WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. - Gesine Bullock-Prado lives here on a five-acre farm in a sprawling house that was an 18th century tavern with her husband, Ray, and their three dogs, Betty, Daisy, and Ruthie.
Oh, and Mama.
Mama is a goose with a taste for dandelion leaves. There are also ducks and chickens about the place, but Mama rules the roost. She lays eggs for two weeks in the spring, then takes the next 50 weeks off.
After getting her law degree, Gesine ran the production company of her movie star sister, Sandra Bullock, for nearly a decade. She loves her sister, but she never loved Hollywood.
Gesine met Ray Prado, an artist and photographer, at a meeting for a film her sister was making. They started dating, and, on a lark, Ray suggested they go to a football game at Dartmouth College, his alma mater.
“He was trying to make an impression,” she says. “He thought Dartmouth would make the impression. But it was Vermont.”
When they drove over the Connecticut River from Hanover, N.H., to Norwich, Vt., something happened. Maybe it was the air, the light, the shimmering trees. Maybe it was being so close to the King Arthur’s flour mill that would produce her staple. The mountains reminded her of those in Bavaria, where her mother grew up, and the Blue Ridge Mountains she visited while growing up in Virginia.
“I felt aligned,” she said.
Hollywood was artificial, relationships transactional. Parts of LA were dirty. And there were no seasons.
In Vermont, everything and everyone was real and the dirt produced beautiful, healthy things. In Vermont, there were six seasons. Besides spring, summer, fall, and winter, there is mud season, when Vermont’s 8,000 miles of unpaved roads turn to mush as winter turns to spring, and stick season, when the trees are bare, the white birches breathtaking in their nakedness as fall slides silently into winter.
Ray was burned out, doing storyboards for films. He was ready for a change.
In 2004, six years after her epiphany in Norwich, she and Ray moved to Vermont, settling first in Montpelier, the capital, where she opened a pastry shop. Running her own business was exhausting and exhilarating, but after five years of 15-hour days she and Ray packed up and moved down here to the Upper Valley, where she first fell in love with Vermont, into the home that would become the place where she teaches baking and filmed her Food Network show “Baked in Vermont.”
She has written a half-dozen baking books, most recently a cookbook “My Vermont Table,” that has been a New York Times bestseller for months. The recipes form a love letter to those six seasons and her adopted state. Her 2009 memoir, about leaving Hollywood for the place she dubbed Montpeculiar, is laugh-out-loud funny.
So is she, coming across in person exactly as she does on TV, the unpretentious but deadly serious baker who doesn’t take herself too seriously.
She teaches baking with an evangelical zeal. Baking changed her life. She wants the same for others.
“I’m uniquely positioned to teach home bakers, because I’ve made all the mistakes someone would make,” she said. “I have a healthy respect for women who created the culinary background. I’m not a fan of the competitive chef bros. Some people can tell you how to make a dish, but not why. I teach the why.”
Ray, who creates the illustrations and photographs for her books, has been her rock.
“Vermont is a state of mind as much as a state,” she said, slicing organic Granny Smith apples while Ray showcased his latte artistry, topping a cappucino.
She will always be a flatlander, but she’s gone native. She puts maple syrup on and in everything. She has an unshakable belief that every day is better with Vermont cheddar soup.
She admires Vermonters’ lack of pretense and coined a credo that captures its paradoxical embrace of privacy and neighborliness: “Leave me alone. How can I help?”
Words to live by.
Kevin Cullen is a Globe reporter and columnist who roams New England. He can be reached at email@example.com.