Each issue of Cook’s Illustrated begins with a folksy letter with news from down on the old Vermont farm by founder and editor-in-chief Chris Kimball. These charming, old-timey updates remind us all of a slower, simpler way of life, where neighbors stop to swap plowing tips out by the trading post and run when they see Old Henry coming. Who’s Old Henry? Why, what a question, stranger. Old Henry knows who you are. That much is certain. Old Henry knows who you are just fine.
The Toast has received an advance copy of Mr. Kimball’s most recent letter, which we are proud to publish in full here.
There’s some work hands weren’t meant for. What kind of work that is, I don’t believe you home cooks ought to know. Keep them busy kneading dough, and pitting stone fruits, and soothing a chicken before wringing its neck; keep your hands doing their own work so they can’t find any other, that’s the key, friends.
If you hear a sound at your door that isn’t a knock and isn’t a hello, you ought to turn right around and leave what you’re doing – leave the sauce on the stove, leave the fire on the hob, leave the iron in the grate – and put yourself in the sewing-closet, door locked tight like a heartbeat, until the sound passes. But if you were to go to your door, which no true Vermonter would do, you would see a shape that wasn’t a dog and wasn’t quite something that wasn’t a dog, neither. And you’d have to follow it.
In every house, there’s something that knocks on the doors. It doesn’t want to be let in. It wants you to know that it’s there, and it can knock at you, and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you can’t let it in, you can’t stop the knocking. And it doesn’t want to come in. So what can you do?
The pig roast was a big success this year. Dissension on this topic was not permitted.
Coleslaw without mayonnaise, that’s the key. Waterfalls of vinegar. Pour it into your hand.
Feet belong on a path. Food belongs on a plate. Hands belong to themselves. Ingredients belong in their proper place, in order, served with maple syrup. Always with syrup.
I once hiked in the Pyrenees and was headed toward the village of Banyuls-sur-Mer. Around midday, I took a turn from the true path and ended up in a dark forest, filled with wild boar runs. I have never returned.
How to smoke a brisket, how to salt and cure an unfaithful heart, how to send a curse out from your house and bury it in the body of a rabbit, how to tap a maple run with no eyes, that’s what a man does.
Journeys end in lovers’ meeting.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.