I moved to Vermont, in part, because of an old general store and all that it stood for. The small clapboard building was the only shop within miles of my house. Its floorboards were worn smooth from more than 150 years of muddy boots, its shelves packed with canned beans and tins of chewing tobacco. It served as a deli, post office and the big-game weighing station. It was, I figured, a good place to buy venison.
Venison was not a regular part of my diet. But in the six months since I'd traded a Manhattan apartment for my tiny cabin on a dirt road, my life had done a 180. Instead of takeout Szechuan, I now bought chicken from a farmer a mile away, maple syrup from my neighbors and milk from the dairy down valley. As the weather turned cold that first year, I began dreaming about what my first Vermont Christmas dinner would be. I decided to recreate one of my father's favorite dishes: venison, with maple syrup and apples from an ancient tree near my stream.
There are more deer in New England now than when the Pilgrims first arrived, and in my valley big herds would graze nonchalantly in one field. Then, as I'd drive by, almost on cue they'd decide that the grass really was greener on the other side of the road. Hooves. White tails. Squealing brakes. Heart racing, I'd curse Bambi and all his brethren.