It begins when you’re little and you read a picture book about bears and blueberries. You have no idea where Maine is and have never seen real blueberry bushes in person, but this story of mothers and cubs stays with you always.
As you grow up, you develop an eternal craving for lobster and blueberry pie. You eventually hook up with L.L. Bean, fly through Bangor airport on the way to Europe, and after you get married you hear interesting stories about “Maine people” from your in-laws in New Hampshire.
After starting a book and food blog, you notice there are lots of very cool author and artist types (in addition to Mr. McCloskey) associated with Maine: E.B. White, Barbara Cooney, Margaret Wise Brown, Gail Gibbons, Carrie Jones, Melissa Sweet, Cynthia Lord, Cathryn Falwell, Ashley Bryan, on and on.
Many friends who don’t actually live in Maine flock to the Southern Coast every summer and return refreshed and inspired with blueberry stains around their mouths and a decidedly dreamy look in their eyes.
So I asked myself — what is it about Maine that could spawn the likes of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as well as Stephen King? Why are there more poets per capita in Maine than any other state? Is the lobster that good?
Moreover, how did I manage to reach
near fossilization 29 years of age without ever having set foot on Maine soil . . . or sand? And what’s this I keep hearing about Portland being a foodie paradise?
When your husband brings home 6 quarts of blueberries, you know it’s a sign.
You can see why I simply had to go.
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RECIPE FOR A CRACKERJACK FIRST VISIT TO SOUTHERN MAINE
1 husband, lightly stirred
1 small bear, brushed
1 hungry writer, curious and excited
3 charming bed and breakfast inns
picturesque fishing villages
big rocks, vast ocean
a good appetite
1. Go right after Labor Day, when most of the people “from away” are gone. Gently assume the role of wanderer, explorer, observer. Remain open and receptive.
2. Drive leisurely up the coast from Portsmouth, NH, to Casco Bay. Marvel at the gorgeous, gorgeous views of deep, calm water, imposing rock formations, and a straight line horizon that goes on forever. Breathe in the fresh salty air. Be humbled by the beauty and majesty of the sea.
3. Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk!
4. Follow the knee-buckling, heart-clutching aroma of berry pies bubbling in the oven at Pie in the Sky Bakery in Cape Neddick. Watch the quiet man make more pies in this tiny bakery that smells so good you seriously consider making it your final resting place.
5. If you’re from Hawai’i, try to hide your disbelief that people could be so happy sunbathing or frolicking on hard packed grey sand. Discuss this curious phenomenon with a fellow B&B guest who frequents the Outer Banks.
6. Pose in front of the giant boot at L.L. Bean in Freeport. Snap a pic of the big bear and deer inside, but shudder at the racks of hunting rifles.
7. Sample jams, jellies and sauces at Stonewall Kitchen. Score a whoopie pie at Bread and Roses Bakery.
8. Gaze at President Bush’s compound at Walker’s Point. Sunlight playing on the water is too dazzling for words.
9. When it rains and rains and rains, visit a famous comic book artist and his famous author/poet wife at their beautiful seaside retreat at Kittery Point. Marvel at his ability to grill burgers and chicken between downpours. Drool politely before feasting on a delicious lunch flavored with stimulating conversation. Savor every bite of the famous author/poet’s homemade blueberry cake. Tell your enterprising bear that no, he cannot move in with them.
10. Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride around the quaint streets of Kennebunkport, clip clop. Wince when you offer Doc a treat and huge equine lips engulf your hand. Share a piece of warm blueberry pie with blueberry ice cream at Federal Jack’s Tavern and an award-winning lobster roll at The Clam Shack. Love the lobster, but secretly wish the roll were the New England hot dog type.
11. Visit Longfellow house in Portland. Eat the best dinner of the entire trip at Fore Street. At bedtime, read more of Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. Think about how children’s books have transported you to so many imaginary places and inspired you to see more of the real world.
12. Maine is wild and rugged, a little quirky, serene, the last frontier. A comfortable small town community vibe with unique opportunities to commune with nature and cultivate creativity in any form. There’s a bit of Maine in everyone. You can be the keeper of the light.
More pics to go with this Recipe: (click on any image to see full-size carousel of all pics):
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What’s that? You want to hear more about the FOOD? Okay, twist, twist my arm . . ..
Stay tuned for a few more posts featuring the B&Bs and the fabulous food in Portland:
- Inn at Tanglewood Hall, York Harbor
- Captain Jefferds Inn, Kennebunkport
- Pomegranate Inn, Portland
- A Taste of Portland
Little Bear and his mother went home down one side of Blueberry Hill, eating blueberries all the way, and full of food stored up for next winter.
And Little Sal and her mother went down the other side of Blueberry Hill, picking berries all the way, and drove home with food to can for next winter — a whole pail of blueberries and three more besides.
Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.