BRATTLEBORO -- Vermont is legendary for its culinary traditions, at least according to Lynne Rossetto Kasper, the host of "The Splendid Table," a nationally syndicated show that Vermont Public Radio airs at noon on Saturdays.
"I'm embarrassed to say I've not been in Vermont for more years than I will admit," said Kasper. "But the last time I was there, it was the best break I may have had in many years."
On Saturday, Kasper will be in Brattleboro, the special guest of VPR's Listener Picnic at the Vermont Agricultural Business Education Center on South Main Street/Old Guilford Road from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The event will be food-themed, including an interview between Kasper and "Vermont Edition" host Jane Lindholm, and a few rounds of "Stump The Cook," in which listeners are invited to share five ingredients they currently have in the refrigerator. Kasper will then invent a dish that can be prepared with those ingredients.
"This is the ultimate, put Lynn Kasper on the spot," she said.
Besides being grilled as part of the game, Kasper said she is thrilled to have been invited to the picnic. When she was asked to be the guest, Kasper's response was "Tell me when and if I can possibly do it, I'll be there with bells on."
More than 20 Vermont food and beverage producers will be on hand, giving out samples and selling their products.
"Saturday is going to be very exciting," said Kasper. "I'll get to meet and sample
Kasper has been hosting the show since its inception 17 years ago, and VPR has been carrying it almost as long. The show is named after her 1994 book "The Splendid Table," which at the time was the only book to have won both the James Beard and Julia Child Cookbook of the Year awards.
She was approached by producer and foodie Sally Swift, who believed the time was right for a radio program about food. It began as a live, Saturday morning call-in show on Minnesota Public Radio. It now airs on more than 290 public radio stations around the country as part of the lineup offered by American Public Media.
"The intent was to do a show that looked at every dimension of food," said Kasper, including science, history, politics, literature, ecology, philosophy and, of course, actual hands-on cooking. "We keep doing that and we haven't had an inkling yet that we will run out of material."
"Long before eating local became a catchphrase and farmers' markets became ubiquitous, The Splendid Table was talking about the changes needed in the food system and what was happening on the grassroots level," states its website. "In fact, when The Splendid Table first went on the air, Lynne had to make sure to define such terms as ‘organic' and ‘sustainable' for listeners. Today those terms have become part of the everyday lexicon, and people's hunger for wholesome food and the rituals surrounding it has only increased."
Picnic attendees are encouraged to bring a copy of a favorite healthy recipe for Hunger Free Vermont in exchange for a free VPR reusable shopping bag.
Live music under the tent will be provided by "All the Traditions" host Robert Resnik with his band The Tin Pan Valentinos, as well as Jamie Kent and The Options.
"I Am Vermont Strong" license plates will be available for purchase, with the proceeds going to support Tropical Storm Irene relief efforts.
Admission is free and the picnic will take place rain or shine. Food will be available for purchase on site. Parking will be available at Brattleboro Union High School, and a free shuttle will transport guests to the site. Only handicapped parking will be available on the picnic grounds.
For more on The Splendid Table, which bills itself as "The show for people who love to eat," visit spendidtable.publicradio.org.
Bob Audette can be reached at email@example.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.