development, Vermont’s culture will shine. A thriving, reinforced, connected, and shining culture is a perfect performance of “nationalism,” and will always get glowing reviews, no matter where it is playing.
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