I was going to write a single blog post about the food of Maine, but alas, one post can not do it justice. Today, I break the food into two categories: dessert and…well, breakfast dessert. My dad is a strong believer in breakfast dessert, thinks there is no better way to finish off a hearty meal of bacon, eggs, and toast than with something sweet. Blame him for this post. I am my father’s daughter.
While my husband and I tootled around Maine it became apparent (to me) that we were there during the perfect part of the year, blueberry season. Everywhere I looked signs announced BLUEBERRIES FOR SALE. But y’all know me, I am a pick-your-own kind of gal. Purchasing a pint of blueberries someone else has plucked is sacrilegious. I can’t be writing about picking Billy’s vegetables, then pull over at a farm stand and buy blueberries. Heavens no! Fortunately I found a website that lead me to an area near us. We settled on Staples Homestead, home of certified organic, wild blueberries. Located on Old County Road in Stockton Springs, this little strip of land has been family owned since 1838.
What more did I need?
Now here in the South blueberry tree-tall, six feet high in some cases. The blueberry ladies in my Georgia town boast an operation whereby you can pick a bucket full of thick, fat berries in no time flat. But in Maine, blueberries are God-planted teeny tiny tart nuggets of deliciousness. Picture the berries found in a can of blueberry muffin mix, that’s the size. Maine blueberries don’t grow in neatly formed rows either. You can not stand beneath the shrubs and scoop berries into your bucket, you bend at the knees, or the waist, and use what they call a rake.
Unless you’re like me and must touch every single berry. Let veteran pickers rake and dump the berries in the winnowing machine. A winnowing machine removes leaves and stems, effectively cleaning the fruit. As for me, I picked by hand, doing so bonded me to Maine’s countryside. I was one with the blueberries, with the breeze caressing my face. I was near the clouds and the God who had planted the berries. And in that moment, while I crouched and touched the berries, I fell more in love with Maine. Every touch, every taste, every moment drew me closer to this land.
We were famished by time we finished. Since we were inland, finding immediate sustenance wasn’t easy. Praise the Lord, urban sprawl doesn’t exist in Stockton Springs, Maine. I don’t want fast food and a drug store on every corner. As luck would have it, I had one of those “let’s see where this road goes” moment. A moment that lead us to Just Barb’s. There are some who would call Just Barb’s a hole in the wall kind of place. It is located on 24 West Main Street. This isn’t a place with fancy napkins, it’s a fill your growling tummy kind of place. At 2:30 all of the tables were full. Packed with locals enjoying plates piled high with shrimp, fish, fries and steaming bowls of chowdah. The waitress poured tea from a gallon jar (we call ’em jugs down South). Any eatery pouring tea from a gallon jar ranks high on my list. The service was excellent and the food satisfying. It was while looking around the dining room that I noticed two words written on the dessert menu which hung on the wall BREAD PUDDING.
I’d recently enjoyed my first taste of Bread Pudding when author, Erika Marks, visited the Book Exchange in Marietta, Georgia to talk about her books. If you haven’t read Little Gale Gumbo click here for a sample. Miss Erika and I are kindred spirits. She’s the kind of gal you love immediately, the kind you’ve know your whole life but haven’t yet met. She once called Maine home, but now lives in North Carolina. When I told her that I once called North Carolina home and would soon be visiting Maine we squealed like elementary kids. Erika’s husband had cooked a big ole batch of gumbo, she brought bread pudding. Now I should let you know that Miss Erika sneaks in a bit of chocolate into her puddin’ (in the South we don’t add g’s when we make pudding. G’s ruin the recipe).
Back at Just Barb’s, I ordered a fish sandwich and a bread puddin’ for breakfast.
“Just put that bread puddin’ in a to-go cup and I’ll be good.”
My husband’s eyebrows arched. “Bread pudding?” He asked in his proper English.
“We are in Maine. I must eat bread puddin’ and pick blueberries. I’d be in the cranberry bog if it were the season.”
Bless his heart, he understands me.
Prior to eating at Just Barb’s, my intent was to stir wild blueberries into Greek Yogurt for breakfast; but dag-dabbit I was on vacation. The following morning I heated the bread pudding and sprinkled blueberries on top.
I took a bite. Merciful heavens it was divine. Warm and ripe with the flavor of Maine. I decided more berries were needed, and because I am health conscious I broke up a couple of pieces of dark chocolate.
You know what they say about dark chocolate; it’s health food.
Friends, even as I write this post I miss Maine. She has wrapped her arms around me. I hope the natives do not mind me calling her home, even if it was for two short weeks. Thank you for reading my post. Please follow this blog and share.
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes and Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. Her latest release: Farming, Friends & Friend Bologna Sandwiches will be released in 2014. She loves hearing from you. Visit her website at reneawinchester.com or follow her on Twitter at Reneawinchester