New book on Blue Benn Diner offers a slice of Vermont life

Vermont Business Magazine For generations, beloved foodies have flocked to Blue Benn in southwest Vermont where they can sit at the counter worn by countless customers, sip a bottomless cup of coffee, and admire the waitresses. Even today, despite a change of ownership, Blue Benn remains a city haunt, valued almost as much for free-flowing conversations as the delicious food.

Now there’s a new richly illustrated book that captures the essence of the Bennington teacher. Sonny’s Blue Benn: Feeding the Vermont City Soul It documents the history of this legendary diner and the family that created it. But the book also celebrates the dinner’s status as a community hangout, a place that over the years has given townspeople a chance to form bonds with their neighbors no matter what side of the political or economic divide they find themselves in.

Sonny Monroe was a dedicated chef with big ambitions. A natural talent for cooking, he dreamed of running his own restaurant where he could create recipes that would challenge his skills and spark his imagination. In 1974, Sonny and his wife, Mary Lou, acquired a lean restaurant known as Blue Benn. It was an intermittent dive of a place, best known for its cheap eats, but it was also an authentic Silk City restaurant, one of the less than 500 restaurants ever. It wasn’t long before Sonny’s eclectic and inspired menu enthralled the crowds, making the little hole in the wall one of Vermont’s most popular restaurants.

The story of The Blue Benn is told here by the people who made dinner a distinctive Vermont institution: the family that built the company, the regulars who ate there and the employees who served them. They are cooks, road crews, artists, teachers, doctors, lawyers, cutters, and woodworkers, to name a few. They provide funny and often poignant home accounts of life in Benn and, in doing so, present a slice of life in a small Vermont town.

Story Project: Who We Are

The team behind Sony Blue Bean Writer Caitlin Randall and illustrator and book designer Peter Crabtree. Together they run The Story Project, a writing and design service that produces books of all kinds for individuals, families, and organizations.

Include previous work Giovanna Boetti: a life, A portrait of an Italian-American woman who narrowly escaped World War II on board the last ship to leave Italy for the United States. Include current projects Pat Barr: Notes from Life, Tribute to the late Vermont attorney, who was a prominent peace and breast cancer activist.

Caitlin has worked as a staff reporter for Reuters and the Dow Jones News Service in New York, London and Madrid and has taught journalism and non-fiction writing at Roehampton and Middlesex universities in London.

Posted in The Wall Street Journal, Wilson Quarterly, Environmental Finance Magazine, Newsday, The Financial Times, Miami Herald, Art & Antiques Magazine and Narratively.com, Among other publications.

After working as a reporter and editor in Vermont, during which he worked independently New York times And other urban dailies, Peter turned full time to photography. His work has been widely viewed and appeared in literary and art magazines, including tin house And the sculptureas well as an academic journal, Quarterly video communication.

questions and answers

Q: How did you do Sonny’s Blue Benn: Feeding the Vermont City Soul Come?

A: The story project was approached by a longtime sponsor of Blue Benn who wanted to commission the previous owners, Sonny and Mary Lou Monroe. It wasn’t long after the Blue Benn was sold to its current owner, John Getchell, that we started the project. It felt like a good moment to look at a dinner date.

Q: Do you know any other books like yours?

A: Most books about dinners are usually surveys, and they briefly look at the history of a large number of institutions. We don’t know of any other book that delves into the history of a single dinner. Diners, bowling alleys and trailer parks by Andrew Hurley Assisted in historical research, Great good place by Ray Oldenburg and Studds Terkel a job, While she wasn’t specifically about diners, she was inspired to write the book.

Q: How did you decide who to meet? That was a long list narrowing process. At the top were the Monroe family and as many employees, past and present, as possible. We chose other people we interviewed based on who these people remember as dedicated regulars. Interviews took place during the pandemic, which presented a whole host of problems in convincing people to participate and creating a safe space for interviews.

Q: In addition to photographs taken by Peter Crabtree from The Story Project, the book contains a wealth of visual material. Where did all this come from?

A: Over the years, Mary Lou Monroe and her daughter Lisa have collected Blue Bean memorabilia. They gave us access to old listings, artwork, and footage in the book. Others, like dinner-lovers Larry Caltrera and former reporter Rob Woolmington, have generously provided us with archival photos. Several of the interviewees, including Agent Jim Woodward, contributed photos of their own.

Q: In your opinion, what is the most pressing aspect of the book?

A: Of course, the photos and memorabilia in the book are heartwarming and create some wonderful memories for those who know and love Blue Benn. While the book is a tribute to a man and family, it is also a tribute to the community. In these divided times, it is especially comforting to read about a place where city dwellers of all kinds and political beliefs can come together and be neighbours, friends and fellow citizens.

Story Project, North Bennington

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