Same As It Ever Was

This post is a bit of a deviation from the ritual of food, but I think it is relevent to our lives today, and it was an important part of my life.

Life  for me over the years has been full of changes. Some wonderful, some, not so much. And that is life for all of us, right? Without change, there is no progress, no learning , no improvement.  Change is to be expected, to be dealt with, and to be celebrated.  Life would be pretty dull without it.

But change can be chaotic and stressful. It can upend our world. It can be exhausting, frustrating and just plain annoying. We all need some relief from the constant change that is  happening  globally, and in our own little maelstroms.

We need something that doesn’t change.  Something that no matter what, stays the same. Even if you leave it and come back to it later, everything is as you left it.

My family found that place in a vacation spot.

When I was  single parent, my son and I went to visit a friend in New Hampshire. They brought us to a small locally owned resort to play some tennis. It has been owned by the same family for over 100 years, and is only open in the summer months.

I was completely captivated.

The resort is  Twin Lake Village in New London, New Hampshire, and is dominated by a three-story old wooden hotel. There is an immense wrap around porch  with loads of rocking chairs. The first floor houses the dining room, reception desk, and  lounge area.  There are individual rooms on the second and third floors. But there are also of number of “cottages” on the property.  These homes were originally built by people who would vacation here for the entire summer, leaving the heat and disease of the cities behind.  Over the years, the Kidder family bought one house after another, until they owned all of them, creating kind of compound. A family can rent an entire cottage. “Cottage” is not an apt description for some of the houses, as they  can have up to 4 or 5 bedrooms and sleep 10 people.

This is an all-inclusive resort with three meals a day included, plus full use of the tennis courts and golf course for free, and there is a beautiful lake with a boat house and a lovely sand beach.  You can  use a kayak, canoe or row boat, all for free. And all incredibly affordable.

But the absolute best thing about TLV, as it is known by the regulars, is that it never changes. ( I actually had a nightmare one time that all of the cottages were gone and had been turned into single wides. Worst night of my life…)

The furnishings in each cottage stay the same.  That white wicker that you love in the bedroom that you always get, is still there. That funky wood table where you all play board games–still there.  The old barrel chair in the lady’s room near the dining room–still there.

The activities, which are part of the routine of vacationing here, never change. The two-day golf tournament and tennis tournament-mixed doubles-are always the same two days during the week.  Bingo, with the really old bingo cards with the little windows, is played in the hall lodge.  Still 25 cents a card to play.  There is a children’s dance for the little ones, and a picnic on top of Mt. Kearsarge.

And the dining room never changes.  The menu has been altered very little from when we first started coming here. As a few folks say, you don’t come here for the food.  The menu is a throw back to some classic fifties recipes, like tomato aspic and a wedge of iceberg lettuce as a salad.  But you can get seconds if you are still hungry, and there is always PB and J available for the little kids. I remember when they added a spinach salad with strawberries to the menu.  People actually had discussions about it being added to the menu. The dishes are the same.  Great Fiestaware water pitchers. And EVERYTHING is served on a plate, your iced tea glass included.  The dress code used to be a bit more rigid, with men required to wear a jacket to dinner. But still, no jeans allowed at night for dinner.

What is also special about TLV is what is doesn’t have. No TV in the rooms. No phones in the rooms.  No locks on the doors.  The one concession they made to technology was to make WiFi available at the hotel only.  And people got a little nutty about that.  Most did not like that change at all. They come here to escape from all of the techno chatter, and comments were made to the owners about the change.  But given that some people still had to have access, the compromise was the WiFi only at the hotel. (and they had the world’s longest password, hope that they changed that….)

TLV is a place that families have been coming to for generations. It is not uncommon to see 4 generations of  families staying there.  At dinner one night, a woman celebrated her 50th consecutive year of coming to TLV.  Most people also come the same week every year. We always went during the 4th of July week. So we would catch up with friends that we only ever see once a year. That was another wonderful part of the sameness. Seeing the same people year after year, watching the children grow, get married, and then begin the next phase of the tradition by bringing their own children. We had a gap of a few years that we didn’t go, and my son, who was in college at the time, specifically asked that we go back. He has great memories of TLV, and his request brought it home to me how much this family tradition meant to him.

clayton tlv
Clayton on the porch of White Chimneys cottage.

 

This is not a fancy pants place to vacation.  If you are looking for spa treatments, gourmet dining and Egyptian cotton sheets, TLV is not for you.

If you are looking for rustic comfort, new friends, and a place to build a tradition with your family, you will fit right in.

Enjoy the sameness. Revel in routine. And know that it will be just as you left it when you get back next year.

 

 

 

And Now For Something Completely Different

I had the pleasure of interviewing singer-songwriter Christine Lavin on the radio program I co-host on WDVR FM 89.7.  I have been a fan of hers for a long time and love her humorous quirky style.  Christine is a master of the humorous song, but she also has a serious side and has penned some very moving ballads.

She and  the equally talented and funny Don White were performing at the Dreaming Tree Coffee House in Baptistown NJ, so my co-host, Gordon Thomas Ward, his wife Veronica and I went to see them perform.  Both of them are hilarious in their own unique styles.  If you have the opportunity to see them perform, it is a do not miss.  We got to chat with Christine backstage after the show.  She is a generous and lovely person, who goes a mile a minute and is interested in EVERYTHING.

So, what does this have to do with food or rituals?  Well, Christine is the only person I have ever seen perform a recipe.

Yup. She has written a song  called “Peanut Butter Soup” and she sings the recipe. She performed it at the show, and handed out copies of the recipe to the audience.  It is a variation of a recipe from the Moosewood Cook Book. The Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca NY is one of the pioneers in the world of creative vegetarian cooking, and has been in business for 40 years.  ( She also held a lesson in cloth napkin folding during the intermission.  Maybe I will do a post on napkin folding, so we can all be so very Downton Abbey.)

Now here is what I am hoping.  Perhaps this is the beginning of a movement in the music and food world.  I envision a concert with recipes all done to music. Perhaps we can call it  “Singing for your Supper”?  And when the show is done, we all get to eat! There would be a buffet of all of the  foods that were in the show for the concert goers/eaters to try.  And the program would double as a cookbook.  I’m liking this…. could make a great fundraiser.

Christine made a video of the recipe, which I have included for your viewing pleasure.  I have also included the recipe for you to give it a try.  Cook it up, and let myself and Christine know what you think.

You can find out what Christine is up to at her website www.christinelavin.com.

Peanut Butter Soup  makes 12 servings

  • 4 TBS peanut or vegetable oil
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger root
  • 6 celery stalks, sliced
  • 5 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 8 cups canned tomato puree
  • 2 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1- 16 oz.jar smooth peanut butter
  • 2 cakes tofu pressed and cut into 3/4″ cubes
  1.  In a large stock pot, sauté the onions and ginger in the oil for about 8 minutes
  2. Add the celery and continue to sauté for another 8 minutes
  3. Stir in the mushrooms, cover and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes
  4. Stir in the cayenne, salt and bay leaves. Add the tomato puree and water or stock
  5. Simmer covered for about 20 minutes
  6. Add the peanut butter, stirring briskly to dissolve, then add the tofu
  7. Continue to simmer on very low heat for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching
  8. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!