Lunch with Swift

Roaming southern New Hampshire's Monadnock Region and beyond — visiting unique places and tasting the local flavor..


Vernondale Store, Sutton, NH

Hello again, my few, faithful, readers.   It has been a while.  Fingers have been a little shy, maybe.  Also, since this is a blog about great lunch places, I wouldn’t want you to think I am always eating lunch in amazing places.  First, how special would that be?  Second, I would fear your judgement and scorn to think how much of my hard-earned money gets wasted on frivolous visits at cute lunch places.  And third, how much time I waste doing this?

I can say all of these things are true, but there is one more.  With no particular need to write this, it only comes out when I really feel like it.  So my friends, there is no guilt here. And I feel like writing.

So here I am in the afterglow of a nice afternoon spent with my best friend, Beth.  It came to pass this way,  I have been telling her for weeks about an area of the state I have been working in that I did not know much about.  I have had the good fortune to be working on a project in which I have been doing a wildlife and recreation treatment on a large property just to the east of Lake Sunapee and to the west of Sutton Village and south of New London. What is amazing about this land and what we didn’t know when we started is that from it, you can see almost the whole state from the Seacoast to Mount Washington in one direction and much of it from the other.  It is in that perfect spot.    The land has had a tug on me ever since my  first day exploring, when I witnessed two moose stampeding by me last fall.    This summer, we have been doing work to reveal these vistas cutting through formerly hi-graded forest.    So, in our rare free time together,  Beth and I, went up to have a walk.  We arrived at the log landing at the far west end of the land and she said, now you are going to have to narrate.  So I explained that when we first started working on the land there was no good way in.  We then walked easterly up the new skid road up into an opening.  I said don’t turn around as we headed up the hill.  At the top, we got to the edge of a stand of white pine and I said now turn around.   And she looked west.  From our vantage point we could see over what will be future hayfield to Mount Sunapee  Ski Area, most of Lake Sunnapee across to Vermont and Mount Snow, Mount Ascutney.  Then we could see all the way up northwesterly  to the white sides of Mount Cardigan.


this is 1/4 of the vista

Sailboats big and white peeled over the water of Sunapee below us.    We could count at least three lighthouses marking the shoals.   I said “that’s cool, but let’s go see more.”

We continued to head west on a skid road for about a mile going up sharply and then for quite a while walking on a gentle path meandering along the shoulder of a hill.

In about 20 minutes of walking, the sun broke through the forest canopy and we could see the opening ahead.    This seems like mountainous land but when we got to this eastview clearing, we gazed over an expanse of land flat and gently rolling.    It has been high pasture and hayfield in the past for NH farmers.   Unfortunately, the old folks lived on a road named Poor Farm Road.  Still, the soil is suitable for great field.   But, then off in the distance the land rose up.

From here she said “wow!”   We looked to the north and could see Mount Washington tiny and a bit hazy on this summer afternoon.  Also, in the distance and a little to the south and east were some peaks off in Maine — Sunday River Mountain.  Closer, we looked to Kezar Lake over which canoes were leaving razor-thin sunlit wakes.  We could see the village of Sutton with it’s looming  Mount Kearsarge.  Then across to the southeast we looked over the tiny city of Manchester and could see all the way to the NH Seacoast.  I thought of theat poem that Frost wrote about  NH that it has a little sample of everything.

Skip over this poem as you wish, but it is Frost saying that what we have here in NH may not be the best but we have what we need.   Though he didn’t know my friend Jamie Trowbridge, (who gave me the idea to write this blog)   Frost would agree with him when he says, New Hampshire is “Perfectly Good.”



Permission to Scroll Ahead (or not)       [And it is still abridged]
I met a poet from another state,
A zealot full of fluid inspiration,
Who in the name of fluid inspiration,
But in the best style of bad salesmanship,
Angrily tried to make me write a protest
(In verse I think) against the Volstead Act.
He didn’t even offer me a drink
Until I asked for one to steady him.
This is called having an idea to sell.

It never could have happened in New Hampshire.

The only person really soiled with trade
I ever stumbled on in old New Hampshire
Was someone who had just come back ashamed
From selling things in California.

Just specimens is all New Hampshire has,
One each of everything as in a showcase,
Which naturally she doesn’t care to sell.

She had one President. (Pronounce him Purse,
And make the most of it for better or worse.
He’s your one chance to score against the state.)
She had one Daniel Webster. He was all
The Daniel Webster ever was or shall be.
She had the Dartmouth’ needed to produce him.

I call her old. She has one family
Whose claim is good to being settled here
Before the era of colonization,

As for what they were up to more than fishing—
Suppose they weren’t behaving Puritanly,
The hour bad not yet struck for being good,
Mankind had not yet gone on the Sabbatical.
It became an explorer of the deep
Not to explore too deep in others’ business.

She has a touch of gold. New Hampshire gold—
You may have heard of it. I had a farm
Offered me not long since up Berlin way
With a mine on it that was worked for gold;
But not gold in commercial quantities,
Just enough gold to make the engagement rings
And marriage rings of those who owned the farm.
What gold more innocent could one have asked for?
One of my children ranging after rocks
Lately brought home from Andover or Canaan
A specimen of beryl with a trace
Of radium. I know with radium
The trace would have to be the merest trace
To be below the threshold of commercial;
But trust New Hampshire not to have enough
Of radium or anything to sell.

A specimen of everything, I said.
She has one witch—old style. She lives in Colebrook.
(The only other witch I ever met
Was lately at a cut-glass dinner in Boston.
There were four candles and four people present.
The witch was young, and beautiful (new style),
And open-minded. She was free to question
Her gift for reading letters locked in boxes.
Why was it so much greater when the boxes
Were metal than it was when they were wooden?
It made the world seem so mysterious.

One each of everything as in a showcase.

More than enough land for a specimen
You’ll say she has, but there there enters in
Something else to protect her from herself.
There quality makes up for quantity.
Not even New Hampshire farms are much for sale.
The farm I made my home on in the mountains
1 had to take by force rather than buy.

Apples? New Hampshire has them, but unsprayed,
With no suspicion in stern end or blossom end
Of vitriol or arsenate of lead,
And so not good for anything but cider.
Her unpruned grapes are flung like lariats
Far up the birches out of reach of man.

A state producing precious metals, stones,
And—writing; none of these except perhaps
The precious literature in quantity
Or quality to worry the producer
About disposing of it. Do you know,
Considering the market, there are more
Poems produced than any other thing?
No wonder poets sometimes have to seem

If I must choose which I would elevate —
The people or the already lofty mountains
I’d elevate the already lofty mountains
The only fault I find with old New Hampshire
Is that her mountains aren’t quite high enough.
I was not always so; I’ve come to be so.
How, to my sorrow, how have I attained
A height from which to look down critical
On mountains? What has given me assurance
To say what height becomes New Hampshire mountains,
Or any mountains? Can it be some strength
I feel, as of an earthquake in my back,
To heave them higher to the morning star?
Can it be foreign travel in the Alps?
Or having seen and credited a moment
The solid molding of vast peaks of cloud

Our actual mountains given in a map
Of early times as twice the height they are—
Ten thousand feet instead of only five—
Which shows how sad an accident may be.
Five thousand is no longer high enough.
Whereas I never had a good idea
About improving people in the world,
Here I am overfertile in suggestion,
And cannot rest from planning day or night
How high I’d thrust the peaks in summer snow
To tap the upper sky and draw a flow
Of frosty night air on the vale below
Down from the stars to freeze the dew as starry.

For all her mountains fall a little short,
Her people not quite short enough for Art,
She’s still New Hampshire; a most restful state.

{editor-BUT, THEN HE SAYS:}

Well, if I have to choose one or the other,
I choose to be a plain New Hampshire farmer
With an income in cash of, say, a thousand
(From, say, a publisher in New York City).
It’s restful to arrive at a decision,
And restful just to think about New Hampshire.
At present I am living in Vermont.

-Robert Frost shortened by Swift -just because-


Oh well,  the point is from this place you can see most of it and it is not  like Colorado or the Alps but it is huge, anyway.

So we turned around and headed back to the car.  And, I had another idea.  We have lived here for 35 years and have gotten used to swimming in our favorite local ponds.    The day before, I met a new pond.    It was just up the road from the land where we were walking back to the car.  I said “hey, let me show you Pleasant Lake.  She said fine so we toodled down the road to Elkins Village by the Pleasant Lake dam and once again looked out at these great low hills south and west of New London.     We parked next to an artfully painted vacation wagon with scenes of deer, churches fishing boats, and hills.  Hanging from it was ornamentation in the lobstering motif.  We slid in tight between this truck and a van and opened the front and back doors, made a makeshift beach cabana,  and put our swimming suits on in the  public park.   From there, we wasted no time to get into the golden clear water.    Pleasant Lake is lined just off the dam with interesting boulders. We played for a while marveling at out find. Holding our breaths diving deep following fish.

Shen she said good, I said good.  Let’s have some dinner so we headed over to the Flying Goose Brew Pub for a very good hamburger and a coffee colored hoppy beer with so much body you would need to dress it up in Carharts for it to be fully dressed.

Even though dinner was nice, we were not quite done.   I said I have one more place I have to show you.  So we rumbled south from the Flying Goose toward Sutton and Kezar Lake.    We were pretty tired by now so we didn’t swim but we could have.  It met our criteria of cool, clear water and it was golden too, like Pleasant Lake.    So we drove around it and watched a tiny sailboat catch the last breaths of the evening.  We wondered if they would ever get home.

Last stop on our journey before going home was the Vernondale Store.  Everything that has preceded this article ha s been a lead-up to guiding you folks this place.     If you have the chance, go!   It is right up route 114.    There are cute stores and then there stores like this.  This place has been meticulously rehabilitated and the owner is behind the marbled counter soda fountain.     I commented on what a great job someone did fixing the place up.  He said wait a minute and he came back with some pictures of the place before they did the work.  Some of the pictures featured the bathroom.  Lets just say “gross.”    The former merchandise shelves were uninteresting peg board affairs  and the stuff was a mishmash of crummy looking junk.     Now, the walls are a white pine beadboard varnished clear showing a honey color.  And the stuff throughout is artfully arranged.

He resumed to make us our deserts.  I had a Russell Pond Sunday.  Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, chocolate sauce, whip cream.  Beth and I headed out on the front porch and ate our sundaes on the wooden chairs.     The guy or gal in the sailboat was floating on the lake but getting no closer to the dock.  The sun was setting.     The Vernondale was closing any minute.  In the nick of time a perfectly unrestored Model A Ford pulled up with three older women who were the real life gals Katherine  Hepburn was trying to be in On Golden Pond.   But these ladies were all smiles and their salt and pepper hair was wildly tousled.  We said you will make it and they disappeared to get their ice cream.



Beth and I finished our sundaes and she drove home.    I, like a bore, slept.

Maybe I dreamed of coming back and having lunch at the Vernondale and heading off for a swim by the Follensbee Inn on the shore of Kezar lake on yet another perfect summer Saturday afternoon.