Confessions of a Shopkeeper


My dogs killed a bunny first thing on Easter morning. Usually the rabbits can outrun the dogs, but they cornered this big one. It was just after midnight, and we had come home from an early Easter dinner in North Haven. Our friend Marianne McKeon cooked a delicious lamb. I couldn’t be angry with the dogs’ basic instincts while my stomach was full.

I met Ms. McKeon through our mutual friend, James Brady, who came with us to dinner, as well as our other friends Albie Lester and Kevin Miller. Ms. McKeon, a lawyer, and Mr. Brady, a writer, are both what you would call “preppy” in their personal style, and both divide their time between here the city. In fact, The Press featured Mr. Brady and his home on Further Lane in the paper’s February 13 Residence section.

Mr. Lester and Mr. Miller are old-time Bonackers. They are tall men with large bellies and big beards and could be confused as being brothers; they are not, but they might as well be. Mr. Miller lives on Miller Lane East, just a block from where he grew up, and about a mile from where Mr. Lester grew up and lives.

Mr. Lester’s father started Round Swamp Farm on Three Mile Harbor Road, and his sisters run it today. If you haven’t been to Round Swamp Farm, you must go at least once during the summer. It is perfection. In addition to the fruits and vegetables, they offer prepared food. I am addicted to their delicate chicken salad.

Here’s a secret tip: Go early in the season and get a coupon card. After 12 purchases, you get a discount of 25 percent off. My husband has a heart attack every time I mention I’m going to Round Swamp because the prices are so high, but I feel I must fill the coupon every season. I’m a sucker for things like that.

I’m beginning to think I should run a restaurant and not a boutique, because I seem to think a lot about food and very little about fashion. Fashion is actually starting to piss me off. If I see one more barely 20-year-old girl with shoes and a bag that cost more than a boat, I’m going to scream.

Anyway, that’s why I like hanging around Mr. Lester and Mr. Miller. They are the anti-fashion crowd. Mr. Miller holds his pants up with a rope. They are not “Gucci” in any way, shape or form, and I love that about them.

Ms. McKeon said the men are throwbacks from another era and she, of course, wanted the lowdown on where to catch fish from the two baymen. As for Mr. Brady, he loved listening to the pair tell stories, like the one about their mutual acquaintance who poured vodka on his cornflakes in the morning.

It’s not often that you get to meet people like Mr. Lester and Mr. Miller who truly care about the land they live on. Mr. Lester has a greenhouse and grows all kinds of things inside and out. He can make a thousand different dishes using clams and even carves the shells into eagles, calling it his “wampum.” Mr. Miller is the expert cook with game and even pitched in to make the gravy for the lamb and new potatoes.

Their love of nature is really what makes their friendship tick. Both men take the time to observe nature. It is not just about where the next meal is coming from. Mr. Lester has kept crows as pets. He studied an owl in a tree in his yard for months. And if anyone digs up a clam that has my name on it, it’s one of Mr. Lester’s “limited editions.”

As a lifetime bayman, Mr. Miller knows the ponds and waterways in East Hampton better than most, and I think the town would learn something if they hired him as a consultant. He’s one of the smartest men I know, even though he won’t wear teeth. Ms. McKeon had to be talked into making the vegetables a little softer than she would have preferred. He refuses to compromise himself, to a fault. He can be stubborn, but he would do anything for you, even wear a tuxedo to your wedding.

For dessert, Ms. McKeon made a white cake with chocolate frosting and whipped cream, and festively adorned it with bunny marshmallow peeps sitting on top.

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