“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; more to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.”
(Psalm 19:7, 10)
While touring through the northeast in the summer of 2018, we had a delightful drive through Vermont. I’ve known little about this state, so I thought. It took a visit to beautiful Vermont for me to realize the luscious impact it has had on my taste buds. We only had one day, and as we drove through the fertile valleys beneath the Green Mountains, we explored the tastes of Vermont’s maple syrup and creameries.
At our first stop, where I91 and I93 converge, we found Maple Grove Farms. Maple Grove Farms and gift shop lies tucked away in the small town of St. Johnsbury. As soon as we parked, the staff welcomed us warmly and guided us to the gift shop and to the Sugar House Museum.
Maple Grove Farms began in 1915 when Helen Gray and Ethel McLaren started making maple candies and syrup, and today this product is sold all over the country. We were impressed to learn that the little syrups at Cracker Barrel are from Maple Grove Farms. In the gift shop you can sample the different varieties of syrups and learn how they were made. Who knew that the color of the syrup goes from light to dark depending on the time of harvest? (I suppose lots of experts knew this, but it was news to me!)
You can also try the maple leaf candies before you buy them as souvenirs and gifts for friends and family. Our day in Vermont was off to a delicious start, and Maple Grove won over some new customers. When we see this label now in stores , we pick Maple Grove over the rest.
Just about 20 miles west of Maple Grove Farms is the Cabot Creamery in Cabot, Vermont. We live in central Arkansas, and when I’ve seen Cabot cheese in Walmart or Sam’s, I always assumed it was local to our Cabot, Arkansas. Was I wrong!
Cabot cheese is from Vermont, and the co-op that began in 1919 with 94 families from Cabot, Vermont, has reached the 100 years milestone. Today Cabot Creamery boasts 800 families in the co-op and four factories in three different states. It’s not hard to find Cabot Creamery products in the local grocery store, but if you happen to be in Vermont, it’s worth the trip to the original creamery and retail store in Cabot.
At the creamery we stopped by for our fill of samples. We were able to try a variety of cheese, cheese spreads, and even experiment with cheese pairings along with other products. We practically made a meal out of it. We were well received by the staff and got to taste first hand the Cabot Creamery experience.
Continuing 20 miles west down Highway 2 we arrived at Morse Farm Maple Sugar Works. The tip we had about this place was that they had maple flavored ice cream! I couldn’t imagine what that would taste like, but I was ready to give it a try. We weren’t disappointed. This soft serve, maple flavored ice cream was delicious. Not only did I learn on this trip that maple ice cream was good, but I also heard about maple syrup on ice cream as a topping. Try it yourself. I think you’ll like it!
Morse Farm is a destination in its own right. They have an extensive gift shop filled with Vermont souvenirs and all things maple. In addition, there is an open air museum that tells the story of maple syrup harvesting in Vermont and specifically with Morse Farm. If log cabins and video narrations weren’t enough, there’s also a trail through the grove that gives you a close up look at the maple syrup harvest process. Up until now, when I’ve put syrup on my pancakes, I had no idea that it took an intricate web of piping tapped into the trees to produce the product that flowed down my stack. If you’d like to see this for yourself but can’t make it to Morse Farm, click here to Morse Farm’s website and demonstration video.
As if we hadn’t had enough sweets already, we continued our journey across Vermont. From Morse Farm we drove across Montpelier and headed northwest to Waterbury Center, which was only an additional 18 miles or so. We had heard about apple cider donuts at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill; so we stopped there first to try the donuts and also to grab a late lunch at the Cold Hollow restaurant across the parking lot.
The Cold Hollow Cider Mill was large and filled with delicacies for their guests. This fun shop displays their products in a fanciful way with cartoon characters they call the Hollowers, and kids of all ages are able to find something entertaining to explore while their taste buds anticipate a purchase. The Cold Hollow Cider Mill and also the restaurant give you the complete Vermont experience with apple cider, maple syrup, fudge, their own bakery, and a savory full menu for lunch. It’s worth the trip, and the apple cider donut added just the right touch to our Vermont tasting.
Just minutes away from Cold Hollow is the world famous Ben & Jerry’s factory and Flavor Graveyard. I personally owe a lot of gratitude to Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. Their revolutionary decision to put cookie dough in ice cream changed my life! The chunky ice cream approach by these two radical entrepreneurs, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, have been pushing the status quo of frozen desserts since 1978. Knowing we would be in the area, of course, we had to include Ben & Jerry’s on our sweet drive.
We took the tour, and given the global popularity of this product as well as the free tasting at the end of the tour, the ticket prices are reasonable— $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, and free for 12 and under. On the tour, you get to view a short video that tells the Ben & Jerry story. You learn that two friends had creative ideas for their business and big ideas for humanity. Throughout the tour, you are reminded that Ben & Jerry’s is more than ice cream. Not only do they want to provide a treat that everybody loves, but they also want to do it in a way that impacts society, the economy, and the natural environment. That sounds like a lot to pack into an ice cream cone, but if you anything about Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, they make it chunky!
The tour lasts about 30 minutes and ends with a flavor of the day tasting. After the tour, you should visit friends of the past and flavors gone by in the Flavor Graveyard. Here you’ll find rows of tombstones with your former favorite, or not so favorite flavors, that were tried for a while and then laid to rest. Click here to see the deceased and even vote to resurrect those you miss.
Our family is a big Sound of Music family. We watch the whole movie, including the prelude and intermission, any time we have a chance to. We’ve even taken the “Sound of Music Tour” in Salzburg, Austria twice. You have to work hard to convince me that there might be other reasons to go to Salzburg besides Mozart Kugeln, apple strudels, and the Sound of Music. These are a few of my favorite things.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that when we realized we were just 10 miles away from the Trapp Family Lodge, that we had to complete our day in Vermont there, in Stowe, Vermont. We didn’t stay long. We had neither a reservation for a room or dinner. Simply we remained in the parking lot and admired the beautiful hills that reminded the Van Trapp family of Austria, the reason for their settling there. It was a beautiful site to see and closure to our Sound of Music pilgrimage.
After a full day of maple syrups, ice cream, apple cider donuts, and meals in between, we returned to our condo in Lincoln, New Hampshire. Our first taste of Vermont was thoroughly satisfied.
Sweeter than “Maple Syrup”
As I reflect on our great one-day tour of Vermont, I can’t help but hear the psalmist who likened the laws of the LORD to the sweetness of honey. I’ve often wondered how this could be. How could things like rules and regulations be sweet? Honey is nature’s candy, and back in the ancient Near East, a comparison of the laws of God to honey would be something similar to my saying today that the Ten Commandments remind me of chocolate. Does that sound right to you?
If we look closer at what the psalmist of Psalm 19 had to say about the laws of the LORD, we see at least six ways the laws bless those who follow them. Here’s the list:
The laws of the LORD….
- Give wisdom
- Give joy
- Are eternal
- Altogether good
One who knows and follows the will of God shouldn’t feel a burden of rules and restrictions as has often been the stigma of the Christian religion. God’s way is the way of compassion. It’s the way of forgiveness. It’s the way of release from the oppression of the forces that work against us. When we taste the ways of the LORD, we enjoy the sweet, refreshing joy of second chances and hope that one has through God’s eternal love and patience.
The taste of honey and even maple syrup and ice cream are short lived, but the joys we find in God and in Christ last forever and help us withstand all of the junk that life throws at us. If put this way, then, I suppose I, too, can say that the laws of the LORD are perfect, sweeter than the chocolate and maple syrup that’s dripping over my Ben & Jerry’s ice cream!