No, this is not something my friends and I thought of one late night in college. It’s the best part of the Sugar on Snow Supper, an event that is widespread through VT and other parts of New England during maple syrup season.
Go to any small town in Vermont or NH and ask someone what a Sugar on Snow Supper is. If they’ve been living there a long time, chances are they will not only tell you what it is, but where the best ones are. I have been going to these my entire life, and yes my family, from Spofford NH, has our favorites; who has the best food, what’s the best crowd, and so on.
Sugar on snow, or “snow on supper” as my 3-year-old self used to call it, is a celebration of the start of spring and sugaring season, a big part of the agriculture industry in New England. Our grandparents were a part of these long before community dinners became a trendy college campus thing to do.
Hosts of Sugar on Snow dinners are granges, fire houses, and often churches. It acts as a fundraiser for that organization and it brings in a ton of people. They have multiple seatings starting from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. (varies by location), allowing for essentially three or four dinners to happen in one night.
Now for the food: it’s the same every year. Dinner is community style and consists of ham, baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, deviled eggs and roles. While perhaps packed with cholesterol and lacking a green vegetable of any kind, it’s delicious, (you can have a huge salad for lunch that day before you go). If you’re a vegetarian or have other strict diet needs, don’t let this deter you from going, just bring some food that you can eat, they don’t mind within reason.
After dinner comes the main event. A big bowl of snow is put in front of you; no, it’s not snow from the pile the plow made out back, as a miscommunication with some friends I brought in college led them to believe. They also put out a plate of plain donuts and a plate of pickles, and give you a pitcher of hot maple syrup.
My family differs on our styles of how to put the maple syrup on our bowls of snow. One style is to poke holes in the snow, so as to make nice pockets of maple syrup that easily wrap around your fork. Or, you can simply loosen up the surface and drench the whole thing; it’s up to you really. Whichever you decide, you can then put your now sticky but still warm maple syrup on your fork and eat it plain, or my favorite, put it over the donut and take a bite. Why the pickle? Because after one or two bites your mouth is ready to go into diabetic shock, and the dill cuts it, as well as loosens up any stuck to the roof of your mouth.
Sugar on Snow is a tradition we will always continue in my family. It was one of my grandfather’s favorite events; and my uncle, cousins, and now their kids all go every year. In fact we’re going to one this Saturday! It’s taught me over and over again that we shouldn’t be quick to dismiss the generations before us. There may be other tools we have to build communities and connect with one another, but they did it without Facebook, Twitter, and Google hangouts. Suppers like these have been happening for long, long time and they’re still a huge part of Vermont and New England Culture. Ask your grandparents what events they used to go to, perhaps some still exist and they would love for younger generations to join them and continue the tradition.