Category Archives: Food

From Fried Chicken to a Golden Marsh

On Saturday, Clif and I went to Augusta, Maine’s small capital city, about ten miles from where we live. It was to be an afternoon of errands. The day was very fine—ridiculously so for Maine in mid-October—and we decided to slide in a couple of diversions to go with our errands.

First, and probably most important, we went to the Red Barn for lunch, and shared a basket of their delicious fried chicken.

Because the day was so warm and sunny, we were able to eat outside at one of the Barn’s many picnic table.  I know the chicken takes front and center stage, but you might have noticed Clif’s Hinterlands Press t-shirt in the background. (A little unplanned advertising of our very own press.) Yes, the day was warm enough to be comfortable outside in a t-shirt.  Let’s just say that the crisp days of autumn have yet to come.

After all that chicken, did we have room for dessert? We did, but not too much, and we split a whoopie pie, Maine’s official state treat. They are wicked good, that’s for sure.

Suitably fueled, we did our errands. My bruised leg is much better, and I think this is in large part due to the arnica gel I have been putting on it. (Xenia, of the blog Whippet Wisdom, suggested doing this. Many thanks!) Nevertheless, I stayed in the car for some of the errands and let Clif do the walking.

After the errands, on the drive home we stopped at a nearby marsh to get some fall pictures.

This marsh falls under the category of “looks are deceiving.” The pictures indicate that this marsh is somewhere off the beaten path, deep in the country, far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, this marsh is along one side of a busy highway with a wide breakdown lane. A good thing, too, or else it would be impossible to safely take pictures of this beautiful wetland. Even with the relative safety of the breakdown lane, it is not a peaceful area to stop and take pictures. Whiz, whiz, whiz go the cars. Still, it is such a lovely place that I can’t resist stopping, from time to time, to take pictures of the marsh.

Although we need wild places for creatures to live, and I am a firm believer in land and water conservation, I am also grateful to have this marsh off the busy highway between Augusta and Winthrop. I see it whenever we go into town. Every season brings fresh delights to the marsh, and right now it is golden in its autumn glory. Spring and summer bring a progression of light green to dark green, and in winter there is the stark beauty of ice and snow.

In many cases, nature is not an either-or proposition. Nature is all around us, in the wilderness, in the countryside, in suburbs, even in cities. (I’ve been told that Central Park is an excellent place for bird watching.)

All we have to do is look.

 

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A Glorious October Day, But No Biking for Me

Yesterday, we got much needed rain, but today the weather has cleared. The day is warm—ridiculously so for Maine in October—and the sky is blue. A perfect day for a bike ride, except that my leg is just not up to it. My right leg, which hit the bar of my bike as I fell, still has a bruise with the circumference of a small grapefruit.  (Fortunately it doesn’t have the mass, only the width. ) I hobble. I rest. I hobble some more. I rest some more.

I am grateful that I didn’t break anything, but I feel a bit glum about not being able to go on bike rides, and I suspect I won’t be able to go on any until next spring. As soon as my leg stops hurting so much, I’ll be riding the exercise bike, that road to nowhere.

Despite my sore leg, I was able to take some pictures this morning, of the sun streaming into the woods and onto the trees. The changing leaves have not been brilliant this year—too warm, too dry?—but still they are lovely.

As the ferns change from green to tan, they light up the woods.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, I hope to get into town, with the car, of course, and take some pictures of trees by the lake.

Spring and fall are such glorious seasons in Maine. Spring has the flush of youth, and it bursts upon us in a rush, with a froth of blossoms and an oh-so tender green. Spring never stays as long as we would like as she runs headlong into summer.

Fall, on the other hand, comes in an aching blaze, and on nice days, there is such a glory of bright leaves and blue sky that you can almost forgive fall for binging the shorter days that eventually lead to cold winter. Almost.

In the fall, our thoughts turn to soup, and I have two of Farmer Kev’s butternut squashes that are begging to be made into soup. I also have some of his onions and garlic. My little garden has a frenzy of herbs, with the oregano being completely out of control.

Clif will help me chop the vegetables and herbs, and who knows? If my leg isn’t too sore, maybe I’ll even make a batch of biscuits to go with the soup. My biscuit recipe comes from my mother, who surely made the best biscuits in Maine, if not New England.

Anyway, these are all things to perk me up. I still wish I could go on a bike ride, but these fine October days, with their beauty, along with the plan for soup and biscuits, chase my glum thoughts away.

 

 

 

In Praise of Decency and Hard Work

In the United States, this long weekend is Labor Day Weekend, a time to honor those who, well, labor. In the United States, many people work extremely hard, and hats off to them for all that they do to keep this country running—the teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, librarians, shop workers, volunteers, those who work at home, the caregivers. I could go on and on and have left many out.  For those at the very top who sponge so much out of society, I hope they appreciate the hard work that keeps them in place. (Snarky, I know, but appropriate for this time of widening inequality in the United States.)

Labor Day weekend is also a time when we bid a bittersweet farewell to summer. Yes, autumn is lovely, and there is much to look forward to, but barbecues and patio time are coming to an end.

Accordingly, we invited our friends Judy and Paul over for a barbecue on Saturday. Judy is a pie maker extraordinaire, and she brought over a raspberry pie for dessert. I nearly jumped for joy when I saw the pie because although I’m keen on all kinds of berries, raspberries are my favorite. As my 60th birthday is coming right up, I immediately proclaimed that this pie was a birthday pie. What then could Judy do but leave the leftovers with us? However, as she told me that she had two peach pies at home, I figured I was, in fact, doing Judy a favor by keeping the leftover raspberry pie. Or so I tell myself.

For the main meal we had potato salad made with sour cream and turkey bacon; chicken breasts marinated in a lemon, garlic, olive-oil  mixture and brushed with a mustard sauce; and corn drizzled with brown butter. Farewell, farewell sweet summer.

Over dinner, one of the topics that came up was the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas. So many stories of brave, selfless people helping each other without regard for income, skin color, or ethnicity. Pets were rescued, too, which I found particularly cheering.

For the past week, I had been thinking about the heroism in Texas and about how people really do pull together during catastrophes. Now, if we could just do the same thing when there isn’t a catastrophe, in everyday life.

I mentioned this to Paul and Judy.

“Everyday life is hard,” Judy said.

So it is. Most of us can rise to the occasion and be our better selves during a flood or an ice storm or a tornado. But when things settle down, self interest, pettiness, and even greed too often kick in. While we all need to take care of ourselves and our families, it is very easy to cross the line to selfishness, begrudging others what we think we should have as a matter of course. In short, we have trouble being consistently decent to each other.

Decency, a humble concept, is hard work, something that must be continually applied not only to other people but also to how we treat animals, the earth, the water, the air.

Somehow, thinking about hard work and decency seems appropriate for Labor Day Weekend.

 

Last Sunday in August

Gone are the songs of the tree frogs and the peepers. Instead, we have the buzzing of grasshoppers and the sweet chorus of the crickets. In Maine, summer—lovely summer!—is coming to an end, and what a nice summer it has been. There have only been a few blisteringly hot days when the temperature climbed to the mid-90s. For the most part, it’s been perfect and sunny, between 75° and 80° during the day, and then cooler nights, just right for sleeping.

While autumn in Maine is oh so fine, I will miss summer evenings on the patio, where Clif and I enjoy a drink or two and listen to music. Already, the days are significantly shorter, and by 6:30 it is a little too cool and damp to enjoy sitting on the patio.

Still, we have a couple of months of warm-enough weather so that we can go on bike rides. And with any luck, we’ll be able to ride some of November. After that, well, no matter how much I bundle up, I am too cold to enjoy a bike ride of any length.

One of things I enjoy most about autumn is the nutty smell of the plants as they dry and go to seed. For someone like me, who has a keen sense of smell, every season has its own aroma, each to be enjoyed—even the cold tang of winter.

To celebrate August and late summer, Clif and I invited a few friends over for wine and appetizers. The weather gods were with us, and we had a fine summer’s day to enjoy being outside. As I was bringing appetizers and plates to the table, I noticed a colorful guest on the lawn. While the pictures aren’t very crisp, they are good enough to share.

After a bit of pecking on the lawn, it was back to a tree, where these beauties can usually be found.

Then, I continued setting the table.

Our friends Denny and Cheryl and Judy—neighbors all—came. We sipped wine, drank beer, ate appetizers, which included Clif’s legendary grilled bread, and talked about dogs, books, movies, television shows, movies, and politics.

The hummingbirds whirred to their feeders filled with sugar water. The finches, titmice, chickadees, cardinals, and woodpeckers fluttered, flew, and chirped as they came to the feeders with sunflower seeds.

Dusk came, and the green shadows deepened. By then, the food was mostly gone, and our guests said their farewells. We all agreed this should be a yearly tradition, a salute to the end of summer and a greeting to autumn.

The Once and Future Lobster Roll

Yesterday, I went to Fast Eddie’s in Winthrop to have lunch with my friend Barbara. Fast Eddie’s is a seasonal restaurant and more than a little retro, with a drive-in as well as a place to eat inside. There are also picnic tables and an old-fashioned playground that looks like it came straight from my childhood.

Another friend, Alice, had given me a priceless tip: Not only is Fast Eddie’s a funky place to eat with lots of Rock ‘n’ Roll memorabilia, but it also has incredible lobster rolls.

Lobster rolls are one of my favorite things to eat, and as my 60th birthday is right around the corner, I decided to indulge when I went out to lunch with Barbara. Oh, am I glad I did because Alice was absolutely right—those lobster rolls are fantastic. Mine was piled high with fresh lobster held together with just a hint of mayonnaise.

Our server was a perky young woman who knew what was what as we discussed the makings of a good lobster roll.

“There are four ingredients and only four,” I said. “Lobster, enough mayonnaise to hold it together, lettuce, and a roll.”

“That’s right,” she agreed.  “Do you know that some people actually want celery in their lobster salad?”

We both made a face.

“What is up with that?” I asked. “I’ve also heard of cooks wanting to add peppers or spices.”

We  shook our heads over the misguided taste of some people, usually those “from away.”

Well, they can’t help it, can they? After all, they’re not from Maine, the lobster capital of the country. Poor things. (I do want to hasten to add that not all people from away have misguided tastes when it comes to lobster rolls. Fortunately, most people from away like lobster rolls just the way they should be.)

Here is a picture of my amazing, utterly delicious lobster roll. Or should I say “lobstah” roll.

Then, because this was a pre-birthday celebration, I decided to guild the lily by having an ice cream sundae with Eddie’s homemade ice cream—chocolate with peanut butter.

You better believe I was full as can be after that feast.

As if all that weren’t enough, Barbara gave me this book for my birthday.

I’ve already flipped through it, and along with recipes for dishes using fruit, it also has recipes with winter squash, including one for a soup I’m itching to make.  Soon!

No two ways about it. Yesterday was a finest kind of day.

 

 

A Food Tour in Portland, Maine

Yesterday, Clif and I went to Portland for a food tour. Our state’s largest city, Portland is known for, among other things, the quality of its food and beer. Our daughter Dee gave us this tour as a Christmas present, but neither of us fancied walking around Portland in slush and snow. So we waited until August, when the weather was suitably warm, and I could also call it a pre-birthday celebration.  (Remember, our credo is to celebrate early and often.)

A little backstory: I am, ahem, more than a little obsessed with food, so for me it is a perfect day when I can go from store to store and sample food. One of the happiest days of my life was when we visited Smorgasburg in Brooklyn, New York. As we approached the huge parking lot, and I saw what appeared to be acres of food stalls and food trucks, my heart began to beat with excitement. But I digress. Fortunately for me, Clif is what my mother called “a good eater,” and his enthusiasm for a foodie tour almost matches mine.

Here then, captured in photos, is the food tour we took yesterday.

Vervacious was our first stop, where we had lobster mac and cheese and got to sample some of their delectable spices and balsamic vinegar. (Clif is to the left of the sign.)

After that it was time for chocolate from Dean’s Sweets—salted caramel and a chocolate coconut truffle. Oh, deliciousness! (Clif is again on the left.)

Then onward to the Public Market House, which features many vendors under one roof.  I had a tasty squash soup. (Clif had something else, but I didn’t get a picture of it.)

And a sort of Maine/Thai fusion dish—sticky rice with coconut milk and blueberries. Very good!

Our penultimate stop—Stonewall Kitchen, for scones with blueberry preserves.

Finally, to Bull Feeney’s, an Irish Pub, for beer and Scotch eggs. Two confessions: I am not a beer drinker—I prefer cocktails—but I was more than happy to give my beer to Clif. Also, I have never had Scotch eggs before. In fact, I was only dimly aware of what they were. But I am an egg lover, and eggs done any way are just fine with me.

So there we have it. As my Yankee husband noted, a pretty darned good day.

 

 

An Illuminating Week

Last week was a week of illumination, where I learned so much and also had so much fun. I guess you could call it a nearly perfect week of good movies, good food, a wonderful play, a fine lecture, and time spent with my nephew and daughter. Who could ask for anything more?

Once again, I am grateful that we live in a rural area with lakes, rolling hills, and forests yet also have access to plays, art, lectures, and independent movies. This definitely falls under the category of having the best of both worlds. We are also three hours away from Boston and seven hours away from New York City. In short, central Maine rocks.

First, the food. When Dee comes for a visit, one of her favorite meals is a waffle breakfast. I know this is bragging, but Clif’s homemade waffles are pretty darned good. We bring the waffle maker and batter to the dining room table, and out the waffles come, hot and fresh. This time, for sides, we had fresh strawberries and veggie sausages. (Dee is a vegetarian.) We had this breakfast not once, but twice.

Dee is a pizza hound as well as a movie buff, and it seems this pairing is not unusual. Next to Railroad Square Cinema is Grand Central Cafe, which makes pizza in a wood-fired brick oven. I am not a pizza hound, but I have to admit that Grand Central’s pizzas are very tasty.  The pizza featured below, which Clif and I shared, had cheddar, chicken, mushrooms, and barbecue sauce and was served piping hot.

And as far as Clif is concerned, pizza and beer go together the way chocolate and peanut butter do. This particular beer came from Bar Harbor.

Now for the illumination. Colby College, a liberal arts college with an incredible art museum that has become a destination, is a major sponsor of the Maine International Film Festival (MIFF). This year, in conjunction with MIFF showing one of Disney’s most beautiful, films—Bambi—Colby hosted a lecture called “Bambi and the Art of Tyrus Wong” presented by the filmmaker and animation historian John Canemaker.

I had never heard of Tyrus Wong (1910-2016), a Chinese immigrant who suffered poverty, discrimination, lack of recognition, and at a young age, the loss of his mother. Despite the hardships, Wong became an animator extraordinaire who worked on Walt Disney’s Bambi. Wong’s luminous, Asian approach of soft, blended backgrounds enhanced the vivid, memorable characters in this movie.

During the lecture, I also learned that Bambi was based on Felix Salten’s 1923 Austrian novel, Bambi, a Life in the Woods. When I came home, I Googled Felix Salten and discovered that his book “was  one of the first environmental novels ever published.”

Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend MIFF’s presentation of the movie Bambi, a 35mm Academy Archive print shown on the huge screen at the Waterville Opera House. It meant leaving our dog buddy Liam unattended for too long.

Ah, well! I really can’t complain as I learned two things I didn’t know about—the animation of Tyrus Wong and the Austrian writer Felix Salten.

And I saw some first-rate movies, which I’ll write about tomorrow.