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Of the Earth: Living among the briny bounty of coastal Maine

  • Lobster straps rest on the beach in Maine. For the Recorder/Wesley Blixt

  • BLIXT



For the Recorder
Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Sometimes, “local” is what you see when you first open your eyes. For me, now and for a good part of the year, it’s where I hug the coast of Maine — halfway between Fortunes Rocks, where the surfing is sublime, and Prouts Neck, where Winslow Homer painted his brooding and evocative seascapes.

Sublime and brooding, that’s Maine. This is not yet “downeast.” It’s not downeast until you are well past Belfast and doesn’t really kick in until you see signs for Machias, Eastport and Calais. (That’s Cal’-liss, not Cal-lay’). You’ll know it when you get there.

Here, the “terroir” is liquid. Notwithstanding blueberries and potatoes, the things that are “of the Earth” in coastal Maine are, in fact, of a cold and restless sea. You can hear it going off like artillery against the shore in the dead of night, giving life to striped bass, bluefish, haddock, flounder, cod, halibut, bluefin, clams, mussels and most of all, lobster. Oh, lobster.

Do’s and don’ts for coastal Maine dining:

Don’t ever torment a live lobster. And don’t overcook it. Both are cruel and disrespectful.

Steam or boil 1¼-pounders for 10 minutes, tops. (Or turn it over to folks who know their stuff.)

Do thank the lobster before cooking it. This won’t help the lobster, but it may make you feel better.

Don’t ever torment a live lobsterman (or woman) and don’t mess with anyone’s traps.

Don’t, especially, attempt to say things like lobstah, chowdah, ay-yuh, y’suh or finestkind, unless you want to invite the special scorn that is reserved for folks from Massachusetts.

Do eat the tomalley — the green schmutz that is the lobster’s liver and, as such, may contain concentrated impurities. It’s well worth it.

Do buy directly off the boat, which is especially easy in, for instance, the Boothbay region.

Do check out Brunswick and Belfast for the music, Bar Harbor for Acadia, Old Orchard for the choppers, Camden and the islands for the boats, Rockland for the Wyeths, and Freeport for L.L. Bean and all the people you thought you left behind in Massachusetts. Oh, and, of course, the Portland restaurants (They say Grace is special, but David’s Restaurant on Monument Square should be checked out, as should Three Dollar Dewey’s on the waterfront.)

Don’t drink Sam Adams ... Do drink Sea Dog, Allagash White, Shipyard, Geary’s or Gritty McDuffs.

Do, if you find yourself moored or mired in Franklin County with a hankering for something from the briny deep, trust the folks at Foster’s Supermarket. They know their stuff.

I’m just sorry I missed the season’s first Greenfield Farmers Market. I won’t miss the second. See you there.

The Cutting Board

Keep Knocking: Things may be looking up for the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) after all. An email this week from the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative says HIP is trending up in the Legislature but “remains suspended as lawmakers deliberate budgets for both the immediate and near terms.” Liz O’Gilvie of the Springfield Food Policy Council told folks at PVGrows last month that, thanks to a lot of knock, knock, knocking on State House doors, the votes are there to keep HIP shaking.

Solidarity Forever: There’s always something special out at Seeds of Solidarity farm in Orange. Deb Habib and Ricky Baruc have scheduled several events in May, and have opened their self-serve farm stand. Habib will lead a class titled Deep Green Your Meetings and Events on Tuesday, May 8, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Nueva Esperanza, 401 Main St. in Holyoke, as part of the Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership. Free registration required at bit.ly/2jmu09u.

Then, on May 12, there will be another free Solidarity Saturday Farm Tour at 10 a.m., with a unique perspective on the farm, home and education center that integrate solar greenhouses, energy efficient buildings, abundant market gardens and solar electric systems; followed by a No-Till for Life Workshop from 1 to 4 p.m., where Baruc will teach regenerative soil building for low maintenance, highly productive gardens. There is a $35 to $50 sliding scale fee. Email solidarity@seedsofsolidarity.org to register.

Speaking of Farming and Community Action: Just Roots is holding its sixth annual Farm Festival at the Greenfield Community Farm on Saturday, May 19, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The festival features local craft vendors, workshops including the Eco Living Workshops series by Greening Greenfield, childrens’ activities and games, a farm stand with fresh produce plant starts and frozen heritage meats, live music by the Expandable Brass Band, square dancing, CSA orientation, farm/garden tours and a campfire. Food and beer by the People’s Pint and Brass Buckle will be available. Just Roots’ Greenfield Community Farm is located off Leyden Road in north Greenfield (34 Glenbrook Drive). There is a sliding entry fee of up to $10. Visit justroots.org for details.

Wesley Blixt lives in Greenfield. He is a longtime reporter and is the author of “SKATERS: A Novel.” Send him recipes, stories and suggestions at wesleyblixt@me.com.