Sunday, January 19, 2014

Vegan in Vermont and Maine

What do you associate with New England?  For the shoppers out there, it's probably LL Bean and Yankee Candle.  For the tourists, it's fall foliage and colonial history.  If you love the outdoors, there's hiking and kayaking in warm weather and skiing in the winter.  Sports fans are all about the Patriots, Red Sox, and Bruins (gross).  And the foodies get excited about lobster and New England chowda, Ben and Jerry's, craft brews, and pure maple syrup.  Overall New England is a great place to live or visit, but you may not immediately think of it as the most inviting place for vegans.  I initially felt the same way and was sort of worried about moving here.  Clam chowder sure disturbs me and I just want to set all the lobsters free. To my surprise, I have discovered that vegan-friendly cities do exist outside Boston in this corner of the country.

Brattleboro, Vermont
This past October a friend and I took a day trip up to Brattleboro, Vermont, which is about a two hour drive from Boston.  Neither of us had been to Vermont yet, so we decided to hop in the car, enjoy the gorgeous foliage, and add another state to our repertoires.  I have to say that Brattleboro is one of the most interesting places I have been.  I have heard lots of jokes about crunchy hippies in Maine and Vermont, but I was really not prepared for what we encountered here.  As we parked the car, a building with a psychedelic mural was set to our left and "Everyone's Books: For Social Justice and the Earth" stood to our right.  Stepping out of the car, we encountered an elderly gentlemen with a Dumbledore-esque beard and headband tied Rambo-style, donning cut off jean shorts, Birkenstocks, a tie-dye shirt, and a fabric satchel.  "This is weird," I said.  I kept saying that the entire day.

There are a bunch of vegan-friendly establishments and places that embrace the hippie vibe in this town.  We ate lunch at the Whetstone Station Brewery, which is situated right over the Connecticut River, offering picturesque views of the foliage in the fall.  I thought this place would  be great, but it ended up being a huge disappointment.  There were yellow jackets everywhere, which made our lunch slightly terrifying.  It took over an hour for our food to arrive, and I found it surprising that half the beers on the menu were not available - it's a brewery, for goodness sake.  I had sweet tots with a pita pocket.  It was fine.  I really just wanted to get out of there.    After lunch we headed over to Brattleboro Books, an independent used bookstore with books piled from floor to ceiling and in every nook and cranny, followed by Everyone's Books, where I picked up some justice-themed postcards and perused the stacks, which were filled with activist titles.  Loved it.  There was also Mocha Joe's, a coffee shop with vegan baked goods, and Twice Upon A Time, an antique store where we had a lot of fun searching for treasure amongst the maze of shelves and old furniture.  I personally liked Beadniks, a bead store which also sold things like scarves and hacky sacks.  Of course we stopped in a tourist shop to pick up some authentic maple syrup and maple candy (please refer to the Friends episode where Ross and Chandler drive to Vermont).  Overall, I enjoyed Brattleboro and was super surprised that this counter-cultural vibe existed in a town in Vermont.  It was as if part of Berkeley had been transplanted into the middle of the woods.   

Portland, Maine
I also traveled to Portland this fall, this time to attend the "Lives in the Balance" conference, as I've been implementing some of Ross Greene's Collaborative Problem Solving with my students.  Portland is also a two-hour drive from Boston.  I had been planning on going for some time, as lots of people told me I would love it.  They were right.  I was only in town for one day, and most of that day was spent at the conference.  However, I did get to walk around a bit in the afternoon, and I can't wait to go back when the weather is warmer.

Portland is a quaint city.  As in Vermont, every guy seems to have a beard and a flannel shirt.  So hipster.  I just loved the way this city seemed old and new at the same time.  The shops are a mix of brand name designers and small indie boutiques.  There were plenty of places I didn't get to, like the Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro.  I did enjoy a Yummus Wrap and cherry chocolate chip cookie at the Local Sprouts Cooperative Cafe, where a bunch of guys were filming some kind of movie and the girls next to me were having a philosophical discussion about college life.  Then I went into Knit Wit  and bought some vegan yarn for some upcoming projects before I had to hit the road again.  As I said, I'll be back.

 There you have it.  A vegan girl can definitely get by in New England.

Blogger's Soundtrack
The Head and the Heart - "Down in the Valley"


  1. I highly recommend Susty's in Northwood, NH, as well as Cafe Indigo in Concord! Their desserts are famous!