July 22, 2012

Magnificent Maine

Camden, Maine
My father was born and raised in Camden, Maine, a small town on Maine's mid coast.  It's like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, with red brick buildings along Main Street, a corner grocer, a drugstore slash soda shop, a white painted church in the center of town, and Victorian homes punctuated with lawns bursting to life with day lilies and bachelor buttons.  Now, the drugstore / soda shop has since become a place you can get a fresh fruit smoothie or an espresso, and the corner grocer carries artisan breads and camembert, but the charming spirit and simple elegance lives on in the buildings, people, and perhaps most importantly, the food.

Main Street, Camden, Maine
We have been going to Maine as a family since before I was born.  We would stay with my Grandmother, who you've probably heard me mention before.  This is the same Grandmother that had a beautiful and incredibly well organized garden, in the shape of a large square, that took up most of her sprawling backyard.  All along the right side of the square were neatly planted raspberry bushes, that we'd pick in those green paper berry containers and bring to her in the kitchen, which would then be transformed into jam or pie, or any other number of wonders.  This is the same garden in which I learned to eat cucumbers with vinegar, water and salt, and what a good tomato actually tasted like.  She had one patch of chives outside the garden in the yard, and they flowered, so until I asked what they were, I had just thought they were an attractive group of flowers.  This was a kitchen in which we spent a great deal of time, it's where we ate (every meal except dinner), it's where the back door was, to get to the garden or to hang the laundry outside on the clotheslines.  The kitchen was painted a wonderful blue, even the wooden cabinets were painted blue, not quite a robin's egg blue, but a lovely washed blue, and ever since, I have always thought of kitchens as needing to be blue.  The first home my husband and I purchased, we painted the kitchen blue.  Our next home, when paint colors were selected, my kitchen was the same pale blue.  Although we are in yet another home- and it's not ours so the kitchen is not blue, I know that for the rest of my life, I will always have blue kitchens, because of this wonderful woman.

Lobster traps, Rockport, Maine
Before Camden, my Grandmother's family was from a farm much further north in Maine that bordered Canada.  Her mother was the post mistress.  I have also been told that she learned to be a healer from the local Native Americans.  Deer and moose were hunted and dressed for meat, potatoes were grown, and my father remembers spending Christmases there, where his gifts would include home sewn pajamas with whole walnuts in the pockets.  I visited this family farm a few times before it was eventually sold, and about five years ago attended a memorial service for a relative that had passed, we were putting their ashes in our family cemetery in the town.  Why these people settled in Maine at all is a fascinating story- a young man, who had made himself 'offensive' to King George III in the 1700s, was sent in a boat with other prisoners bound for the New World.  It was originally sailing for Virginia.  The prisoners mutinied and dispatched of the crew, and my ancestor, being the only one aboard that could read, became the captain.  Apparently the group's skills lay elsewhere, because they sailed to Nova Scotia instead of Virginia.  Abandoning the boat and their chains, they headed south into Maine, where they joined the local communities, my ancestor in particular becoming a school teacher.

Raspberry pie with whipped cream
We spent a beautiful two weeks in Maine this summer and had such a lovely time.  It's a tradition we share, my parents and my sister, and now my two little kiddos, all enjoying the beautiful Maine coast together.  We enjoyed the lobster, clams, haddock, fresh berries, local cheeses, and the marvelous pies.  My Dad refers to Maine as the land of pies- and this is a well deserved title.  Not only because pies there are a wonderful tradition, the berries available- local blueberries, raspberries, and a popular strawberry rhubarb combination, are served in no-nonsense from scratch crusts, (although I love an ornate pie crust, there is something to be said for elegant simplicity) and, this was one of my favorite moments at a local restaurant this past visit- you could order your pie, and it would automatically come with homemade, lightly sweetened whipped cream, or, for $2 extra, you could have it with store bought vanilla ice cream.  What?  I love that!  The from scratch item costs less than the ice cream from the grocery store.  Naturally, I opted for the homemade whipped cream.  My father eats his pie with a piece of sharp cheddar cheese- I highly recommend giving this a try, it's a stellar combination.

The Cashmere Goat, Camden, Maine
Now, while I love to travel for the food, scenery and people, there are other delights as well.  I love to visit local yarn and fabric stores seeking inspiration.  Antiquing is also great, great fun and in this area, there are some lovely treasures to be had.  Here are some of my favorite places to peek around in mid coast Maine.

If you are in the market for yarn and or knitting supplies, visit the Cashmere Goat in Camden, Maine, it's a beautiful store with a marvelous selection of high end yarns and accessories, the two ladies who run it, Barbara and Misty, are delightful and field all types of knitting questions.  http://www.thecashmeregoatknit.com/

If you are looking for fabric, a visit to the wonderful Fiddlehead Artisan Supply up Route 1 in Belfast, Maine is worth the drive, the selection is beautifully edited with an eye toward apparel and (feminine) quilting.  http://www.fiddleheadartisansupply.com/

For a broader selection in both fabric and yarn, a trip to Quilt Divas in Rockland, Maine is in order, which has some lovely fabrics for apparel, but also focuses on fabrics that are themed- coastal prints, prints for him, like fly fisherman, etc.  Each of these stores will inspire several new projects, I'm sure!  http://www.quiltdivasmaine.com/

Baby pushers at Anchor Farm Antiques, Thomaston, Maine
For Antiquing, I would wholeheartedly recommend two stores, the first is Anchor Farm Antiques in Thomaston, Maine, right next to the Maine State Prison Store.  It's here I was educated on 'baby pushers,' the diminutive utensil used by generations of babies to help push the food on or toward their spoon or fork (I was visiting the store with some friends from Little Rock, Arkansas, and the husband remembered his own pusher fondly).  Of course, I had to get one as a gift for a sweet dear friend from Memphis who is expecting a little girl any day now!  No website, address is 64 Main Street, Thomaston, ME  04861  (207) 354-8859

I would also recommend Rockland Marketplace, an antique mall in Rockland, which has a great breadth of selection, including many mid century and earlier cooking and kitchen implements.  I saw several manual mixers / beaters (I have my Grandmother's already), including one with the original glass dish, interesting pie tins, graters, cookie presses, and ladles.  There was also a large supply of vintage spice containers, some with Dutch or German decoration motifs.  Finally, there was an incredible selection of silver (sterling and silver plate) serving dishes, utensils and trays, that were incredibly reasonably priced.  This also has no website, but the address is 25 Rankin Street, Rockland, ME  04841, (207) 596-9972

Knitted pacifier clip at Jo Ellen, Camden, Maine
Also located in Camden is a lovely store, Jo Ellen Designs, which has beautiful home wares and decorating accents.  Although most of their selection is for the table or for decorating your home, hand hooked wool rugs and pillows for example, it was here I found the most adorable knitted pacifier clips!  http://www.joellendesigns.com/

Finally, my favorite place to eat is Chez Michel in Lincolnville Beach.  This is Maine seafood with French flair, my favorites on their menu are the rabbit pate, which my sister was kind enough to share with me, their lobster stew is outstanding because it has a lot of white wine (it's wonderful elsewhere too, just doesn't have the wine in the traditional Maine way) and they do a nice duck if you're seafood-ed out.  No website, address is 2530 Atlantic Highway, Lincolnville Beach, ME 04849  (207) 789-5600
My son with his wonderful Aunt at the top of Mt. Battie
Picking flowers in Rockport Harbor
Baby girl's first lobster outfit!


Anonymous said...

I always enjoy reading your posts, but this one was particularly interesting and so well-written! I love the story of your ancestor's arrival in Maine. Crazy!
And so fun to see your little girl -- she is adorable!

La Dolce Duchessa said...

Thank you so much! I'm delighted that you enjoyed it! Kind regards, Jessica at La Dolce Duchessa