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Here’s the thing about Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day. The turnout today is not an demonstration of traditional values. It’s an endorsement of bigotry. The fact is, if in 2012 your traditional values cannot accept same-sex marriage or homosexuality in general, then the traditions you value need an update. And today was not an expression of religious freedom. Because, again, if your religion cannot accept homosexuals, then your religion is flawed.

Let’s go back to the beginning of this whole Chick-fil-A foofaraw and replace the word “gay” with “black” or “Jew.” If Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy had spoke out against miscegenation — if he had said that interracial marriage was inviting “God’s judgment on our nation” — would there still have been a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day? I doubt it.

So what’s the difference? Why is it acceptable for homosexuals to be the target of bigotry in this instance? Because of an obscure passage in an old book? Sorry, that’s not good enough.

Freedom of religion? Bullshit. This is bigotry, plain and simple. Check out this story about people turning out to support Chick-fil-A in recent days, saying things like “I’m so glad you don’t support the queers, I can eat in peace.”

Yea, glad are those who hate the queers, for they shall know peace.

And shame on opportunistic, attention-starved conservatives like Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, and Sarah Palin — who value divisiveness over discourse — for exploiting the unfounded anxieties of our country’s small-minded, over-Bibled bigots that, sadly, still believe this garbage.

And that’s what is so troubling. Not only do so many people in this country still harbor these awful prejudices, but when given the opportunity they will celebrate them proudly. Bully for our freedom of speech, which allows you to so proudly proclaim your bigotry. No one can take that away from you, or any of us.

At the end of the day, Chick-fil-A still has a right to do business. Dan Cathy has a right to be a conservative homophobe. And people have a right to support them both. But don’t hide behind your Bible and don’t pretend this is some  great moral cause. It’s not. Because, honestly, you should be ashamed. You should feel small and petty. You should be embarrassed to hold such vileness in your heart. Just eat your goddamn chicken sandwich and shut the hell up.

Photo by Cassandra Hotaling Hahn / Rutland Herald

Originally published in the April 19, 2012, edition of the Rutland Herald.

Last week, Rutland was witness to something unique: A Chamber of Commerce mixer that people were actually talking about. Wales Street became a spectacle as scores of people crowded inside the large tent to mix, mingle and enjoy the complimentary food and drinks.

Donald Billings, chef-owner of Roots the Restaurant — which co-hosted the mixer with Earth Waste Systems — threw down with a menu dominated by locally sourced food. The centerpiece, a pig roast, helped build anticipation as it cooked slowly in Roots’ driveway — its smoky scents wafting through all of downtown a full day ahead of the event.

The buzz around the mixer was unprecedented for these typically humdrum Chamber gatherings. Clearly, the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce knew it had something special, as it was especially effusive in its promotion of the mixer via email, print ads and social media.

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Originally published on the Rutland County Express on Dec. 8, 2011.

Pizza is in my blood. Of all my family’s culinary traditions, it is easily our oldest and, through The Palms, our most widely shared. In Vermont, we practically invented pizza.

No joke. The Palms was the first restaurant to sell pizza in the state — or so the legend goes. This was back in the late 1940s, when, if a Vermonter wanted pizza, they apparently had to call it in to New York State and wait for delivery at the border. (I’m guessing the “30 minutes or it’s free” policy was never honored.)

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Originally published in the Rutland County Express on Nov. 7, 2011.

In a recent edition of Kris Smith’s “Market Watch” column (appearing every Tuesday i n the Rutland Herald), Kris explained the accidental localvore phenomenon. That is, when your buying habits have become such that a given meal is locally sourced by circumstance rather than intent.

I’ve been there: reaching into the fridge, pulling out and preparing some veggies, meat or whatever and suddenly realizing halfway through the meal that it’s entirely local. It’s good feeling — not like a pat-yourself-on-the-back sort of thing, but more like, “Hey, isn’t it cool that I was able to buy all this stuff locally, from people I know and from farms I have been to?”

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Originally published in the Rutland County Express on Nov. 7, 2011.

In a family where Italian roots run deep, my mother’s non-Italian culinary heritage has had to fight for a place on the table. To be sure, a great many of her dishes are Sunday dinner regulars. Her spaghetti salad is a summer barbecue staple; though, I imagine it must have been anathema to the in-laws back in the day. (“Johnny, your wife with the spaghetti and the mayonnaise — what’s goin’ on here?”)

And while many of these recipes are favorites of my siblings and mine, they lag behind the Italian dishes in the pantheon of family food traditions.

Thanksgiving has the creatively named Italian peas. Christmas has Spaghetti Olio and baccalà. Easter has its eponymous pie. (It’s worth noting here that my mother has been instrumental in perfecting each one of these dishes; without her they wouldn’t be the tradition that they are today.)

But one food tradition form my mother’s side that has endured is her Halloween popcorn balls — salty-sweet spheres of popcorn and molasses that, depending on freshness, are either tasty treats of deadly weapons.

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Recently, Herald editor and occasional food critic Randal Smathers penned a none-too-flattering piece about the zucchini — a Dylanesque jeremiad that nearly reached “Positively 4th Street” levels of contempt.

In his opinion, the veggie is overabundant, flavorless and ultimately unwanted — a scourge of summer gardens that growers are only too eager to pawn off to friends and enemies alike.

While the piece gave me a chuckle, I had to take exception to his assertion that only “one-in-10,000” people actually like zucchini. I personally know many zucchini lovers out there who openly celebrate their love for the great, green gourd. (Some town even go as far as to hold festivals for it.)

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