When Food Sets The Mood

Sometimes food immediately orients you to time and place. A steaming hot dog slathered with Stadium Mustard says you’re at the ballpark. Salt water taffy tells me I’m at the Jersey shore. And a lobster roll, French fries, and a Diet Coke from The Fishnet in Blue Hill scream “Maine”!

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In Lobster Land

Psst!  I’ll let you in on a well-kept secret:  Maine has really excellent fresh lobster, in abundance.

No, seriously!  It does!  And I have enjoyed it at just about every meal.  I’ve had lobster and eggs for breakfast.  I’ve had a lobster roll — lobster meat on a split-top hot dog bun — for lunch.  (The Fish Net in Blue Hill makes the best one.). I’ve had baked lobster, boiled lobster, and steamed lobster.  I’ve bought live lobsters directly from a lobsterman.  I’ve eaten lobster on a beach where we’ve recycled the remains to the denizens of the deep.  And, for my first boiled lobster of the trip, I foolishly failed to bib up and ended up coating my shirt with water and lobster innards with the first crack of the claw.

After so much lobster, I’ve got just one question:  how much lobster do you need to eat to risk a bout of gout?

House Unrequited

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In one of the pretty neighborhoods around Blue Hill, Maine, this derelict structure stands, cheek by jowl with some lovely, well-kept, carefully manicured New England homes.  Its roof and front porch have been partially caved in by the fall of an enormous branch that has never been removed, its windows are boarded over, and its yard is choked with huge weeds.

Why?  Our host said that no one in the neighborhood knows for sure — but something happened to make the house’s owner hate this house, and maybe the neighborhood, too.  For 20 years, he said, she has let the house slowly decay, rejecting offers to buy it, paying the property tax bill in the nick of time, so that the decay could continue until the house looks like . . . this.

What could cause someone to let this once tidy wooden home slide into ruin, and maintain such strong feelings for decades?  It’s a fascinating topic for conversation, of course, and maybe a Dickens novel or two.  Whatever it was, this poor house is paying the price.

Blue Hill Booster

Kish is a Maine aficionado.  Whenever we are planning a trip down east, she does lots of research and always picks great places to visit.

This year, I think she outdid herself by choosing Blue Hill.  I liked everything about it — from the distinctive town hall, pictured above, to the excellent library, to the uncrowded, non-touristy feel of the community.  We had fabulous dinners at Arborvine and the Blue Hill Inn, great steamers and steamed lobster at 66 Steak & Seafood, and excellent lobster rolls at the Fishnet.  The community also features live musical performances, lots of water, pretty old homes, a music academy, a very cool co-op grocery store, and a convenience store that sold good quality cigars.  What more could you want in a vacation destination?

Oh, yes — while we were there the temperature stayed in the 60s and 70s, while the rest of the country was struggling with 100-degree heat.  I suppose that’s worth mentioning, too.

The Waterside Way

We’ve been staying in a bungalow on the shores of the bay outside Blue Hill, Maine.  Our cottage is a bit rustic, but with the beautiful scenery and sound of water and the wind through the trees, you quickly adopt a more forgiving attitude toward the world.

No air-conditioning?  No problem!  Open the windows wide and enjoy the fresh air.  Spiders in the shower?  That’s okay, too — just part of the woodsy charm of this place.  Put your wet clothes outside and let Mother Nature dry them for you, leaving a faint scent of salt behind.  There’s no point in hurrying off to dinner, either, not when you can sit on the porch chairs, your feet up on the railing, and have a pleasant, meandering conversation and drink some wine while you watch the boats slip by.

It didn’t take long for the water to work its magic on the big city attitude.  If only we could bottle the relaxed waterfront approach and take it with us, to dole out when the stresses and pressures of work and normal daily life seem to conspire to make every molehill into a mountain!

Going For A Row

Our cottage in Blue Hill has a great front porch, with a fine view of a tidal inlet.  The other day I sat on the porch and watched three people in a rowboat traverse the waters. The rower bent to her task, the oar paddles flashed in the sunlight, and the craft skimmed across the surface, all to a marvelous rhythm.  It made me want to get into a boat and put my back into some rowing.

Same Pose, Same Point

On our trip to the Homestead earlier this year, we saw the memorial to Confederate soldiers on the courthouse lawn in Warm Springs, Virginia.  Yesterday, in Blue Hill, Maine, we saw a strikingly similar memorial to his Union counterpart located near the entrance to the Seaside Cemetery.  Soldiers from Maine played a crucial role in the eventual Union victory, as any student of the Battle of Gettysburg will recall.

Interesting, isn’t it, how the statues of the Yankee and the Rebel feature nearly identical poses, with stolid soldiers standing erect, the butts of their rifles on the ground and the soldiers’ hands resting on the muzzle?  No depictions of shooting or bayoneting or heroic charges; just silent soldiers standing guard.  It’s as if, with the Civil War ended, neither side wanted a stone reminder of the violent reality of the bloodiest conflict in American history.