Given that I love food and Downeast Maine, when I saw the book title, A Culinary History of Downeast Maine, I quickly ordered a copy. And I’ve got to say author Sharon Joyce did a wonderful job with this book.
Sharon starts us off hundreds of years ago with the Wabanaki, who lived off the land, but according to Sharon this does not mean they did not eat well. I was surprised to learn that some of the food preparation and preservation techniques of the Wabanakis are still being used today.
As the book takes us up through the centuries, I learned a lot, including the fact that many of the edible plants we raise and eat today were brought here from Europe.
I do need to issue one warning: this book will make you hungry! After each chapter, Sharon provides wonderful recipes for the food in that chapter. You’re going to hold onto this and try many of its recipes from the glazed blueberry muffins to the crab cakes. The book also has a lot of wonderful photographs.
Most of the stories are on Mount Desert Island, and the book isn’t just about food, because Sharon includes a lot of history of Mount Desert Island. I enjoyed the stories about the islands wealthy families including the Rockefellers and their favorite foods.
But it made me sad to read of the demise of our wild blueberry industry. For many years Linda and I would visit Lubec and find places where we could pick wild blueberries, and I’m sure I ate as many as I picked.
Sharon does, near the end of the book, report that many of our traditional farms and food producers are struggling. “We, as Americans, want things that are quick, easy, that taste good, that are impressive and healthy. We want everything.” Well, sure!
She also expresses real concern about the impacts of climate change, especially on seafood. Do you remember how wonderful Maine shrimp were before they disappeared?
Without question, Maine has a rich and delicious history of food, which Sharon captures in this wonderful book, and I am sure pleased to be part of that history today!