Some things in New England go beyond enchanting — a church at night with its steeple aglow reaching toward the heavens, the beach and mountains all within easy driving distance and, most especially, Christmas when houses come alive with the sparkle of a candle and wreaths decked out in big red bows, often times both adorning the windows. This past weekend was spent in Harvard, Mass. Settled in 1658, this community of 7000 possesses all the charm one would expect of a New England town. There’s a general store (yes, one general store and that’s about it); the town square is flanked by two churches — one at each end; and ‘Lover’s Lane’ is quite literally off of the town square.
We made the pilgrimage up North to see our nieces — India and Sophie — in the town’s Christmas pageant. A gift from the town’s children, the story of Christ’s birth was brought to life through song and scripture readings. The simple set was adorned with ~ 30 actors, ranging in age from a few months to 16-17 years, whose costumes mimicked the wardrobe of the period, and a choir whose well-trained voices brought us back to Christmas’ of old. Tony, the musician of the family, was especially impressed by the second ‘We Three Kings’ soloist. With an angelic voice, this girl graced us with amazing delivery of intonation and pitch that embodied the spirit of the play. Afterward, candles were handed out and we, along with scores of Harvard’s residents, strolled down the common for the lighting of the town’s Christmas tree.
In a town Fannie Farmer wanted to live in (she was building a house, ‘Weldon’ named after the culinary saying ‘well done’, but wound up sick and dead before it was finished), epicurean delights were a plenty. Tony made pizza (in an electric oven none-the-less), we had a wonderful chocolate cake for my sister’s birthday, and lady bug cupcakes compliments of Sophie. After the pageant hot cocoa was whipped up while burgers and dogs were quickly barbecued for the kids. My sister, Alice, has a dining room great for socializing, so much time was spent around the table, a table used on the farm by my father’s family, talking, laughing and explaining to the New Englanders that there is a difference between Stromboli and Calzone.
We left Harvard venturing out to Route 2, aka the Mohawk Trail, for a casual ride home. A four-lane road, lined with evergreens and birch trees, the drive was beautiful, enhanced by the remants of a soft snow fall that magically capped off the landscape. There’s not much on Route 2 itself, but there are quite a few things just off the beaten path, in Orange — home to the US’ first automobile factory; Turner’s Falls, a national registered historic district; and Greenfield, with its mountain and Poet’s Tower.
Arriving in Deerfield and needing to dine, we resisted the urge to do the touristy thing, Chandler’s Restaurant at the Yankee Candle store, and opted to go to a cozy little restaurant in town, Wolfies. The menu, prominently featuring the restaurant’s logo, a wolf in overalls, cookbook in one hand, cleaver in the other, featured such items as the King Philip and Arrow Head sandwiches, roast beef and rib eye, respectively. Typical pub fare, my burger, the Wolfie Burger, was delicious and Tony was impressed with the Roast Beef Club. The waitress, Teresa, was warm and friendly while running from table to table, making sure everyone was happy with their meal.
We ended the weekend having dinner with our good friend Manny C. He’s promised to give me some tutorials on cooking — he’s an amazing cook, Portuguese his specialty — and may even appear in a video or two (he doesn’t know that yet). At any rate, we’ll be going to his house over the weekend so he and Tony can stuff sausages…a direct product of the pig that they killed last week.