SYRUP By Amy Cotler [For more interviews with Amy Cotler, link here.] Maple syrup. Distinctively American. Very distinctive in its flavor, and a great sweetener. You can tap your local trees, or buy it. You get about 40-something to one in terms of boiling that sap down to get maple syrup, and it's fun during the sugaring season. Go to a sugar shack, somewhere out of town,  and see how it's made first-hand. Short of that, buy local maple syrup when you can, and use it to sweeten foods.

It's great in traditional Indian pudding,  and obviously your classic pancakes. I like it in combination with a local cider, to make a pancake sauce, boiled down together – absolutely delicious. And, it seems to just love blueberries. The combination is divine, if you saute up come blueberries and put in a little maple syrup to sweeten them, and pour them over yogurt, or pour them over ice cream, it just can't be beat. Something about the combo is delightful.

Maple syrup can be used to sweeten that great sun tea you're going to make over the summer. When you take beautiful, fresh mint and you stick it out in a glass jar, and let it become mint tea, with your kids, and they get to see how tea is made and you sweeten it with maple syrup. It's a very distinctive flavor, and 'B' is a lot more flavorful and intense than 'A' Grade. It's also less expensive. So, why not go for 'B' and go for that distinction?

Another thing I like to do with maple syrup, and I think a lot of people enjoy this,  is any kind of hot grain cereal – whether you're taking cornmeal and you're just simmering it up with water to make a nice cornmeal mush breakfast, which is a traditional New England breakfast, to sweeten it with that and some classic spices like dried ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg, or whether you're using it in oatmeal. Or  just get a locally-raised grain. I've gotten local whole barley and local wheat that I've used with maple syrup to sweeten as a porridge. And that's a really classic porridge dating back forever. And delicious.