Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Let's Go Shopping!

I have a rule: Never pass up shopping at an authen-tically quaint country store, if you can help it.

Vaughn's Orchard in Weston, Mo., is one of those places. My Aunt Dot introduced me to Vaughn's last year, I believe (maybe the year before.)

It is real -- not a characature of a "country store" kind of place. It's a real orchard, with rolling hills filled with apple trees pruned to produce the best fruit on strong branches. You can pay a small fee and pick your own or buy a bag or box inside. All they ask is that you not waste food if you do go picking.

Inside there's a separate area for the apple sorting machinery. With supervision, they give tours during the working season, which kids love to watch.

The apples are off-loaded on the conveyor belt and then the machine sorts by size as employees pick out bad ones. At Thanksgiving, the season is over and the orchard is doing its maintenance work to shut down for the winter.

Back inside the store, you'll find all manner of treasures from cured hams hanging from the ceiling to gourmet delicacies in the freezers.

Shelves are stocked with jams, jellies, butters, relishes, sauces and dressings. All the good things of life! Some special treats: genuine Vermont maple syrup bottled in tiny, delicate art bottles made in Italy. They are works of art that satisfy the eye as well as the taste buds.

Margaret may be there to help box up your goodies, but don't forget to look upstairs.

They also sell some decorative items and antiques upstairs. This time of year, they've got a Christmas tree set up in one corner, decorated with apple ornaments.

The apples may be gone for this year, but they will be back! Count on it. Meanwhile, 'tis the season to turn our attentions to home and hearth. Pick up some goodies to make it more fun. I did! (Don't go telling, but I did my Christmas shopping while I was at Vaughn's.)

Oh, one more thing: Vaughn's has a glass jar on the counter that holds miniature Cherry Mash candy bars. Mmmmm good. I've always loved Cherry Mash but the small ones are every bit as satisfying as the bigger ones. And they are made just down the road in St. Joseph, Mo. Someday we may do a tour of St. Joseph -- but not today.

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