Sugar in/on Snow (Vermont food/festival term)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Tue Oct 29 21:53:03 UTC 2002

   I'm working on "sugar on/in snow," a Vermont term.  What does DARE have?  The American memory database turns up this as the best/only hit.  I'll discuss the NEW YORK TIMES hits later:

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940

[Sugar Bush Farmer]

PUB. Living Lore in New England (Vermont)

TITLE Sugar Bush Farmer {Begin handwritten} # 2 {End handwritten}

WRITER {Begin handwritten} [??] {End handwritten}

DATE WDS. pp. 20


The sugar season is about over. It has been short and sweet this year, but Ezra is satisfied. There have been three excellent runs when the ground has frozen at night and the cold frost fingers have clutched at the flow in the huge maple trees and stalled the rising sap; and the warm spring sun has loosened the paralyzing grasp and the sticky sweetness has risen to drop, drop, drop with tiny splashings making a chorus in the still reaches of the arched woods. One night a wild wind rose and brought with it marching myriads of {Begin deleted text} sugar {End deleted text} snow {Begin inserted text} {Begin handwritten} flakes {End handwritten} {End inserted text} {Begin deleted text} in {End deleted text} a plump white army. It thickened and clung, coating all with {Begin deleted text} sticky flakes {End deleted text} {Begin inserted text} {Begin handwritten} crystals {End handwritten} {End inserted text} . It was a good sign and was fulfilled by a fine run the next day. Ezra always chuckled when he thought of sugar snow. The first time they had mentioned it to Bobby, the child had been fascinated. A little later they had found him in the yard, head up-tilted and small mouth wide, catching the big flakes and savoring them with a puzzled expression on his round features. His disgust was deep and resentful when he found "it wasn't even sweet" and Ezra made it up to him with an extra sugar cake.

The women have their place in sugarin'. They prepare the extra meals and hearty lunches which must go to the sugar house when a run is on. Many nights Ed and Ezra have stayed there tending the fire and keeping up with the gathering sap. There is a couch where they took turns catching cat naps. Then, too, the women folk have full charge of the stirrin'-off and

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making of the fancy sugar cakes. When the men think they have about the best run of sap, that which will make up the lightest sugar cakes, they pass the word along and Ma calls a "stirrin'-off bee." All the women gather at the sugar house armed with huge spoons and milk pans. There is a long bench against one wall and there they stand in a busy row, tongues wagging against the clatter of spoon on pan, and beat, beat, beat; the heavy amber syrup smooths to creamy thick stuff which must be poured at exactly the right moment into the ranks of tin molds which are waiting ready. A little is stirred off earlier, before the syrup gets too thick, to make Ma some maple cream. She always celebrates the sugar season with a beautiful maple cake, frosted with maple cream and bursting with butternuts. The sugar cakes stand all night to cool and next morning Ma and Marthy spend a while wrapping and packing them in neat boxes.

Ezra, through the years, has worked up a personal market for both syrup and sugar cakes. He packs, boxes, or cans his products according to their individual needs and sends them direct to the customer. His products are good and his list grows as friend tells friend from year to year. Some years he has barely enough to fill his standing orders and other years, when the run is a record breaker, he has extra which he sells in bulk to the sugar-candy manufacturers. Ma always bottles up several gallons of syrup and saves a wooden pail of maple cream. If the kids get an urge that they want sugar cakes, Ma puts a pan of syrup on the stove and boils off a

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few for them.

When the children were growing up, every year saw sugar parties when the young fry gathered in the sugar house and fed on syrup-on-snow, pickles, raised doughnuts and coffee. The boys would get great pans of snow from some leeward bank where the crystals were almost like little bits of ice. They would pack it down flat and when the syrup was the right consistency a clever artist made fancy figures, waving the great spoon in grandiose gestures. As the syrup hit the snow it congealed into a sticky chewy mass. When the boys and girls had eaten all they could, they chewed pickles to get the sweet out of their mouths and then began again. After everyone was saturated they played games. 'Twas a "sweet" party, so they played kissin' games to keep it consistent. The kissin' games are gone now. They live only in the memories of the older folks. There was "Copenhagen," "Through the Needle's Eye," and "Through the Cedar Swamp." Ezra can remember these and thoughts of them raise a nostalgia in his heart for the days long gone by, for his "folks" and the companions with whom he went to school--

Sugarin' is over. (...) ...the faded sad reminders of a past season. He must hurry if he is to get the sugar buckets washed and dried and stacked neatly away in the bucket house. Ma may come over once more to "redd' up" the sugar house, but most of her contribution to the work of sugaring is over. (...)

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