With the simple act of the mail being delivered, it’s officially the holidays in the Nolan house. The Vermont Country Store Christmas catalog has arrived.
I am ready to bring the tree in, string the lights, and max out the credit cards.
But it’s only mid-October, and my family would kill me at the first sight of tinsel. They don’t share my long obsession—I’ve written about it twice before—with the “The General Store of Yesteryear.”
Instead, I will start a holiday tradition by reviewing the catalog, as you might review the New York City Ballet’s annual performance of “The Nutcracker.” You know what to expect, and you know it’s going to be great.
I like this year’s cover theme: “Make It a Christmas to Remember.” But you won’t remember a thing if you order the “Wine-Filled Belgian Chocolate Bottles” featured on page three. Knock a few of those back, and you will spend most of the day jollier than St. Nick himself. If you leave them out for Santa instead of milk and cookies, you’re likely to find him snoring on your couch on Christmas morning, drooling on that heirloom needlepoint pillow. Nice Instagram shot, though.
This year you can also buy Belgian chocolate filled with Belgian beer: “There Really Is a Santa Claus,” the description says. I’m nodding my head, and noting the order number.
By the way, the store is supposedly run by the Orton family, but I don’t believe they really exist.
I’m convinced that they are like Betty Crocker, fictionalized characters portrayed by actors on the catalog’s inside front cover. There are supposedly three Orton “brothers,” Eliot, Cabot and Gardner, one more ruggedly handsome than the next. Even the so-called father, Lyman, is good looking. The story that they are fourth- and fifth-generation storekeepers is too good to be true. The company is probably owned by a rapacious hedge fund, which has cleverly employed the “family” since 1946. Okay, okay, the Ortons really do exist. Vermont is that kind of Norman Rockwell, Yankee Magazine place.
What else do I want to buy in the catalog, besides the booze-filled chocolates? My first answer is, well, everything. I want it all. And I’m willing to pay for overnight shipping.
Put me down for Portuguese flannel sheets, Bay Rhum Soap-On-A-Rope, a bottle of Moonbeam Meadow Herbal Tonic, the Peanuts Gang Shower Curtain, an Electrostatic Carpet Sweeper, Old-Time Jelly Glasses, Chocolate Triple-Liquor Fruitcake, Mincemeat Tarts, Maple Syrup Cabin Tin, a couple cans of Lobster Newburg Sauce, and Cranberry Apple Chutney, although I’m not exactly sure what chutney is.
I also want the handmade Sicilian Cucidati cookies, Swedish gingersnaps, the “symphony of fine German-Made Biscuits,” Marzipan Fruit, both Gumby and Pokey, a silver-colored Tinsel Christmas Tree with Color Wheel Projector, a Trio of Collectible Ceramic Elves, and a fragrant Balsam wreath. Two of each, please.
The verdict? My first annual review of The Vermont Country Store Christmas catalog only gives it a five out of five stars.
It would have been six out of five stars, but I did not see the Asbach spirited chocolates anywhere, and this had me worried. Located in Germany, Asbach is the only distillery that makes its own chocolate. As such, it should be designated a United Nations World Heritage site.
But no worries, The Vermont Country Store has plenty of Asbach online, including an insane-looking wooden gift box with 35 brandy-filled chocolates. That’s enough to make any Grinch’s small heart grow three sizes.
Even in October.