And the Winner Is … Ashfield FilmFest

Notes from Nan: Ashfield FilmFest 2009
By Nan Parati, HF Contributing Writer

September 26th, 2009: Ashfield FilmFest

What a great time was had by over 400 people last Saturday night at the Third Annual Ashfield FilmFest at Town Hall! Fifteen films were entered, the rules being that the films had to be no longer than five minutes, and have some connection to the town of Ashfield (um Massachusetts, not the one in England, I don’t think.)

Red Gate Farm had held workshops in filmmaking and there were a number of entries from kids that were quite fun. Nancy Hoff at the Hardware Store had a brilliant idea in recreating the “Dancing Queen” scene from Mama Mia and orchestrated hundreds (yes? hundreds?) of Ashfield women in giving up their daily toil to join in a rousing musical dance down Main Street ending with a plunge in Ashfield Lake. (I remember that day and it was cold! More kudos to everyone connected with that film for staying in character and following through!) There was a hilarious mockumentary on Big Foot sightings in Ashfield by Jason Mazzarina and Elijah Rottenberg. I’d like to see that one again. There were thoughtful films on the best of Ashfield and its caring for each other, documentaries of daily life and events in Ashfield, and just plain funny ones on summer interning at Red Gate Farm, haunted barns at Red Gate Farm and then, on the pancakes at Elmer’s.

When Gayle Kabaker came to me in early summer to say she wanted to make a film about Elmer’s pancakes, I backed away saying, “I don’t think I want to be involved with this,” a project I feared was somehow going to be a five-minute infomercial on our pancakes. I do love our pancakes, but I couldn’t see myself standing there pitching them or standing proudly by while someone else did. I wasn’t sure what she had in mind and did everything I could to dissuade her from the idea.

Then she brought me the script and it was SO goofy and downright funny—AND I would get to wield a gun and smoke a cigar; the casting was very well-thought out, and it featured three of my favorite people in cameo roles, so I agreed and even did my own hair and makeup for the shoot.

One great thing about the FilmFest is that idea that so many people wanted to come out and see locally-made films, support their friends’ work, dress up in magnificent fashion, clap, cheer and whistle, that over eighty people were actually turned away from the event due to space limitations. I understand that much of the turned-away crowd ended up at Elmer’s for an impromptu alternate party that culminated in patrons doing the final clean-up so that poor Mary, who had not expected to be there by herself (we had thought we’d stay open until seven or so) that night could finally close and go home to sleep before coming back the next morning to cook breakfast. It was a night of community fun and togetherness, something this town is known for and yearns for again after our summer of rocky and uncomfortable division.

When the awards were announced (and rewarded with beautiful individually-created ceramic plates by Dawn Fessenden, as beautiful as any gold-plated statue!) it came out thus:

  • First Prize for Youth: Galen Knowles for History in a Free Fall
  • First Prize for Adult: Nancy Hoff for Dancing Queen
  • Ashfield History Prize (sponsored in part by the Ashfield History Project): Tamsen Merrill for Stocking the Food Pantry
  • Ashfield Resident Prize: David Fessenden for Locavore
  • Grand Prize: Gayle Kabaker for The Great Ashfield Pancaper
  • The well-deserved and roundly applauded Audience Choice Award (for their favorite film, voted on directly after the showing of all the films) was Nancy Hoff’s Dancing Queen.

Congratulations to all who participated, actually getting it together to make a whole film, finish it and get it in! Keep that creative momentum and let’s do it again next year!


Nan Parati - Elmer's StoreNan Parati

Nan is the proprietor of Elmer’s Store in Ashfield, MA. A New England transplant from the Deep South, Nan shares her southern wit, wisdom and charm every week in her column, “Notes from Nan.” Share dinner with her every Friday at Elmer’s. Menu’s are posted with her column.

What I Learned on my Vacation by Nan Parati

Notes from Nan: What I Learned on my Vacation by Nan Parati:
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

Dang it, I know I was supposed to have this finished and sent out a few days ago, but until exactly 24 hours ago, I was on a real, live vacation; the first one since the one I was on in 2005 when I accidentally moved here. My friend Nancy (Rob’s sister) and I took a road trip out to South Dakota (which is where people always think to go from here on a vacation!) We were actually on an aimless road trip vacation, but ended up in the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota and it was just wonderful! I did not take my computer so I let my mind have its own vacation to wander aimlessly around the mountains and it had a great time, completely separate from anything I was doing. So now, trying to get it engaged in work again is just a little difficult, but not too bad.

One thing I discovered and therefore, need to ask my accountant if discovering this means I can write the entire week off, is that there’s no place like Elmer’s. Now, if I were the cook I would feel boastful writing that, but since I am not, I can truly say that the food at Elmer’s is really good. Especially the pancakes. And the eggs. And the sausage. And all the dinners. And the inn is pretty good, too. Me, I was on vacation to see someplace different and yet all the food and local accommodations (we tried to sleep and eat at only locally owned, locally run places) were run by people who seemed to work hard to make their places indistinguishable from anyplace else in the country. Me, I’m thinking that if you’re on vacation you want to be someplace special with really good food! So I am going to bet that other people feel the same way and keep on being as weird as we already are.

The place I found most interesting, by the way, was an inn and restaurant combination we found on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. The Native woman who owned it and I had a good old time talking about the trials and tribulations of running your own place and found we had a lot in common in that she had said, “Running a motel is easy! Let’s do that! And now wishes she could go on vacation, too. We talked about a cultural exchange program where she would come to New England and run Elmer’s for a week and I’d go out there and run her place on the Res. I think we’d both be in for a lot of surprises, and I’ll bet you guys would be a lot more accepting of her than her local clients would of me! But people were nice all around and a good time was had by all. And I finally got my hot summer—it was in the 80s, close to 90 the whole time we were there! Now that is what you really want on a vacation!

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Found in Ashfield: Blue & Orange Pacifier In the Dirt After Weekend Clambake

Notes from Nan: Attention Three-Year Olds:
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

Attention three-year olds:  I’m sorry to have to bring this to your attention, as I know that you are very busy learning to say your “Rs” and don’t have much time for stuff like this, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to temporarily stop drinking the little Half and Half creamers. I know they are addictive—such thick and creamy milk, and they are perfect little shot-glasses for hands your size, but the problem is that it’s summer, we’ve been very, very busy with lots of customers, and we find that every single Sunday we’re out of creamers. I’m afraid we just don’t have any extra to spare, and so we’re going to have to ask you to leave the creamers in their little bowls until, say, Labor Day when things go back to normal. Unless, of course, you’re putting them in your coffee, which, I think may stunt your growth, so you may want to talk to your doctor about drinking coffee at age three. You might also want to think about your cholesterol levels, which drinking the Half and Half is not helping. It might not be such an issue right now, but you’ll thank me later in life for making you aware of your cholesterol level now.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this issue.

Incidentally, a blue and orange pacifier was found in the dirt after the Clambake. I’m not sure you still want it as it appears to have been stomped upon, but in case if was your favorite and you wondered where it went, I believe it’s here.

Boy was that a real nice clambake!

You know what you get at a Clambake I now know? You know those big-ass aluminum pans that you put a whole 50 pound turkey in to cook it at Thanksgiving? You get one of those filled up with lobsters, clams, the best clam chowder ever in the history of clams, barbequed chicken, corn on the cob and potatoes. Filled up! People had to rent trucks to take all their left-overs home. Now, it did rain a little, but I learned a valuable lesson: People in New England would rather sit out in the rain to watch a concert and be able to drink than to be inside a nice and dry Town Hall without being able to drink. Not being a drinker myself, I did not realize that! But no one complained at all and everyone seemed quite happy to be outside, with or without hooch. And the concert was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Even in the rain. We have CDs by May Erlewine and Seth Bernard here now, and they are so worth listening to. What great voices! What great songs! And Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem blew the roof off the joint just like I thought they would! It was a great night all around!

Dinner this week! Read the rest of this entry »

Let the Sun Shine In! A Review of “Hair”

Notes from Nan: Let the Sun Shine In!
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

When I was fifteen my parents took me to see the Broadway touring company production of “Hair.”

I remember three things most distinctly about it:

  1. Berger (the main guy character) was the epitome of cool, the attention of that cool a guy I would never, ever be hip enough to attract.
  2. The entire Tribe up there on stage was soaked in self-assurance, dyed to the bone in Truth and Knowledge. Once again, I knew I would never grow up to be that strong.
  3. The famous nude scene was way, way too short.

This weekend my little brother (now in his forties) took me to see it again in New York! And these are the things I saw this time:

  1. Berger could not be more of a mocking, insecure, self-centered girlfriend-using jerk. Unfortunately within just a few years of fifteen I was able to be cool enough to attract that kind of guy ALL the time! Two late-high-school-aged girls stood ahead of me in the bathroom line and I asked them what they thought of Berger.
    “WAY cool!” they chorused. “We are willing him to us! We’ve seen it four times!”
    “You know he’d break your heart,” I said. “No he wouldn’t,” they said together. “He’s SO COOL!”
    The overwhelming draw of the jerkwad guy has not changed in thirty five years!
  2. Oh my goodness, what a flimsy group of children those poor kids were! Chrissy the unwed pregnant mom, Sheila the politically charged world-changer (whose heart is publicly stomped on by boyfriend Berger), Hud, the coolest-of-all black Jimi Hendrix look-alike, Claude, the poor child who goes off to Vietnam; I saw them this weekend all thirty five years later, who they would be thirty-five years later. Some would be funny and wise, full of sardonic and hilarious tales of the hippie years, others would be angry, broken, disillusioned, disenchanted. And then, others would still be at it, trying so hard to find truth for the whole world. And then others still would have just moved on up and out and into the changing world with all of the doubt and reality it carries with it after all. All of us ended up in some way; I just could not have imagined anything less than future nirvana for all of those hip characters up there on that stage in 1972 at the still-beginning of the age of Truth and Knowledge. (“He’s SO COOL!”)
  3. Now, having seen at least 27 grown, naked people in my life, I thought the naked scene silly and gratuitous—and SO LONG!



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And to think it happened at Elmer’s!

Notes from Nan: And to think it happened at Elmer’s!
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati


You just never know who you’re gonna see at Elmer’s. Last week at this time we had Sonya Kitchell, Erin McKeown and Erica Wheeler all sitting around at breakfast with their guitars and gorgeous voices, jamming together on a theme of pancakes. And just now I walked in to talk to Jim and there was a group of Tibetan monks having coffee. I’m thinking that Tuesdays are the day to come in just to see what in the world is going on!

So, my nieces and their friends were up from North Carolina over the last few days and yesterday Micki sees a thermometer says in her little southern accent, “It’s really only 60 degrees? Really? That’s so weird . . .”

Yes, and sixty degrees is the good news from where it’s been. My friends, they have record-breaking heat in New Orleans! Do you know how hard you would have to get before you can get hotter than it’s EVER been in NEW ORLEANS??? Hell itself has never been that hot! And what do we get? Sixty degrees on July 13th. It kind of makes me sad.

This weekend is The Green River Festival. Every other year that I have worked on it it’s been up in the 100s of degrees out there—like, 200 or more! This year I’m hoping we’ll be able to work up a sweat. Oh, you’re probably quite fine with sixty or seventy degrees for Green River Festival. It may be a good thing, as due to the large crowds expected this year, we’ve been forced to ask people not to bring tents. It has been advertised, by the way as “nearly sold out”, which is true, but I know that there are still some tickets left if you’re interested. (We even still have some at Elmer’s—both for the whole weekend ($45) and for the Friday night Anniversary of Signature Sounds artists ($25.) The whole line-up is at

Saturday morning at Elmer’s, we will have outside a short little performance by Double Edge Theater, while you wait for your table. They are getting ready for their summer performance of “The Arabian Nights” ( and will be handing out fliers and doing God Knows What outside of Elmer’s that morning. (You know how it is with Double Edge, you never know what to expect, which is what makes it so worth seeing!) I believe they should be here around 10 or 11, so come for breakfast, come for the Farmer’s Market down the street, and see what Double Edge is up to!

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Everything’s Coming up Rosemary in Ashfield

Notes from Nan: Everything’s Coming up Rosemary . . . for me and for yoouuu!
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

Congratulations to Del Haskins for being sworn in as our new Fire Chief in Ashfield! In some really surprising news, I was the Fire Chief for about two and a half minutes! Maryellen wanted to make sure she had the oath right (not wanting to repeat the slip-up at the Obama inauguration) and so she turned to me to practice on. Realizing it would be my only chance to ever be Fire Chief, I vowed to do everything right. Fortunately, no major fires broke out in my two and a half minute reign, only a few trash can fires that I was able to put out by kicking them over and stomping on them.

But you know, one of my favorite mottos is “Roll when you’re on fire.”

This weather is very bad. (I just wrote three different words/terms for bad, but then thought better of them as you never know who is reading.) But, this weather makes me very grouchy. (Three more words deleted.) But you know what helps? A little while ago herbalist Toni Lemos was showing me some essential oils and I accidentally hit the rosemary one with my nose and now my whole world smells like Rosemary! And that is helping my mood considerably! I recommend it until the sun comes back out.

Sorry this post is so late, but I’ve been busy! Okay? Okay! (Rosemary! Inhale the rosemary!)

The first thing I have to do is correct myself on my last post when I said we had served 139 people on Father’s Day. A hundred and thirty-nine, that ain’t nothing; last Sunday we served 160 people. No, on Father’s Day we served two hundred and thirty-nine people. I am sorry for the gross understatement I imposed upon our hard-working staff of that day. (And they let me know I had messed up—for which I do not blame them!)

I had something else I had to correct as well, but I forgot what that one was.

But thank you to all of the people who brought in dish towels, mugs and pens! One faithful reader forwards this post every week to her niece in Connecticut and the niece mailed a box of dish towels and pens! I feel like Berlin in the 1940s!*

Many people have asked if we will be open on July 4th, and indeed we will! We’ll serve breakfast from 8am – noon and after that we’ll be open as long as people keep coming in. If they stop we might go home, but do come in for breakfast!

*For those young enough to wonder what in the world I’m talking about, and for those of you old enough, yet versed enough in history to also wonder what in the world I’m talking about, I’m talking about the Berlin Airlift of 1948 and 49 when the Western Allies airlifted food and supplies into Soviet-blockaded Berlin. Now, what we have here at Elmer’s is nothing at all like the Berlin Airlift of 1948, but it makes a nice image; all the Elmer’s employees standing on the roof of Elmer’s waiting for airplanes to drop loads of dish towels and pens to us. The mugs hurt when they hit us, but the dishtowels are okay.

For dinner this week!  Read the rest of this entry »

Elmer’s Old Washcloth and Dishtowel Drive

Notes from Nan: Recycling your old stuff with us, who need it!
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

I have spent the ENTIRE day planning to work on my taxes—I’m just a little behind on a few things—and here I am at 7:09 pm, not any closer to being a true American Citizen than I was at 8:00 this morning. Hey look! I just twittered!

My new favorite name of something: Being on E-mail and Facebook all day long while at work is apparently called “Social Notworking.”

Okay, now for the news:

Do you remember back when we did our great Pen drive and everyone brought our pens back to us as well as some that we had never owned? Well now I have an even better idea! This is Elmer’s Old Washcloth and Dishtowel drive! (And we could use some pens again, too, as you apparently took them all home with you again.)

I’m just thinking; I spend a lot of money on washcloths and dishtowels so that we can wash off tables and dry them, and I occasionally bring in old ones from my house that are unsightly or just too rust-stained for me to want to give to guests or anything, and then I thought, “Why, I’ll bet there are lots of people out there without anything to do with their old washcloths and dishtowels!” I don’t mean your good guest towels, I mean that even kind of raggely ones will do! Those aren’t really things you can put in your tag sales, so you must have mountains of them in the back of your attic!

You may ask yourselves, “Where exactly do the washcloths and dish towels they already have go to?” and the answer is, “I don’t know! Maybe you took those with you, too when you were pocketing our pens!” It is also possible that since it is the good old summertime and we are serving that many more Elmer Guests (we served breakfast to 139 people on Father’s Day!) that our need is up and so we’re just running through more as we put them in the laundry every day.

So if you are looking at your collected piles of pens, washcloths, dishtowels OR even coffee mugs that you wish you didn’t have, you can just bring them to us at Elmer’s Store, 369 Main St., Ashfield, Massachusetts 01330.  You can recycle your old stuff and help us keep our costs down all at the same time! And we appreciate it!

Here is our dinner menu for this week:

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If anyone plans to move here from the city, they need to know about the roosters and the donkeys.

Notes from Nan: Roosters and Cowboys
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

Photo credit: Desiree Robertson-DuBois

The only good thing is that I figured out the purpose of winter:  That’s when you close your window so that you get to sleep until the crack of 8.

You know the rooster alerts everyone that he’s having trouble sleeping, which gets the Stupid Bird going.  They, together start up the crows (or whatever those screechy things are) and then this owl starts up.  And what does all that give way to?  Donkeys!  I don’t even know who in my neighborhood has donkeys, but they sure like imitating roosters!

If anyone plans to move here from the city, they need to know about the roosters and the donkeys.  That is an important deterrent.  Add that issue to the limited DSL and cell phone service up here and that should pretty effectively keep them in the city where the sirens go all night and they get so used to them they never hear them.  I’m not complaining.  I’m just sleepy and grouchy.

Hey! Here’s what’s for dinner: Read the rest of this entry »

Yankee Magazine Discovers the Best Pancake in New England in Ashfield, MA!

Notes from Nan: Thank you Marian Gray, for making us famous!
By Nan Parati, HF Contributing Writer

Elmer's with Kelli Ann and Family1

Nan with guests Kelli Ann & Ben who traveled from Canada just to sample Marian's cakes! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

I forgot to tell you guys who don’t read Yankee Magazine that their editors chose Elmer’s for having the “Best Pancakes in New England.”  Now you would think that was great news—and it is, except now I got to worry every day that the pancakes are perfect, every single one.  I know that Jim and Son can certainly do that, but I still have to worry about it now because there will always be those out there trying to prove Yankee Magazine wrong.  You know how people are always trying to prove that Yankee Magazine doesn’t know what it’s talking about, but you know what?  Because I own a breakfast restaurant, I eat pancakes at every restaurant that I possibly can just to compare them to ours.  And you know what more?  I have not found a single pancake between here and Louisiana that can even sit in the same room as ours, and even less even be considered in the running.  You know why I can say that without embarrassment?  Because we got the recipe from Marian Gray of Gray’s Sugarhouse and so the praise all goes to her for the recipe and to Jim and Son for making them, and none at all to me because to this day, I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout makin’ no pancakes.  I just know how to eat them, which I gladly do.  So, thanks to the editors at Yankee Magazine for their choosing us as Best Pancakes in New England.
Now I want National Geographic to choose us as best pancakes in the whole world.
Our menus this week:
BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Coleslaw and Macaroni and Cheese
Grilled Portabella Mushroom Sandwiches
Prime Rib with Baked Potato and a seasonal vegetable
And Jim doesn’t have the vegetarian option in his head yet.
Look—all y’all who did not come in and eat Jim’s mashed potatoes with salt cod in them missed the best food you would have ever eaten in your life.  I’m just telling you.
Anna Fessenden (who I have known since 1983 from our old days together in New Orleans) makes bread for us—exclusively for us.  I would like to call it ElmerBread, but she calls it AnnaBread.  Either way, it is Freakin’Good Bread and if you haven’t tried it yet, you are missing the best bread you ever ate in your whole life in any country.  (I can’t wait until Yankee Magazine tries it!)
AnnaBread is available at Elmer’s Store Thursday through Sunday every week:
Thursdays: Baguettes and Daily Bread only
Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays: Baguettes, Daily Bread, Country White, Whole Wheat, Rosemary & Olive and randomly, Rye
First delivery is at 8 AM  (This bread is so fresh that she brings it in as she makes it, two or three batches a day!  It’s hot when it comes in!)
Bread can be reserved by calling Elmer’s at 628-4003
Mondays and Wednesdays we carry fresh El Jardin Bread.
The Farm Report
Editor’s Note:  Donna has a clipboard on the bulk shelf where people can write their grocery requests.  I noticed the other day how several people had written, “Thanks, Donna for getting . . . !” whatever it was they had asked for.  That made me happy.  Thanks, Donna, for caring so much!
ELMER’S BREAD (AnnaBread) Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday: Baguettes, Daily Bread, Country White, Whole Wheat, and Rye with Rosemary and Olive
EL JARDIN BREAD Monday and Wednesday from Holyoke.
HONEY: WILDFLOWER, BEE POLLEN from Bear Meadow Apiary, Ashfield
MAPLE SYRUP: New Crop Half gallons, quarts, pints, ½ pints, 100ml from Gray’s Sugar House, Ashfield
SALSA from Appalachian Naturals, Goshen
HERBS: DRIED. Basil, Cayenne Peppers, Celery Leaf, Cilantro Leaf, Parsley, Sage, Thyme, Lemon Thyme from Sangha Farm, Ashfield
PARSNIPS from Manda Farm, Plainfield
POTATOES: FINGERLINGS from Manda Farm, Plainfield
RHUBARB from Springwater Farm, Ashfield
Organic (WXF) Apples Braeburn
Organic (Mexico) Avocados
Organic & Fair Trade (Ecuador) Bananas
Organic (FL) Beets
Organic (CA) Broccoli
Organic (CA) Carrots
Organic (Mexico) Cucumbers
Organic (CA) Lettuce: Romaine Hearts
Organic (Mexico) Mangoes
Organic (CA) Mesclun
Organic (CA) Pears
Organic (CA) Spinach
Organic (CA) Yams
Conventional (CA) Lemons
Conventional (CA) Tomatoes: Clusters
Organic (Hawaii) Ginger Root
Organic (CA) Garlic
Organic (Ca) Herbs: Parsley
Organic (CA) Onions: Red
Organic (CA) Onions: Yellow
Organic (CA) Potatoes: Yellow
Organic (CA) Potatoes
Organic (CA) Rutabaga
Organic (CA) Shallots
Please email me at if you have any special requests.
Now it’s coming up on summer, so get yourselves together for our first ever
Cowboy Festival!
Sunday, June 14th in the afternoon
At Elmer’s
The Sweetback Sisters
Click here: The Sweetback Sisters on MySpace Music – Free Streaming MP3s, Pictures & Music Downloads
Girl Howdy!
Click here: GiRL HOWDY on MySpace Music – Free Streaming MP3s, Pictures & Music Downloads
I don’t know all the details yet, but we got The Sweetback Sisters, Girl Howdy and Chef Jim will be cooking up all kinds of Southwestern food.  And you should dress up like Cowboys and Girls!
Stay tuned for ticket prices, times and other stuff—just don’t go out of town that day!  (It’s a Sunday, so if you go out of town, come back in time for it!)

Oh yes!

I forgot to tell you guys who don’t read Yankee Magazine that their editors chose Elmer’s for having the “Best Pancakes in New England.”  Now you would think that was great news—and it is, except now I got to worry every day that the pancakes are perfect, every single one.  I know that Jim and Son can certainly do that, but I still have to worry about it now because there will always be those out there trying to prove Yankee Magazine wrong.  You know how people are always trying to prove that Yankee Magazine doesn’t know what it’s talking about, but you know what?  Because I own a breakfast restaurant, I eat pancakes at every restaurant that I possibly can just to compare them to ours.  And you know what more?  I have not found a single pancake between here and Louisiana that can even sit in the same room as ours, and even less even be considered in the running.  You know why I can say that without embarrassment?  Because we got the recipe from Marian Gray of Gray’s Sugarhouse and so the praise all goes to her for the recipe and to Jim and Son for making them, and none at all to me because to this day, I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout makin’ no pancakes.  I just know how to eat them, which I gladly do.  So, thanks to the editors at Yankee Magazine for their choosing us as Best Pancakes in New England.

Now I want National Geographic to choose us as best pancakes in the whole world. Read the rest of this entry »

The Place That Could Be the Most Beautiful That is Instead the Most Ugly Because of Bad Building

Notes from Nan: Back from Summer into Spring Again!
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

I am back in Ashfield!

And you know, as I was driving back I decided to take a side turn off into the Poconos. I’ve heard of the Poconos, but I had never been there. I stayed on Route 209 so that I didn’t go deep into the Poconos, but driving up 209 I thought, “MAN are we lucky to live in Ashfield!” Route 209 and the Poconos (I like that word) could get the award that was given to Innsbruck, Austria a number of years ago—The Place That Could Be the Most Beautiful That is Instead the Most Ugly Because of Bad Building. (I’m not sure that’s the official name of it, but it’s how it translates from the German.) Route 209 has all these little places from the 40s and 50s that would be cool enough except that they are in disrepair and look kind of forgotten about. Then it has new places built among the old and they are just New Places like CVS drugstores and casinos and things. So a good stretch of the run is just kind of ratty looking—among, of course, the trees and mountains and the Delaware Water Gap.

So maybe it is the long, dark winter that keeps people from wanting to move here and build things, or I don’t know what, but I sure do prefer it! I had a discussion with a friend the other day who asked, “Doesn’t it drive you crazy up there being so far away from modern conveniences and things?” And I had to say that no, I actually like having to think about what I’m doing to be most efficient at it. It makes life more tangible.

And so that’s my report back from the big city.

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Singing the Blues in Mississippi

Notes from Nan: Singing the Blues in Mississippi
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

I’m sitting in a big old house in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi listening to my long-time friend (since seventh grade!) Ellis and her band play the blues. Normally at this moment on a Sunday morning I would be scurrying around serving people food and I have to say that at this moment, I couldn’t be happier than sitting under these huge old oaks in this antebellum house listening to these hard-riding harmonies that sound just right in this town that was all but washed out to sea by Hurricane Katrina. They say around here that Hurricane Camille of 1969 killed more people in 2005 than it did in 1969, as people always thought that any house that could have withstood Camille could certainly outlive any hurricane thrown at them later on. So they stayed home for Katrina and washed right out to sea. They really did. For a first hand account of what it was to stare God in the face, read Ellis’ account of what all happened at The thing that gets me every time I read it is that these were not people who signed up to ride broncos or jump out of airplanes; these were regular old people who believed their 150 year old houses high up and away off the coast to withstand the worst hurricane the Gulf Coast had ever seen, so they banded together to make sure their roofs stayed home. It’s an account as harrowing as anything you will read and certainly worth reading. If you only have a little time, skip over to read the tale of The Baytown Inn and know that I met two of the survivors of that scary tale just yesterday, putting up “Please don’t litter” signs over at the Mockingbird restaurant. That these two men went on to be normal people is just more than you can sometimes imagine. One of the singers this morning told me a little while ago that it’s just now that many of the survivors around here are beginning to fall apart, four years after the cataclysm itself. Now some of the houses are rebuilt and the town just looks more like one under lots of construction than one that God tried to kill, and the combination of relative safety combined with the New World Financial Dysfunction is just taking them right out.

So listening to three citizens playing the blues and other songs of death and hope with their swirling harmonies and stealth bass lines is just better than anything else in the world I could be doing on this Sunday morning. The bass player is named Billy Ray and has a talking voice just like Billy Bob Thornton’s.

I’m inviting them to come up to Ashfield, MA sometime this summer and play for us because they are just great! I always hoped Ellis would take her music famous and she did so locally, but I’m hoping she’ll bring it up to us sometime this summer.

You know that on April 18th Swing Caravan is going to play at Elmer’s at 8pm (dinner starts at 5) and also, I don’t believe I have mentioned to you on Sunday, June 14th I’m planning a Cowboy Festival with bands the Sweetback Sisters and Girl Howdy. As I find out more I’ll let you know what the bigger plans are but that’s what I know so far. You are, of course encouraged to wear cowboy and girl outfits, however! I do know that!

Dinner this week … Read the rest of this entry »

“My dod ate my pwincess shoes and today is my BERFday!!”

Notes from Nan: Princess for a Day
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

Oh LORD am I tired! Or, tard, as they say in the deep south. I am in New Orleans to work on the Jazz Fest, staying at my friend Tracy’s house. Tracy has a daughter whose third birthday was today and I signed on as the in-house face painter, as that’s what I do best. Lola wanted a princess birthday party, so I painted the faces of thousands of three-year-old princesses and three boys who all chose to be Spiderman.

But our story doesn’t start there.

Friday night, in anticipation of the Big Birthday Event, we took Little Future-Princess Lola to the Disney Store at the mall to pick out a princess dress and shoes for her birthday. That’s what you do when you live in big cities, you just go to the mall where they have any number of Princess Dresses ready made—with shoes to match! Lola chose the Giselle model; a fabulously fluffy white affair with puffy sleeves and sequined shoes. The whole ensemble looked not unlike the outfit her mother wore back when she got married, only in miniature.

Last night Tracy and I stayed up until Two O’clock (in the morning) making grosses of cupcakes. Tracy made the cupcakes; my job was to mix princess colors for the frostings. My palate was the dress colors of extant Princesses Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine and some other Princesses I had never heard of and who lounge around in dress colors not found in nature. There were objections to the purple color I created, but without magenta, you can only do so much to make purple before it goes to brown. Given little to work with, I thought I did exceptionally well FOR TWO A.M. WHEN I DON’T EVEN HAVE CHILDREN.

About three a.m. we went to bed—just about in time to wake up to the wail of the Princess of the Day who had awoken at about 6 to find her Sequined Princess Shoes eaten by the royal scurvy family dog sometime during the night, the remains cruelly left RIGHT by her bed, only hours before the kingdom was to show up at the gate.

I had been assigned the job of the Festooning of the Royal Dining Room and hurried through that so that I could take her little majesty back out to the Disney Store to see if the shoes could be replaced. Somehow the sight of a three-year-old distraught princess (in tiara and matching mirabou slippers on the wrong feet) marching up to the counter waving a raggely pair of sequined princess shoes exclaiming, “My dod ate my pwincess shoes and today is my BERFday!!” softened the Disney hearts of the clerk and the store manager and they offered to replace the sodden things at no charge.

So then we hurried home where scores of little princesses (one in a fluffy pink gown arrived on a push-scooter wearing sunglasses and crocs) and three future spidermen descended upon us, I painted faces until I started getting sloppy with it. “You said you wanted butterflies! It’s a butterfly! Sure it is! Here. Does that look better? Okay good. NEXT!” and all the little royal ones bounced in the princess bouncy house until the sun went down and it got cold and they all went home. I took a nap in the setting and remembered I had to send out the e-mail before tomorrow morning, so here I am. Tired, but full of cupcakes and pretzels.

Thursday is my birthday. I think I will see if I can borrow the gown, the crown and the shoes for my annual crawfish boil.

Read the rest of this entry »

More Mayhem and now a Caravan Swings in Ashfield

Notes from Nan: More Mayhem and now a Caravan Swings …
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

Thanks for all the Pen-love! We got all kinds of pens, even from people who said they had never taken any of our pens, but just felt bad for us and brought us whole boxes of them! Stick pens, clicky pens, Sharpies, Play pens, Bic Pens, Blue Pens, Ballpoint Pens, Fountain pens, Red Pens, Pig pens; we are lousy with pens now, and that makes us so happy! (How can something so little make you so happy? It just does!) You all just gave so generously and that means we can stay on the air one more year, writing things, signing things, drawing things . . . And we didn’t even have to roll the Peter, Paul and Mary video!

Continuing our unbelievable performance at Elmer’s series …

Read the rest of this entry »

Sustainable Solutions: Ball Point Pen Drive (…only in Ashfield!)

Notes from Nan: Help Support the Elmer’s Ball Point Pen Drive!
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

Every morning we start out with a stack of ballpoint pens for the waitresses to use and every night they’re gone. We think we know where they are.

We think you got ‘em.

We think you take them home with you. (Look in your car. Look in your pocket. Look in your hair and behind your ears. See? You got ‘em.)

So we would like for you to go through your junk drawer and pull out all the pens that are in there that you haven’t used in 15 years and bring them back to us! And then, when you sign your credit card slip, you can forget and take it home with you again! And we will continue to recycle pens throughout the town for years and years! It’s a perfect sustainable solution!  Read the rest of this entry »

25 Original Hippies and 60 Lovers in Ashfield

Notes from Nan: And the Music Continues
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

To those of you who found yourselves at the wrong end of grouchiness at Elmer’s on Sunday or Monday, I want you to know that the curmudgeonliness was a direct result of all the love, peace and harmony that was being flung about all day Saturday.

We began at 7:15 Saturday morning (meaning of course that the cook, waitresses and counter people had to get there well before that) to serve a Dawning of the Age of Aquarius breakfast to about 25 original hippies, some of whom came dressed in outfits similar to the ones they first heard that song in. They sat at one long table and sang and expressed love and harmonium to each other for as long as we let them. Then we made them leave so that we could get the next group of 20 young Double Edge students in. Never trust anyone under 30.

Then, that night, we seated 60 lovers for our annual Valentine’s Day Night Dinner and had to stay up late, late for that. Jill Connolly and her band was so good that no one took their traditional Hilltown 9pm leave and people stayed and stayed—which was good! But the poor staff was starting to wane by about 10.

Then the next morning everyone had to be there again for breakfast and then Monday we were all there again for an overwhelming President’s Day crowd. I think Obama has really given people something to celebrate for Presidents’ Day or something—I never saw so many people decide to celebrate the day with breakfast!

By the end of the afternoon we were barely speaking to each other, too much love can just wear you out.

But thanks for coming, every one of you! And I wish you a pleasant thousand years Aquarius.

Unfortunately, one victim of the Love Squabble was the information about what we’re serving for dinner this week. Jim was too tired for me to even ask about it, so watch the website ( to learn what it is.

For our Age of Aquarius Breakfast we tried offering 1968-appropriate vintage dishes such as:

  • Granola with orange juice on it
  • Whole-wheat pancakes that weighed 12 pounds each
  • Lentil Mush
  • Or, for those who had been up all night: Fruit Loops with Peanut Butter

Apparently tastes have changed, as no one ordered any of that and asked for the regular menu, instead.

So, you may know about the Inn across the street from Elmer’s: We’re taking that big white house across the street from Elmer’s (the one on Norton Hill Road) and turning it into a Bed and Breakfast and Other Community-Oriented Things House.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dawning of the Age of Aquarius in Ashfield

Notes from Nan
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

When the Moon is in the seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then love will rule the planets and peace will steer the stars.

Guess what this Saturday is? It is the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius, Age of Aquariuhhhhhs! Aquar-ri-uhhhhhhs! A-QUAR-ri-uhhhhhhs! At 7:25, to be exact.

So get up early, find your old love beads and come to Elmer’s for our Dawning of the Age of Aquarius breakfast! We will open at 7:15 am JUST for this event. This was not my idea; it was the idea of some of our customers, and so I made them ask Chef Jim if he would come in early for this event. (I could not IMAGINE he would agree to it) but he did and so, the place to be to usher in the next thousand years of Love and Peace is Elmer’s Store on Saturday morning. At 7:15. AM.

My sort of beatnik parents took me to see Hair when I was in the ninth grade and it was GREAT! Nekkid people and all! (Remember that? They had the 6 second naked scene?) By the way, you must wear clothing to breakfast that morning, unless you look like a young and fabulous Broadway actor in great shape. I think the Double Edge actors can come in their nekkid costumes, but I think everyone else should wear clothes to breakfast. Double Edge actors are encouraged to attend nekkid, in fact, come to think of it. Read the rest of this entry »

Power to the (hilltown) People!

Notes from Nan: Power to the People!
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

To our long-lost brethren who are still without power (and feeling powerless)

Free coffee and a hot shower at Elmer’s!

As we were the last people in downtown Ashfield to get power, we feel your pain and annoyance and invite you in for

Free coffee and a hot shower at Elmer’s!

We also have a phone and internet that you can use. I know that since you have no power at home you may not be reading this, but I expect your powered-up friends to tell you about it the old fashioned way: By walking over to your house and knocking on your door.

You can also escape your trials and tribulations by coming to Elmer’s this week for dinner on Thursday and Friday and then to the Solstice Celebration on Saturday!

Was there ever a group of people happier to welcome the return of light than we in Western Massachusetts??

Here’s the plan:

  • We start dinner at 5:00: a hearty stew of beef or lentils.
  • The celebration on the Town Common starts at 6:30 with Music! Dance! Story-telling! Elk!
  • Then come to Elmer’s for the rest of the party, including dinner more dinner for those who haven’t eaten yet.
  • Then the Morris Dancers all sit together and eat and sing and suddenly they all get up and do the sword dance right there in Elmer’s!
  • It is great fun and like nothing you experience in your normal, every day life!

Here’s what we’re having the other days of the week:

  • Thursday: No Electricity or warmth in the house Comfort Food: Roast Pork and mashed Potatoes.
  • Friday night: Fisherman’s Platter with Shrimp, Scallops, Haddock and something else. I forgot what it was.

If this menu looks suspiciously like last week’s menu (only changed around) it’s because Jim had decided to have this, but never actually got the food, so he kept the menu and will get the ingredients for this week’s dinner.

Gas in Ohio and other interesting tidbits

Notes from Nan: Greetings from Ohio!
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

Good gracious, y’all—gas in Ohio is $1.79 a gallon!

I am actually in Ohio, which is how I know that. I am on a Midwest tour with me old mum, visiting the places she grew up in. And today I committed a sin. I don’t think it was a mortal sin, and I don’t know what a venial sin is and I forgot what the other one is called, but it was the sin of “oh yeah.” And that’s a bad one.

Traveling around with me old mum is not a sin—that’s just about the only thing that’s keeping me tethered to the gates of Heaven, considering the wicked life I’ve led, but this afternoon, Mom chose for us to eat lunch at Bob Evans.

Bob Evans is a restaurant not at all unlike Shoney’s or Perkins or even (for you locals) Friendly’s—albeit without the ice cream bonanzas. But there we were, waiting for lunch when I looked at their placemats that advertised, “BE-Mail” (which would be short for Bob Evans mail) so that one could stay connected to them and receive updates on Bob Evans Food and Specials.

So I looked at that and thought, “Why in the world would anyone care about what Bob Evans restaurants are doing with their food?” and then I thought, “Oh yeah. Why would they care about Elmer’s food enough to get a dang weekly e-mail about it?” And then I felt small and bad for ridiculing Bob Evans and his followers. Read the rest of this entry »

Ice Cream and Movies in Ashfield

Notes from Nan: Ice Cream and Movies!
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

This is big news: BIGGER than the presidential election outcome! Ready?  Winton the Hilltown Ice Cream Man decided to go out of the ice cream business.  Maybe you already knew that. Maybe I’ve just upset you really, really badly and for that, I am sorry.

BUT! Here’s the important Breaking News part:

Elmer’s owns ALL of his remaining ice cream! We have it right here!! Why? Because I always wanted to corner the market on something and now I have! No, not really (well, yes really, but that’s not really why.)

We have the stuff, man, and we will be selling it right here out of Elmer’s in the form of dessert until it runs out. And then it will be no more. Ever again. So we are selling each scoop for $49.95, which may seem expensive until you reflect on how rare and good it is.

$49.94 a scoop is actually just for the out-of-towners who never come here who want to order it on-line or through QVC. For Elmer’s patrons we will sell it at normal prices with pie, with cake, with salami—whatever you want it with, or just alone; but only as dessert. We can’t sell quarts of it or even pints of it because:

1. Then we will run out quickly and that is not the point of having it.
2. Just like with your birthday presents, if you savor each bite, the delight will last longer.
3. I said so.

Every week we’ll have a different flavor and just that flavor because I don’t want to open a lot of tubs all at once and have them get freezer burnt. See, we are an analogue business and that’s how we operate. Refer to number 3 above.

The flavors we have are

  • Coffee
  • Butter Pecan
  • Chocolate
  • Spotted Leopard

I don’t know which of the flavors it will be this week, but if you come in for dinner and dessert, you will find out! Read the rest of this entry »

Ashfield Fall Festival Stomped Butt!

Notes from Nan: Good Fest!  Good Fest!
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

I do not know how one little festival about four blocks long can stomp my butt so soundly, but Fall Festival certainly does! And also, I don’t know how, after the cold-ish and rainy-ish summer we had that we were able to get two such glorious days, right together, holding hands, stepping up and proudly standing bold for the whole two days of the festival, but indeed we did! Wasn’t that a beeyoutiful Fall Festival? Next year I would like to be in on the pre-fest meeting that the trees have when they decide which way they’re going with the colors and the leaves-on-the-branches vs. leaves-on-the-ground, etc. I thought the way they handled it this year with every tree being in some form of color; some with the color just coming in, some full ablaze, some solid color, some variegated, some nearly bare, but really no dead leaves anywhere at all, was a very good choice. I think they should look into doing it that way again for future Fall Festivals, as it really gave the area a good look and made it really look like fall. As chairman of general signs and set décor, I’ll look into that and see if I can get them to do that again next year.

All right. Now I’m going to bed. Read the rest of this entry »

Ashfield Fall Festival and a Little Southern Somethin’

Notes from Nan: Fall Festival and a Black Gospel Choir, All in Ashfield on the very same weekend !
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati


First off, you know that this weekend is Fall Festival in Ashfield! (All of you who do not live in Ashfield should talk among yourselves right now as this particular part will probably not interest you. I’ll let you know when to come back in.)

So! This weekend (Saturday and Sunday) all a y’all come back around to Elmer’s for our good old

  • Authentic New Orleans Crawfish Pasta

which has become an annual tradition for us at Fall Festival.

For Breakfast we will not have our sit-down breakfast of usual, but instead will have our Breakfast Burritos out front at our tent. You can come inside and get other things, (including a few surprises this year!)

Then, Saturday night we will have a special added Fall Fest event:  Read the rest of this entry »

Spinning Plates in Ashfield

Notes from Nan: Damn Plates Keep Falling Off
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parat

Remember on Ed Sullivan the guy with the plates? He maneuvered tall poles with plates spinning wildly atop each one to frenetic music, usually, I believe, the Saber Dance. Somewhere in my reptilian brain I remember having made reference to the plate spinner before in one of these e-mails—so solidly ensconced is this man and his mission in my brain! See, you kids now, you have to depend on fools making further idiot of themselves on Reality TV for your entertainment—we had the plate man! And that was damn good entertainment for us!

Anyway, the plates spun neatly and practically without attention all summer long at Elmer’s (oh! This has to do with Elmer’s!) and I, the head plate-spinner nearly had naught to do but read a book and glance up there every now and again to make sure they hadn’t slowed their centrifugal chore. Much of this was due to one young woman, Gin Brooks who became what Rob continually called Employee of the Month, as she just stepped in and did anything that needed doing all summer long, giving many people long-needed days off from behind the counter and we appreciate that!

Then she went off to college and that, along with a few other motion-stopping events propelled me back into action with my plates.

Waitress Kelly went off to become a full-time, full-fledged nurse in New Hampshire and Molly who was our Monday – Wednesday cook all summer long decided to go off to school. That was bad enough, but then Mary, our longtime since-the-beginning cook decided that life was not quite interesting enough and so, accepted a job offer to cook at a frat house at U-Mass! Apparently the boys are nice ones, not at all the traditional yucky frat boys of other houses, movies and newspaper articles, and they hang out waiting to find out what she’s making for them every day. She will continue to cook at Elmer’s with Jim on Sunday mornings and that makes me happy—not only because we really need her, but because she and Jim are hilarious together at the grill and stove and, if we had a bigger kitchen, I’d invite you to go in and watch them. But since our kitchen is the size of your hallway closet, you can’t do that.

We’ve gotten along pretty well though, even with those exits: Kelly brought in two of her friends who are now waitressing—Meghan and Elissa and we like them a lot. Through a flat-out miracle we got Bonnie who started cooking breakfast yesterday morning (for us—she’s cooked for the rest of the world since about the time we were all watching Ed Sullivan) and her arrival has got those plates calmed down again. And then we found Tom, our new afternoon barista, direct from Double Edge Theater where he was last seen cavorting with Don Quixote. So that was all good and I nearly relaxed.

But then! Just when you think you can go back to reading your book, Little Donna Elwell ends up with a situation in which she needs to be gone for a few weeks and Miss Scarlett, I do not know NOTHING about handling no produce, DESPITE having been fired TWICE from the produce department at Whole Food Company in 1983!

But I’m gonna try. SO! If you think the produce is looking not quite as right as it usually does, that’s because you have me instead of Donna until September 19th. (Mark that date on your calendar.) I will be ordering and stacking produce, so we will still have it (so what ever you do, do NOT run off to somewheres else!) but I also didn’t want you to think that Elmer’s produce was on the decline. It is only on the dip, but will come back to right on September 19th. (Put that date on your calendar.) So we will still have produce, local produce, exotic produce like bananas and lemons and maybe even some things that Little Donna never even thought of! (Like, like lychee nuts and, and cherries and stuff!) So what ever you do, do not give up! And Donna will be back on September 19th. (Put that in your datebook.)

FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER (09/12/08): Read the rest of this entry »

Just What is it Like to Live in New Orleans?

Notes from Nan
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parat

First of all, I want to wonder aloud about the phenomenon of people in such a tiny and remote section of the country keeping as close a watch on a hurricane 1500 miles away in the Gulf of Mexico and reporting the latest coordinates as regularly as if they were packing up to evacuate themselves! I was truly touched by how closely people watched Gustav and worried about its effect on the old homestead! (Incidentally, for those who were afraid to ask, I sold my old homestead there in March so that I didn’t have a direct financial line to disaster—just a heartfelt one.) To all the people who asked as to the whereabouts of Tracy and Donnie C. and their family, they had evacuated to the east coast of Florida—now kind of in the path of Hurricane Hannah—but I imagine they’ll head back to the safety of spared New Orleans today or so.

I have to say (and I could certainly write whole pages on this) that it is a lot harder to watch a hurricane head to New Orleans from safe and remote New England than from the eye of the projected cone. When you’re there, you know what you’re going to do. When you’re all the way up here you feel far more helpless.

Thank you to all who worried, tracked, asked and cared so much over the last few days! And I imagine that with this, you may recognize more how it came to be that so many stayed for Katrina. You do this with every hurricane that comes your way, boarding up, evacuating, spending lots of time, money and worry on gas and lodging when you could have just stayed home; you do this for years and years and finally you think, “I ain’t doing this again!” So you stay home and the beast quits crying wolf, blows your house down and eats you!

Thank you again for your caring and vigilance! Let’s do this every week until December first (the end of hurricane season.) and you’ll be made an honorary Gulf-Coaster!

On to Dinner!

Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Nan: What we is

Notes from Nan
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parat

The other day I was traipsing home from Elmer’s through the Town Common when I happ’d upon a flurry of yellow flowers waving their little heads in the early fall breeze. Since I was wearing a dress I felt right at home among the happy little flowers, and then, just as I left their staid, I looked up and the street and trees were bathed in shadow, save for a sprinkling of yellow and red leaves dancing out of the maple tree, all lit up in afternoon sunlight. I thought I was in a Chinese movie, so cooperative was nature with environmental beauty that afternoon!

That’s my Autumn in Ashfield report.

Here’s what’s for dinner this week:

Read the rest of this entry »

Notes From Nan: Hoola Hoop Update

Notes from Nan
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parat

On Saturday I went to the Heath Fair and the girl with all the hoola hoops was there. I had seen her at the Green River Festival, as well, but my hooping failure back in New Orleans (when I tried every day to hoop) made me a little uncomfortable about trying it in front of that many people. Also, I work at the Green River Festival and I didn’t want to try it while wearing a “staff” shirt. Just too many people there to look at me and say, “Oh yes—you can make signs but you can’t hoop. Not so important now, are you?”

But at the Heath Fair I was just a regular person, free to fail as easily as anyone else.

So I hooped. And I did it! For a respectable amount of time!

I now know that my hooping failure was indeed because (as Tracy suggested) I was trying to hoop with a four year-old’s hoop. I’m fifty one! I can’t hoop with a four year-old’s hoop! I need a fifty-one year old’s hoop and then, I’m a hooping success!

For a moment I have to talk about last Friday’s dinner.

Jim made this fish dish and, my good ness was it good! People (nearly everyone who had it) asked for spoons to eat the sauce Normandie as if it were soup. He made these little puff pastry things to go on top of the fish and they were so light and crispy and good . . .

Why am I talking about last Friday’s dinner? Because every week Jim makes something we’ve never had before and I don’t know what it’s going to be like. And every week it’s the best thing I ever had in my life! So I can only look out the back window away from last week’s meal and tell you how good that was. And with last week’s meal as a sign post, I can tell you that, even though I’ve never tried what we’re about to have this week, it’s going to be the new best thing I ever had in my life.

Friday night diners usually rate the dishes: “This is the best ever.”

“No, I would say this is excellent, but I would say that the gumbo was better.”

“You would? I would say that this is better than the gumbo, but that that Asian Chicken thing was the best thing ever.”

I overhear discussions like that every Friday night as I clear the tables.

So THIS week he’s making something else I’ve never heard of: Read the rest of this entry »

Omar the Pieman

Notes from Nan: Good Advise is Good to Get!
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

Pecan Pies! Pecan Pies for sale!

In New Orleans there used to be a man named Omar the Pieman who would walk up and down the street selling his pies shouting, Pieman! Pieman! Delicious fresh baked pies!”. He became quite famous and later had his own pie shops, beginning with the one in his home. Omar died in 2002, but his son Omar Jr carried on the tradition. I can’t think of pies without thinking of Omar. And right now I’m thinking of pies.

We have a number of whole pecan pies for sale. We didn’t know how many we would need for the Blues Festival, so Jim made a bunch of them and froze them. So we now have them frozen and good (really good! Even better when thawed!) and so we have them for sale. You can get them at our counter while supplies last.

Friday Night Menu (08/15/08): Read the rest of this entry »

How It All Went Down Last Weekend in Ashfield

Notes from Nan: Whew!
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

Oh did we have fun!

At noon, Karen and Sturgis from Klondike Sound arrived to set up their gear for the Blues concert and so, at that time we had to make the defining decision as to where we would set up—outside in the (present) sunlight or inside in the safe Town Hall. I, of course voted for outside. Karen suggested we look at the weather on-line. The weather on-line called for everything but plagues of locusts and frogs: Straight line winds, devastating thunder storms, murderous lightning, hail, sleet, floods and (I quote here) “Small tornadoes cannot be ruled out.” I, of course still thought we should hold it outside, but Karen came up with, “But if we hold it inside we can do it regardless of the weather.” Oh. Right. If you’re going to use that kind of logic, what choice do I have?

So we moved the concerts inside and kept the food outside. At 2 o’clock the clouds parted and the Red Sea fell out of them. At 4:15 the Red Sea dried up and we were able to quick, move the food booths into place, fill them with food and off we went. While it would have been more fun to be able to have the music outside, it was much more fun to have the music at all when the skies re-opened around 7:30 or so. The food was fabulous (once again, I am not the cook so I can say that), the music was entrancing and as far as I know, a good time was had by just about all. We still have some organizational issues to work out, but we were far better prepared this time than we had been for the Cajun Fest crowds and not a food booth ran out of food!

Even Gus (of Cajun Fest fame) came back to help in the cooking!

And speaking of cooking: Read the rest of this entry »

What Happened to Rob’s Grocery Talk with Rob?

Notes from Nan: Tangled up in Blues Festival
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

Did anybody happen to get a good photograph of the hot air balloon glow Friday night at the Green River Festival? It was just gorgeous—a dozen balloons all roaring with fire and helium, glowing at dusk. I think it was the prettiest glow they’ve ever done at the festival and I’m looking for a photograph of it. If you have one, would you let me know?

This just in:

Elmer’s Newsletter Readers Think They Know the Formula

Thereby Missing Rob’s Column


ASHFIELD, MASS—A number of readers of Elmer’s weekly newsletter were disappointed to find that last week’s e-mail was sent without Rob’s weekly side-splitting column—or so they thought.

Chagrinned readers were really chagrinned to find that newsletter editor Nan Parati had swapped positions of The Farm Report with Grocery Talk with Rob and, finding The Farm Report first, they assumed there was no GTwR for the week.

“What the–?” asked one reader who spoke on condition of anonymity, but who spoke suspiciously like a comic strip character named Mark Trail who’s always saying, ‘What the–?’ Why did she do that?”

When asked, Parati responded, “Uh UH uh. Just did.”

OCD readers who actually read the e-mail all the way through to the last word were rewarded with what many thought was Taft’s funniest column yet. Those who deleted the email without finishing it will never know what he said.

“Too bad for them,” said Parati.

Speculators suspect that Parati is jealous of Taft’s meteoric rise in readership and speculate some more that she did it on purpose just so no one would read his column. Parati was too busy slashing Taft’s tires to comment, but her publicist later issued a statement from her that read, “Yeah, right.”

There has been no word at this point whether this week’s newsletter will include the hilarious weekly column by Taft, and calls to the editor’s home were answered by someone who kept picking up the phone and saying, “What if we were still at Johnette Watson’s house watching Betty Boop movies?”

No word as to what the—? that means.

Photographers are, however stationed outside her window with long lenses to try and see what she’s typing.

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Local Dinner & Local Blues Fest

Notes from Nan: A Real Blues Festival! Really and Truly!
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

Blues Festival

Okay! I finally know all the details! And here they are presented in a most professional-like fashion!

  • Elmer’s First Annual Blues Festival
  • with Chris Smither & Jeremy Lyons
  • and Fine, Good Old Fashioned Southern Food & Music
  • on August 2, 2008
  • at Elmer’s Store in Ashfield, MA (413) 628-4003
  • Doors open at 4:30


  • 5:15 The Academy at Charlemont Bluegrass Band
  • 6:00 Bill Perlman
  • 7:00 Jeremy Lyons & Greg Schatz –The Deltabilly Duo
  • 8:30 Chris Smither

Food is not included with the price of the festival ticket and cannot be bought separately from the festival. On the other hand, we’ll have plenty!

Locavor’s Summer Tasting Menu

And speaking of food … This Friday night is our annual Mid-growing-season Locavor’s Summer Tasting Menu with all Local food!

We are still finding out what all the growers have, but what we know so far is

  • Mary’s spinach-mint soup,
  • local greens salad with warm goat cheese and beets
  • a bread/cheese/veggie platter

Stay tuned for more of the menu—or call us at 628-4003 to ask what else we’re cooking up!

And speaking of local food, let’s go now to Little Donna Elwell’s Far, Report! Read the rest of this entry »

Jazzin’ It Up in Ashfield

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