From Dollars to Doughnuts

Last week I happened to mention that politicians and pundits take the New Hampshire presidential primary more seriously than ours in Vermont. This is not, of course, because anyone thinks people from the Granite State are smarter than we are. It’s simply that their primary comes first. Also, there are a lot more Dunkin’ Donuts on their side of the Connecticut River. To wit: According to the Dunkin’ Donuts Web site, there are at least 100 Dunkin’ Donuts franchises within 30 miles of Concord, the New Hampshire state capital. By comparison, there are only 11 Dunkin’ Donuts within 30 miles of Montpelier. And when politicians are looking for ways to reach voters, doughnut stores per capita matters.
Ironically, I learned about the correlation between doughnuts and votes here in Vermont — not New Hampshire. I was making a Saturday morning visit to the landfill not long after I had moved to Lincoln, and there to greet me was a state representative with a big box of maple cream doughnuts. And if you think doughnuts and dumps don’t mix, you’re mistaken. I scarfed down a couple of those maple cream bad boys beside a big mountain of garbage. It didn’t matter that the hills were alive with the smell of bad yogurt. Doughnuts are the way to a fickle voter’s heart. Issues? Irrelevant if you have deep-fried dough up your sleeve — but not, of course, on your lapel. Politicians with food stains on their lapels don’t inspire much confidence.
I bring up the primary a second week in a row because a friend of mine here in Vermont told me that he feels a twinge of resentment that so much attention is slathered upon New Hampshire. Consequently, I thought it worth reminding us all that even though New Hampshire has a more important primary than ours, the Green Mountains kick the White Mountains’ rocky butt in other ways.
In any given spring, we are likely to produce between six and seven times as much maple syrup. In 2005, for instance, we produced 410,000 gallons. New Hampshire? A mere 57,000.
And when was the last time you saw a situation comedy heroine drown her romantic sorrows on national television with an iconic brand of New Hampshire ice cream? When was the last time someone whispered cheddar and you thought, “Ummmm. Could that be New Hampshire cheese?” We might not be as big as the White Mountains when it comes to doughnuts, but we are not slackers when it comes to angioplasty-inducing dietary fare.
Moreover, while we have a dramatically smaller population, we have produced more U.S. presidents. They can claim Franklin Pierce. We can take pride in Calvin Coolidge and Chester Arthur — though, of course, Arthur is not atop anyone’s list of well-known presidents. In a pivotal scene in “Die Hard with a Vengeance,” even John McClane can’t name our 21st commander-in-chief.
Still, I like New Hampshire. Often the names of the fictional Vermont villages in my novels are towns that really exist to our east: Reddington. Bartlett. Landaff. My wife’s family has roots in Sugar Hill, N.H., one of the few New England hamlets that has a 4th of July parade that rivals the summer Hill Country Holiday parade here in Lincoln: Cub Scouts, Brownies, and a couple of fire trucks. The closest I have come to a bear while biking was in New Hampshire, and so the fastest I have ever ridden off-road was in New Hampshire.
My point? There is plenty of room for both fine states here in northern New England, and I would never want to malign the great state of New Hampshire … even if it is upside-down.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on Sunday, March 2, 2008.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.

One thought on “From Dollars to Doughnuts

  1. Michael T. Hahn says:

    Hello Chris Bohjalian,
    I am happy to learn that Vermonters are holding our own when it comes to angioplasty-inducing dietary fare. I suspect that we are also not slackers at producing stupor-inducing beverages, as we seem to have an impressive selection of micro-breweries.
    I am the author of four books and hundreds of magazine articles. My first novel is being published this year. Howard Mosher and Joe Citro have agreed to write blurbs for the book cover, and I would LOVE to also have a blurb by Chris Bohjalian. If you could find it in your heart (and schedule), to peruse my manuscript, please e-mail me at , or call (802) 754-8889.

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