Pickled Dreams

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Victoria Eastus of Carrot Top Kitchens, and her daughter Elizabeth, at the Wilton Farmers Market. Photo by Andrew Bergeron.
Victoria Eastus of Carrot Top Kitchens, and her daughter Elizabeth, at the Wilton Farmers Market. Photo by Andrew Bergeron.
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In a small gravel lot just parallel to busy Route 7, the sound of rushing traffic breaks like waves upon the white tents standing under the mellow heat of the afternoon sun.

 

The lot belongs to the Wilton, Connecticut Historical Society, which is home to the Wilton Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays throughout the growing season. The market is busy this afternoon.

 

Beyond the siren-call of bread vendors and various purveyors of farm-fresh produce stands Victoria Eastus and her eleven-year old daughter, Elizabeth, in the shade beneath their tent. Hanging over them is a banner that reads “Carrot Top Kitchens,” a name derived from Victoria Eastus’ carrot-colored hair.

 

A single mother of four and founder of Carrot Top Kitchens, Eastus’ passion for cooking was realized early when she attended a summer camp on a local farm. It was there that her love of food crystallized into a dream that she would carry with her into adulthood.

 

Fresh homemade hummus, chutney, and an assortment of jarred pickles––Eastus’ best-selling product––is laid out on the cloth-covered table before  her.

 

When asked how she first got into pickling, Eastus, who lives in Redding, recalled with laughter her summer at the farm spent beneath the broad blue sky where, she joked, at the end of the day she would “always come home with pickles.”

 

The process of pickling dates back some 4,000 years ago to Mesopotamia when the seeds of cucumbers were introduced to the area from northern India.

 

From there, the concept of pickling as a way to preserve produce grew in popularity and practicality, and from the cradle of civilization, pickling spread across the rest of the ancient the world––first to Egypt and then to Greece, whose merchants’ sails hugged the great winds of the Mediterranean down to the life-giving Nile, trading not only goods but also culture and wisdom.

 

Such fame did pickles endure that Julius Caesar thought it best to feed his soldiers pickles in the belief that they could restore physical and spiritual strength.

 

By the time Rome had ascended to its position of power over much of the Western World, pickling had solidified its place in society. Such fame did pickles endure that Julius Caesar thought it best to feed his soldiers pickles in the belief that they could restore physical and spiritual strength.

 

When the last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was dethroned by the Goths and the lands of the Roman Empire were swallowed by barbarian invaders, much of the knowledge and culture that Rome had accumulated over the years was dispersed. Thus began the Dark Ages, settling like a heavy quilt over Western Europe for the next five centuries.

 

But even with the Roman Empire dismantled and Europe in chaos, pickling maintained its popularity, especially in England.

 

Hundreds of years later, pickling found its way to the New World with Columbus, who carried with him a variety of pickled produce––as did many explorers of the time––in order to keep the sailors well-nourished and to prevent scurvy, a lethal disease caused by a lack of vitamin C. Scurvy often claimed the lives of many sailors and is thought to have heavily hindered long-term marine travel.

 

Like Columbus, pickling helped Eastus reach a new world too. Before founding of Carrot Top Kitchens, Eastus, like many, found her dreams on the back burner while she raised a family and worked as a bond trader for Merrill Lynch.

 

In 2008, the economic downturn forced many companies to downsize drastically, and Eastus was laid off from her lucrative position with Merrill Lynch.

 

When she lost her job, Eastus was unable to depend on her ex-husband, who had abandoned her and their children in 2001 and refused to pay child support. She put her dreams on hold for a little longer to pursue a position with Sims & Co., where she worked until 2010, readying herself for what would become Carrot Top Kitchens.

 

“It’s amazing doing something you love,” Eastus said of her work.

 

Carrot Top Kitchens has been in business for five years and  is going strong. Eastus frequents many of the local farmers markets, and her pickles are also stocked in well-known brick and mortar stores such as the The Redding Ridge Deli. Find out where Eastus will be next on her Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Carrot-Top-Kitchens/90550641224 or call (203)313-4549.

by & filed under Appetizers, Food, Top Stories.