I spent the summer of 1998 working on the farm crew at The Mountain School in Vershire, Vermont. Each semester, 45 lucky high school students get to attend school on this working farm in rural Vermont. Each summer, about 6 or 7 people, usually college students or recent graduates, spend three months tending to the farm – planting, harvesting, and taking care of the animals. I remember it as a lovely summer full of hard work, lots of reading, and going for swims in an ice-cold waterfall. I don’t know that I’ll ever forget watching the storms roll in across the hills, or the pleasant exhaustion of bringing in hay.
One of the perks of living on a working farm that was also a boarding school was our access to the school’s beautiful industrial kitchen. There was a whole bank of stoves and ovens, a massive stand mixer, and ever so much counter space.
Not long into the summer, we ran out of granola, and I took on the happy task of replenishing our supply, the school cook’s recipe in hand. If I recall correctly, the original recipe was 8- or 10-fold as big as my current version. Over the past years, I’ve made adjustments to the recipe – removing raisins and sunflower seeds, adding oats, subtracting butter and sweetener, adding things back in. Each time I make it, I think of Gerry Coleman, the farm manager who gave me the recipe, and with whom I ate so many bowls for an afternoon snack.
Not long ago, I found out that this dear woman, who played such a large role in making my summer so lovely, died this past December. Gerry was patient and loving, with an endearing aptitude for blunt honesty and sarcasm, and she knew everything there was to know about organic farming. I had it in my mind that when my kids were just a little bit older, we would go back to Vermont to see her and all get dirty together and finish the day with an enormous, fresh-picked salad with nasturtiums and johnny jump-ups. I love Vermont because of that summer, but honestly, it’s a little less special without Gerry in it.
Maybe we’ll make it back to Vermont someday, and maybe Violet or Emmett will end up attending the Mountain School another fifteen years from now, but in the meantime, I make them granola inspired my summer there. There are weeks at a time when Violet refuses to eat much other than plain organic yogurt and this granola. As toddler dietary whims go, we figure it’s not too shabby.
If you’ve never made granola before, please do try it. It’s so easy to make, and so worth the bit of effort.
Preheat your oven to 300F.
Mix the nuts, oats and brown sugar in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then measure the honey right into the pan and stir together. Add to the oat mixture.
Spread onto a large, rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 1 hour, or until golden brown, stirring every 15 minutes.
Allow to cool completely before storing it in an airtight container.