That’s how it goes … in The Bartering Game

It’s Sunday morning on The Gilead. The Sunday morning rituals are complete. Wordle in 3 (SB Sandy), “Great” in SpellCheck, Puzzlemaster with Will Shortz on NPR, breakfast of fried egg on Sicilian toast with garden-fresh tomato. As Sandy completes the weekly ironing while watching Sunday Morning with SB Jane Pauley and Meet the Press, she contemplates the next item on the agenda, making a plate of Gougeres for an end-of-summer potluck this afternoon at the home of SBs Richard and Nancy.

photo and text by SB Sandy

In Burgundy, where Gougeres (say goo-SHARE) originated, they are served warm or at room temperature, sometimes with soup or salad. Think of them as miniature popovers. Gougeres are easy and inexpensive to make. I follow this recipe clipped in the 1990s from an early issue of Saveur, a food and travel magazine.

  • 8 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1½ cups grated Gruyere cheese

Combine butter, ½ cup of the milk, and the ½ cup of water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg; bring the mixture to a boil. When the butter is melted, remove the pan from heat. Add the flour all at once, then stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a thick dough and pulls away from the sides of the pan. (1-2 minutes)

Return the pan to heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let dough cool to room temperature. Beat in eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is completely incorporated into the mixture and the dough is smooth after each addition. (Tip: Use large, not extra large, eggs. In this case bigger is not better.)The batter will be slippery and a little hard to beat, but it will eventually absorb the eggs and become a thick, smooth, shiny dough. Add one cup of the cheese and beat in until well combined. Spoon tablespoon-size mounds of dough (I use a cookie scoop for uniformity.) on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet, 1” apart. Brush tops with the remaining ¼ cup milk, then sprinkle with remaining ½ cup of cheese.

Bake in 400’ preheated oven until Gougeres have doubled in size and are golden, 20-25 minutes. Yield: 2-3 dozen, depending on the size. Note: The recipe can be halved to make a smaller batch. Gougeres keep for days refrigerated.

Uh-oh … big problem. We only have small pullet eggs, sourced from neighbor Silverback Dave, who is known to go on extended bike rides on Sunday mornings. The recipe calls specifically for four large eggs.

Uh-oh … big problem

Sensing disaster, SB Sandy picks up her cell phone and texts SB Dave, who indeed is riding his bike on a trail on Killington Mountain, nearly an hour distant. Luckily, there is cell service. And while most bikers on a backwoods mountain trail would turn off their phones, SB Dave, who doubles as Chief of the Bethel Volunteer Fire Department, is ever vigilant. With just a few keystrokes he solves the crisis by texting his wife, SB Danell, who agrees to set out a dozen eggs on the counter in the mud room/entry. She’s the real hero, the behind-the-scenes operative who does the work of maintaining the chickens and managing the eggs. You might call her the Queen of the Coop.

Chief David in action

The day is saved. In moments SB Dave is back on the trail. SB Sandy begins her kitchen prep and SB SM assembles an offering of onions and garlic for the exchange and treks the quarter mile or so up Gilead Brook Road to close the deal. Harmony has been restored on the planet. That’s how it goes in …


They raise chickens; we have a garden

Setting the stage for a mutual bargain.

The home of the brave, the land of the free

Here on this back road is our community.

It doesn’t matter who’s richer or smarter

There’s always something creative to barter.

The seasons may change; fortunes may fade

So long as there’s trust, there’s something to trade.

A dozen is worth a butternut squash

And maybe some garlic. We’ll call it a wash.

The driveway need plowing? Some dry firewood?

Blackberry jam? … Let’s just call it good.

You turn on the news; it’s clamor and fuss.

You throw your opponent under the bus

But here on the back road, it’s just about “us.”

Egg prices change but value’s the same

When everyone plays the bartering game. (SB SM)

3 thoughts on “That’s how it goes … in The Bartering Game

  1. Stephen, I LOVE this!!! thank you–made my morning. The very definition of community.

  2. Great piece. This is the kind of stories/articles I enjoy. Informative and humorous.

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