Culture in a Historical Central Mass. Community
I spent the better part of yesterday with my good friend, a New England native, touring Shirley and the the surrounding Middlesex county towns of Groton, Dunstable, Townsend, and Pepperell. We decided to focus our time on her hometown of Shirley and ventured out on a hike at the Farandnear Reservation, a beautiful escape featuring easy wooded trails, an arboretum full of more than eighty conifer trees, remnants of an old cranberry bog, and a ten-acre parcel where huge hemlocks grow.
Shirley, Massachusetts - once part of the "plantation of Groton", was founded by the English in 1720. Similarly to the way the town of Belmont split off from the town of Arlington in 1849, Shirley was made independent from Groton in 1753, and given the name "Shirley" after William Shirley, who served as the governor of Massachusetts from 1741 to 1757. In 1793 the Shakers established a community in the town, which peaked in the 1840's and thrived until its closing in 1908; A medium security state prison now stands in its place.
Transportation between Boston and Shirley is easy on the commuter rails Fitchburg line. Because Shirley is a little over an hour inland from downtown Boston, one might not expect the same sophistication in the arts. However, the pride of the town has got to be its meeting house; a unexpected venue to find quality classical music.
Another notable music venue in Shirley is the Bull Run, a locally-owned farm to table restaurant, once a historic tavern dating from 1740. My friend told me this was the place to be, and considering how tired we were from driving that day and our walk in the reservation, we decided on going there for an early dinner. The menu is inspired by seasonal ingredients, exclusively New England sourced. I ordered the smoked Hudson Valley farmed duck, glazed with bourbon-mustard molasses, featuring baked-apples atop sweet potato mash and topped with a cider demi jus, with perfectly seasoned and steamed broccolini. We couldn't help but take advantage of the impressive dessert menu and because it was so hard to make a decision, we opted to order and share both the chocolate pot-de-crème and the cranberry Gingerbread upside-down cake. The pot-de-crème is described in the menu as a decadent and creamy dark chocolate French pudding. It more than exceeded our expectations with a generous amount of light, full-flavored pudding, topped with house-made whipped cream, and fresh blackberries. The cranberry gingerbread upside down cake was prepared with New England cranberries and walnuts, autumn spices, a hint of molasses, and vanilla bean whipped cream. This warm cake, quite obviously the proud work of a master, was reminiscent of grandmas pies, prepared over hours and full of love, and infusing the entire home with its aroma, yet with the added magnificence of expertly curated combinations of crunchy, chewy, sour, and sweet.
After dinner, my friend drove us through the neighborhood, stopping to see the legendary storybook cottage, the epitome of quaint. We were quiet on the ride home, losing ourselves in the passing of colorful trees lining the winding roads.
NOTABLE PERSON: The founder of the Tupperware company, Earl Tupper.