beyond the cantilever
I did not think Maine would inspire with doughnuts—but then, Maine is full of surprises.
The Willow Bake Shoppe opens early, to close at noon, in the accepted local practice of quirky business hours,
and I walked in last Monday morning to the smell of baking, of warm classic buttermilk and molasses doughnuts, some rolled in sugar.
When you visit, go for the chocolate glazed (code for chocolate cake baked into circles with a shiver of icing) at this little shop.
After work in the quiet office, my wonderful friend Keryn and I walked up Beech Hill Preserve to watch the clouds,
and the water.
Keryn pointed out the sod roof on the house at the top of the hill, another old-fashioned Maine surprise, as even a roof can spring to life.
Mornings in Maine tend to be equally serene,
birds winging their way across ripples,
the still Camden harbor waters sparkling,
local products being produced, to later be found at the wonderful Farmers Fare in Rockport, Maine: Keene Dairy raw milk (my favorite of the area raw milks), Maine Natural Oils’s potent mustard oil, mint water (not quite sure how I’ll use this), Dolcelinos excellent ice cream sandwiches (try the ginger-lemon), and Farmers Fare Frozen Joy (a product they are still perfecting).
On Friday night, the Maine Farmland Trust gallery in Belfast featured Keryn’s friend Lily’s work, and so we went to see her clean images of Maine farmers with their lovely scrubbed vegetables, before heading to (“life-changing,” as Keryn’s friend Rachel told us as we walked through the door) Pemaquid oysters at Three Tides, where they serve Harbor Wharf Brewing Co. beer produced next door.
The next morning, we pulled out Keryn’s copy of the Maine Gazetteer (Maine has their own version of most things—for a road atlas, the Gazetteer, for Craig’s List, Uncle Henry’s)—and headed toward sauerkraut.
Morse’s Sauerkraut is an institution,
offering foods in the restaurant that complement their sauerkraut and pickles, adjacent to a comprehensive European foodstuffs store.
Keryn ordered the refined Swedish pancakes with lingonberries (on top and also within the folds), while I embraced what might be the only Reuben omelette I have the great pleasure of ordering, filled with sauerkraut, swiss, and corned beef next to potatoes and sauce, rye bread.
We lingered in the shop, talking to the store owner who promised to carry Spekuloos soon (the gingerbread cookie spread that the Waffle Truck in NY is making famous), and who introduced us to pear and apple stroop, coffee candies, and chalk licorice.
We found our way to Liberty Tool, wandering among three floors of collected tools of all sorts,
wondering what a Mirroscope might be (looks like a proper projector and maybe one that uses internal mirrors to reflect?),
and Keryn illustrated how a blueberry rake (missing its handle) works.
Passing old cars, Keryn drove us from Liberty back to Camden,
where we secured a few large bags of the addictive Little Lad’s popcorn as sustenance for our friend Jen,
who is rebuilding a house of her very own.
A herculean effort, Jen’s strength of purpose showed as she talked with affection about installing the beautiful tub,
working on this room that hasn’t been a focus yet,
the vintage stove she bought years ago (that I would like to cook on someday),
and I would say we left Jen musing about the possibilities,
but knowing her better than that, more likely, she went back inside to find employment for her beloved power tools and some pieces of siding or trim, whirring away into the afternoon.
Gloriously free of tools, and not needing the Gazetteer for the nearest food markets, I wandered back to the small working farm behind Farmers Fare,
and, of course, inside the space full of local products and a cafe, ordering what turned out to be the best charcuterie plate I’ve ever had of smoked mussels, smoked day boat scallops, Sullivan Harbor Farm Smokehouse‘s incredible roasted smoked salmon, and local apples, good salami, mustard, Morse’s pickles, and a house-made relish.
Back at Keryn and Mike’s house, we made a garlic paste for cooked cannellini beans, smoothed it into a spread, and headed over to Ladleah and Shane’s house, where the fire was starting and the table was being set,
daffodils and quince branches from their friend Peels were waiting on the dinner guests,
Keryn placed napkins,
and Ladleah and her friend Rodney (who will be working at Primo) were prepping goat chorizo, mushrooms, and shells for the big paella pan,
that steamed with all the good things in it under the careful watch of its expert handlers.
Ladleah told me how she had just enough eggs for her soft, fresh pasta; the rest of the eggs were promised for Sunday’s Supper at Salt Water Farm, like the wonderful one I attended the week before (one of the many reasons I stayed an extra week in Maine).
Having completed their egg duty earlier, the chickens inspected the table,
before everyone shooed them away (conspiratorially taking my arm, Ladleah showed me how they roost in their quarters),
and everyone helped place the bowls on the table (at right is the fascinating Evan Strusinski, who forages lovely things for local restaurants and a few in New York with impossible reservation lists),
as the sun faded (at left in the foreground is Annemarie, the inspiring chef at Salt Water Farm who has made the transition from Brooklyn to Maine beautifully, and who shared her excitement about new offerings from local fish purveyors).
Jen, sans power tools, was on my left, across were Keryn and Mike, and all these beautiful people with their beautiful energy passed the wooden bowls, served each other, and their laughter rang out.
As the best dinners do, everyone moved around the table, making sure to talk to everyone else, and much later, dessert crêpes appeared, then a guitar that Rodney skillfully played in the living room by the kitchen,
and I stole outside in a borrowed jacket and scarf to warm my hands at the fire, look up at the stars, knowing I had to leave so I could return.
Suddenly, and with her usual grace, Keryn was next to me, and then her talented group of friends (that she generously included me as part of all week) joined us at the fire, and I knew I was smitten with this group, firm in their conviction they can shape the lives they want in this place.
I drove back to a rainy Brooklyn on Sunday, the trees as green as the Maine fiddleheads I split and sautéed, stirred into pasta with roasted asparagus and ramps, shaved pecorino, and a simple cream sauce for dinner with my wise friend Solana, who forgave me for missing her birthday party when she heard about my coastal adventures.
We finished a Chenin Blanc and dipped warm stroopwafels from the Maine woods into vanilla pudding (recipe) and talked of the summer, extending stays in places you grow to love,
and I thought about how my life is like the spiral of fiddlehead ferns, about to unfurl in ways I cannot even imagine…