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Sean and Nora When I was a young boy I loved visiting my grandparents, Sean and Nora, in New York City.

Sean was a big man with big appetites. He loved a good saloon where he could sing in his beautiful Irish tenor voice and tell stories of the old country and his travels. His travels always revolved around gatherings where local people celebrated with their friends over great food and drink. He loved to tell stories of his visits to Mardi Gras, the Italian feasts celebrating various Saint's days, Cinco De Mayo celebrations, community food festivals and cooking competitions too numerous to mention.

Nora was, quite simply, the greatest cook I have ever known. She had no professional training, having grown up on a farm in Ireland, but received plenty of practice cooking for her thirteen younger brothers and sisters. She cooked and baked everything from scratch, always preparing enough for the friends and family Sean would bring home with him. She made simple, delicious food out of habit, but to keep Sean happy (no easy task), she learned to cook the dishes of his travels.

She was the talk of the neighborhood, this Irish woman with a brogue as thick as butter, who would ask immigrants in other neighborhoods for their recipes. Amazingly, during a time when most people kept to "their own kind," she was welcomed into many homes and offered recipes because of her charming nature and warm smile. She learned how to make manicotti and leg of lamb with garlic and orzo pasta. She was taught how to make matzoh ball soup and potato pancakes. She even searched out someone with relatives in Louisiana so she could find out how to make Gumbo ("Ah Johnny, tis all in the roux"). In exchange, she offered her recipes for roast chicken and stuffing, pound cake and Irish soda bread.

Nora quickly discovered her biggest challenge in creating these new dishes was getting the right ingredients. It was not easy to find ricotta cheese, orzo pasta and filé powder in the Irish section of Washington Heights in the 1950's . . . .and so, Nora's travels began. She traveled throughout the neighborhoods of New York in search of elusive imported ingredients. After I was born, my mother and I traveled with her. We spent hours searching neighborhood delis and meat markets for the special ingredients she needed to make the dishes Sean loved. As I got older, I got sent out alone, given directions on what to buy in a thick Irish brogue that made me laugh.

I loved those days . . . traveling through foreign lands, with strange smells and people who spoke foreign languages, all for the price of a subway ride. Best of all, there was the food. Little pepper biscuits, wonderfully savory soups and stews, corned beef sandwiches, smoked salmon and little snacks at shops whose names are lost in history.

My wife and partner, Shannon, and I love the concept of neighborhoods where people have respect for traditions and for one another, places where shopkeepers believe that quality and service are important. In our travels, we search out these neighborhoods with their ethnic and regional dishes, these enclaves of food and service with a historical perspective. We look for food prepared by people who see eating as a celebration of life, something that friends and families share. We search out people who believe using the best available ingredients and preparing them with care will result in fond memories that can last a lifetime.

These ideas make up our core beliefs at Sean and Nora's. I hope the food we prepare for you and the service we provide you will add to your fondest memories and bring you back for more . . . . Sean and Nora would have liked that.

John Mayfield
Proprietor


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276 North Main Street - Barre, VT 05641 - 802.476.7326 -