“I’ve never identified as a summer person. I do not long for the beach. Give me a mountain-fed, bone-cold lake any day,” writes Gesine Bullock-Prado.
The pastry chef, prolific author, and host of the Food Network’s “Baked in Vermont” was born and raised in and around Washington, D.C., spent much of her childhood in Austria and Germany with her German mother’s family, and in her 20s moved to Los Angeles where she worked in film — often with her famous sister, Sandra Bullock. But it wasn’t until her future husband took her to New Hampshire to visit his alma mater, Dartmouth College, and crossed over the Connecticut River to Vermont, that she “felt aligned.”
Today they live in a historic former tavern in White River Junction, Vermont, surrounded by a forest filled with maples and “edible woodland ephemerals,”and near her own baking school, Sugar Glider Kitchen. Her beloved pet goose, “Mama,” is a fixture on the premises.
This picturesque setting serves as the inspiration and backdrop for her sixth book, “My Vermont Table: Recipes for All (Six) Seasons” (Countryman Press, $35). Besides the four seasons we all know, separate chapters are devoted to Stick Season (“that slightly eerie and magical period between fall foliage and our first snow”) and Mud/Sugaring Season when maples are tapped during the “great thaw.”
Maple syrup figures heavily into all of Bullock-Prado’s cooking, from braised cabbage to kettle corn to Marlborough Pie. Local cheddar stars in soups, dips, and the Ooey Gooey Mac and Cheese she makes for leaf-peeping visitors in fall. Sourdough starter grown from Green Mountain flour, along with starch water saved from boiled potatoes or pasta, goes into her bread, waffles, and pumpkin dinner buns.
Being no fan of shorts or toe-exposing sandals, it’s no surprise that Bullock-Prado devotes the heftiest space to the foods and traditions of the coldest months. Still, she holds reverence for the warmest — and shortest — season, whether socializing with friends over garden vegetable pasta or a show-stopping Strawberry-Chocolate Mousse Cake.
“Leave it to Vermont to make me a summer person at long last.”
Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com