Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Beyond Salmon

Vergennes, Vermont

We're parked on a lovely Vermont Island in the middle of Lake Champlain. Our old friend, Judy, suggests going to the French Heritage Festival in the little town of Vergennes. I look at the activities list and see a firehouse breakfast.

The breakfast is French toast, bacon, sausage, coffee and orange juice. They have fresh strawberries, blueberries and maple syrup for the French toast. I look at some of the trophies and firehouse mementos and firefighter Mike Collette comes over to talk and explain the history of the town fire department.

Mike has been a volunteer firefighter since 1961. Mike tells me that the houses and businesses were originally required to keep two leather buckets and a ladder on hand. All structures were inspected for fire hazards on a monthly basis and $2 fines were levied for failure to correct defects. He found an old fire pump in a corner of the firehouse. It was built in 1853. Mike took it home and rebuilt it with new leather gaskets. It will spray water 100 feet with two men on the pump handle. You fill it with water from leather buckets.

It's a beautiful little Vermont town. The town square park is filled with people dressed up as French dandies, soldiers and Algonquin Indians. They also have antique cars, tractors, blacksmiths and tarot card readers. They are weaving animal hair, making lace and showing how the French lived here 200 to 400 years ago.

I read a book laying in the grass of the park for most of the day and listen to French singers and the first person accounts of old French explorers. They fire off "matchlock" muskets periodically and produce huge clouds of smoke. I talk to an old French Marine from the revolutionary war. He tells me that he is an ensign and one of 2,200 French Marines who fought on the rebel side in Yorktown. He says that there were more French there than rebels. He asserts that without French financing, I would still be a British citizen.

The town hall of Vergennes doubles as an opera hall. They have a series of French singers and cloggers that perform throughout the day and evening. All the business have posted signs in French on their windows. The signs say things like "Bon Jour (hello)".

I find the library and buy a pile of surplus books. It's an impressive structure with a huge glass dome. They have lectures during the day. One was "They walked with Champlain". The second floor is full of antiques and Indian artifacts. The town has a waterfall and is full of lovely old homes. I could live here.

The breaded and pan-fried walleye fillets were delicious. The customs people wanted to know if the heads had been removed when we came back over the border. Webster came out with some new words this year. One of those was pescatarian. Those are the people who eat fish but not other meat. I found a new website, Beyond Salmon, that talks about bluefin tuna and other cool fish. Most bluefin has been shipped off to Japan in the past, but it's starting to show up in American markets because of higher oil and shipping prices. Apparently bluefin has a much higher fat content and is less red than the inferior tuna that we normally get to eat.

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