The Berkshires Blog

Feeding the Spirit

By Lesley Ann Beck

January and February are the coldest months, but after the indulgences of December, they are also months of opportunity. Winter is the ideal time to replenish, regroup, and set a new course. Get some gentle exercise by attending yoga classes or try a basic course in meditation. Set a goal of healthier eating and try some new recipes. This is the Berkshires, which means we have access to marvelous resources for anyone who wants to improve their health and well-being.

The farm-to-table movement flourishes here in Western Massachusetts, and with a vibrant community of farmers, CSAs, and markets, it’s easy to find tempting organic produce or locally grown fruits and vegetables at a number of shops and markets, from Williamstown to Great Barrington.

Berkshire Organics in Dalton is a charming small market offering local and organic produce, local meats, dairy products, breads, and baked goods as well as groceries and all-natural cleaning products. On a recent visit this writer purchased two varieties of fragrant apples, a flavorful loaf of sourdough bread, and delicious maple cinnamon walnuts. Working with more than 50 farms and businesses, Berkshire Organics delivers tempting baskets of local and organic produce throughout Berkshire County. Choose a basket of produce suitable for one person or a large family or select a fruit-only assortment or a kid-friendly mix. The excellent website makes it easy to shop online or opt for a weekly delivery, or stop in and peruse the many options!

In South County, the Berkshire Co-op Market on Bridge Street in Great Barrington is a friendly neighborhood gathering place as well as an inviting natural foods market and café. The Co-op features a produce department focused on local and organic fresh food; stocks a wide assortment of quality groceries as well as meat, seafood, cheese, and dairy; and sells a wide assortment of natural remedies and supplements in the wellness department. The East Mountain Café has a menu of breakfast and lunch options (including vegan specialties), a juice and smoothie bar; and prepared foods, from a sumptuous salad bar to the popular Hot Bar with entrees, side dishes, and delicious soups. And every day there are fresh baked goods, made from all-natural ingredients, with gluten-free and vegan choices.

Imagine spending a snowy Sunday afternoon baking bread, cookies, or cakes from scratch for the family, the comforting aroma filling the house. One of the wonderful resources available for home bakers is Charles H. Baldwin & Sons in West Stockbridge, where the pure vanilla extract is still made in a copper percolator and aged in oak barrels, just as the Baldwin family has been doing for generations. Prepared from the best quality vanilla beans, the extract gives a marvelous flavor to baked goods of all kinds. Baldwin’s is still family-owned, and resembles an old-fashioned country store. In addition to the outstanding vanilla extract, lemon, orange, peppermint, almond, and more are in stock. They also make Baldwin’s Table Syrup, a delicious alternative to pure maple syrup, and other special products for baking, such as Callebaut chocolate, crystallized ginger, mulling spices, and flavored sugars, are available.

One of the newest businesses in the area dedicated to better health is Berkshire Naturals on Housatonic Street in Lenox. In a bright, sunny setting, Berkshire Naturals is all about wellness. They carry their own line of vitamins and they also feature bath and body products that are not only good for people but good for the environment, free from fragrance and harmful chemicals. They have organic cleaning products, organic cotton T-shirts, hand-crafted soaps, local honey, organic lip balms, special spice blends, and more.

One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, along with committing to a healthy diet, is to begin an exercise program. Yoga is an excellent choice, with many styles of practice to choose from, and there are a number of fine yoga instructors and studios here in the Berkshires – in fact, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, one of the pre-eminent yoga centers in the world, is right here in Stockbridge. The shop at Kripalu, which is open to the public, offers an excellent assortment of books and tapes on yoga, as well as many other volumes on meditation, wellness, health, creativity, and many more topics. There are lots of instructional and how-to CDs for yoga practice and for meditation, and music appropriate for yoga practice. Shoppers can also find the best in yoga gear, mats, props, and clothing. There is a good selection of items online, but an in-person visit to Kripalu is always a treat.

And finally, one of the easiest changes to make as we ease into a new year is to bring wonderful fragrance into the home. The Massachusetts-based Yankee Candle Company, with stores in Lenox and Stockbridge, offers a huge selection of candles and accessories designed to make any home more pleasant – with seasonal aromas such as Cinnamon Stick or Red Berry and Cedar for the holidays to a line of fresh, clean scents titled Fluffy Towels and Clean Cotton.

Resolutions for 2013 will be a pleasure to keep if they involve delicious foods, warm and welcoming scents, and relaxing exercise!

Lesley Ann Beck, the director of communications at Berkshire Museum, has been writing about culture and the arts in the Berkshires since 1998.