Uphill Stroll Yields 2 Harbison Stories. What Are the Odds?

On a recent and slightly humid morning I persisted in my uphill amble from the front porch of our family summer cottage to a roadside monument in Greensboro VT. It's a ritual. On this particular day, I met a bicyclist there who had stopped to read the stone, probably, like me, for the umpteenth time.

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The monument is in memory of two scouts, Constant Bliss and Moses Sleeper, who were killed nearby in 1781. On this day, like always, I brushed my fingers across Constant Bliss's name, saying to the bicyclist, "If you do this, you are likely to have constant bliss for the rest of your life." To which he responded, "You mean the cheese?"

Greensboro's famous cheesemongers, The Cellars at Jasper Hill, adopted both names for two of their cheeses. (You can purchase Constant Bliss and Moses Sleeper cheeses in the Hanover and Lebanon Co-ops and maybe elsewhere in the Upper Valley.) Another Jasper Hill cheese (pictured, top) is the ridiculously delicious, spoonable Harbison.

Swapping stories of cheese as one is wont to do on a humid morning in Greensboro, my new-found companion had this to tell me. There is a movie, The Dinner, starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney; in one scene the characters are dining in a fancy restaurant. The waiter brings the cheese course.  Swooping the tray in front of them, the waiter announces, "This is the Harbison, from Vermont." (I have not verified this yet, but the bicyclist seemed an honest man.)

It is not often that one has yet another Harbison story to contribute right back. But I did. This is mine. My brother-in-law lives in Manhattan and wandered into a chichi cheese store there on his way to a weekend in Greensboro. The sales clerk tried to interest him in a particular cheese from Vermont, saying he must try the Harbison, which he pronounced as though French, a silent "h", accent on the last and very nasal syllable: "Ar-bee-SOHN." My brother-in-law, who is the soul of tact, gently suggested that the name was pronounced Harbison. The clerk begged to differ, repeating "Ar-bee-SOHN." They went back and forth a few times. Finally, my brother-in-law said, "It's Harbison. It was named after Anne Harbison of Greensboro, Vermont. Not only do I know her, but she’s coming to my house in Greensboro for cocktails this evening." Point, set, match.

And so she did come for cocktails, and she loved the story. The bicyclist reported that Anne loved his catching of her name in The Dinner, too. Anne Harbison, as described on Jasper Hill's website, was "affectionally known as the grandmother of Greensboro," who, among her many accomplishments, wrote spirited letters to the editor. She passed away last year, in her early 90s. Jasper Hill has made sure that we’ll all continue to remember her, and to say her name. 


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