Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rain and Books, 11

It's usually winter weather that inspires me to quasi-review local guidebooks - my last Snow and Books post was in April - but the recent day-long summer downpour prompted me to write an off-season installment.

I've probably picked up and flipped through Markets of New England by Christine Chitnis (published by The Little Bookroom) about 20 times since it came out in 2011, and I've read gazed enviously at Chitnis's blog, in which she chronicles her life in Providence with her beautiful children and picturesque projects, for years now. It was about time I bought a copy of the book so I could flip through it whenever I felt like it, and not just when I found myself in a Barnes & Noble.

This book is a little different from the ones I usually write about, so for this post I'm departing from my usual formula.

Markets of New England is tiny (about 4" x 6") and adorable, like one of those thick little books for babies. I assume readers are meant to imagine themselves tossing it into their L.L. Bean Boat and Tote of a weekend morning, and driving off down winding country roads in search of a new source of felt ornaments and Swiss chard.

Chitnis's photographs are gorgeous; they make you want to inhabit a world comprised entirely of baked goods, ceramics, textiles, and heirloom tomatoes. (I doubt that it's a coincidence that the resurgence of farmers' markets and crafting coincided with the rise of digital cameras, smart phones, blogs, and photo-sharing platforms like Instagram.)

I do have to point out that as is traditional in every New England guide ever published, Connecticut gets shafted. There are only six Connecticut markets included here, compared with seven to eleven for each of the region's other states. (And it's not a size thing; Rhode Island gets ten.)

The chosen ones are: City Farmers' Market at Wooster Square in New Haven, Coventry Regional Farmers' Market, Stonington Farmers' Market, the Bruce Museum Outdoor Crafts Festival in Greenwich, New Haven's City-Wide Open Studios Weekend, and the Roseland Cottage Annual Fine Arts and Crafts Festival in Woodstock.

I was dismayed to find no Hartford listings, and surprised though not entirely displeased that the western half of the state (Greenwich aside) was not represented. As with any list of anything, I missed seeing some of my own favorites, e.g. the farmers' market in Lebanon. I also thought that the inclusion of two New Haven events in only six listings won't help correct the popular perception that Connecticut is basically Yale surrounded by some old industrial sites and fields. (I like Connecticut: Still Revolutionary, but perhaps we should have gone with Connecticut: More Than Just Yale Surrounded by Some Old Industrial Sites and Fields. No?)

But if you concentrate less on the book's specific listings and interpret it not as a guide but a general celebration of New England farmers and artisans, it delivers. It made me want to visit a few places that were not previously on my radar, like Rockland, ME, and to go stare at sheep and goats in Vermont in October. (Seriously, they have their own festival.) It also made me want some cheese, but then again, I always want some cheese.

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