I’m not a natural-born Mainer. I was born and raised in Massachusetts. I spent my childhood roaming around Cambridge and Boston because I was lucky enough to have parents and a grandparent who worked in those areas. Harvard Square and the North End felt like little micro homes for me and later in life became places I spent much of my time in. To me, the hustle and bustle of the city was everything and I marveled at the sights on every walk or run I took. I never imagined that life would take me anywhere else. Honestly, how could it? I was so in love with Boston. But when you find real love, new opportunities come knocking on your door and sometimes you just have to take them in order to hold on to such a sacred thing. My husband Josh, who you have all heard anecdotes about, was born and raised in Maine. He has all the qualities of a good Maine boy. He’s compassionate and graceful. He’s devoted entirely to anything he loves. He knows how to do man like things that I can’t seem to wrap my head around. But most importantly, he likes to eat good food. Now when we met, we were both living in Massachusetts. Josh couldn’t cook and neither could I. In fact, I had to ask my mother’s help in preparing the first meal I ever made for Josh: meatballs. We ate at restaurants a lot and I think he thought I had more of a cook’s finesse than I actually did. Perhaps I faked it well, who knows. Anyways, Massachusetts was a small stepping stone because within just a few months of our relationship we were living in New York City and then a year down the line we were living in Maine. I honestly don’t always understand how it all transpired or how the conversation actually came up to come here but I couldn’t be more glad it did.
Maine has changed me.
I have lots of “foodie” friends and since living here their food perception irritates me beyond belief. Why? Because food is different up here. Yes, there are still fine dining establishments that produce douche bag meals (Hugo’s, circa 2-3 years ago) but for the most part every place that serves food here (well, every decent place) takes a piece from the farm to table book. On most menus here in Maine there are promises of “buying local” and “farm fresh.” Chefs go out of their way to cook seasonally and embrace what the earth is producing at the moment. Meat is raised in the rolling hills of farmers who still appreciate the art of grass-fed at an affordable price. We have a Whole Foods in Portland and sure, they sell local shit but I can bypass them completely and just drive to a farm. It’s a luxury I didn’t know I could crave until I had it available to me. And it has changed the way I think about food entirely.
What is it about Maine?
The men and women here, as said on an episode of No Reservations, have a humble appreciation of the food that comes from the land and from the sea. That statement completely sums up the way that most Maine folks think about food. The earth will provide if you give it the chance. And when picked from the earth, food tastes the best when prepared simply and done well. I know there are people out there that like to dine with the whole “science in my food philosophy”‘ but if you want a tomato, how about you just eat a tomato? I can totally appreciate the time it takes a chef to make scrambled eggs into a cube but I’d much rather just eat food that looks like itself. Maine cuisine is all about gently accenting food with a little additional flavor while highlighting the integrity of the food itself. It’s about walking outside, picking through the soil, finding some carrots and then roasting them with some fresh herbs to make them shine. Maine is about getting your hands dirty, every day, to grow your own and skip all the additives. And it’s about supporting a community that works hard to nurture our bodies with food we can pronounce.
The lifestyle here is slower. Portland was voted one of the worst dressed cities in the country. Why? Because we don’t care about how fashionable we look all the time. We care about different things. Food in our kitchen, wind in our hair, life in the sea, adventures on trails and in my case, chasing my chickens barefoot down the road when they have all escaped. I am different. This landscape has changed me. But it, has inspired me greatly. I love that I am fascinated by a fresh egg and just absolutely privileged to have so many things growing in my backyard that I can eat. Maine connects you to the food. It’s a wonderful thing.
Spring is here. It’s here. If you don’t live in Maine, bring a piece of Maine to you. Plant a garden. Take a second. Read your food labels. Find a farmers market. Eat a good, normal, delicious, FRESH tomato and marvel at it. Food is a beautiful thing when not over done, over thought and over processed. Take a chapter from a Mainer’s book and take it down a notch. You will enjoy the adventure, I promise you.