i don't know why it took me so long
to finally go to Maine
well, yes, i guess i do:
i fell in love with an island
before i made it that far
so every time i could getaway
i hopped the ferry.
anyway, when my sister called
a couple of years ago and
suggested the road trip i
jumped at the chance.
i really wanted to go in mid-August
for one reason: wild blueberries
but could not bear the idea of
all the crowds (i had to go to Acadia
because...well...i just had to...
it was oneof the places on my "before i die
i want to visit" list)
so i crossed my fingers that there
would still be berries even tho NJ's
were long finished by September
and made the cottage reservations
for just after labor day in
rustic Stonington next door to
Mt. Desert island and near
where two of my heroes
E.B. and Katharine S. White
i fell in love all over again
and only one thing keeps me from
packing up the kitties and moving
for good: the ocean there never gets
warm enough to swim in.
i suppose if it did, that marvelous, unspoiled spot
would become overrun with the Conde Nast crowd
that loves a place to death with their imprint
refusing to leave a place alone.
Stonington, Blue Hill, Deer Isle and environs
have been spared by the nearness of Mt. D where
the Philadelphia Mainliners have built their
summer estates and "cottages". (God bless the
Rockefellers who prevented Acadia from
But locals were all in a panic
that year because Deer Isle had been written up
in the NYTimes travel section and thought
that was why we were there and looked at us
with piercing eyes that said "you aren't planning
to move here are you?"
once we got off the main roads i
kept my eyes peeled for a roadside stand
and stopped when i saw a teenager sitting on
the tailgate of a pickup truck next to a card table
laden with baskets of berries
quarts from her
and headed to the recommended diner
for great seafood chowder.
sitting on the stool at the counter
watching plates of blueberry pie in the
hands of hustling waiters and waitresses
i had to order a slice even though i had never liked anyone's
blueberry pie--those made with big, fat
high bush variety and drenched in a
syrup filled with spices and sugar.
that pie was fabulous
sweet, yet still with that fresh berry tartness
making the sides of my tongue tingle...
even after having eaten fresh blueberries
out of hand, in the car, just moments before...
because all it was was blueberries in a
light syrup made from berries cooked in a bit of sugar
and absolutely no hint of cloves, cinnamon or allspice
and, naturally, in a perfectly flaky homemade crust.
i love our fabulous NJ high bush blueberries
sold in supermarkets everywhere)
we have wild blueberries
but they do not proliferate the way they do in Maine.
In fact, most wild blueberry farms in Maine are not "planted"
rather they are carefully managed, naturally occurring
vast "meadows" of the small, attractive, low-growing shrubs.
No one has attempted to farm them down here
Sadly, it is not worth the investment.
As far as i am concerned
you can have your Maine lobsters
okay, well, yes i'm being rash
please also let me have my lobster roll
but i'm crazy for things you can pick off
a plant, pop in your mouth and
swoon from pleasure and delight
and those teensy tiny blueberries
are so packed with flavor i did
nearly swoon when
years ago while cycling along a
state park path i spied
my first wild blueberry.
After sampling, i promptly drank
all of my water and then filled the bottle up
with berries i stole from the local wildlife.
Before i could figure out how to
get myself to Maine every summer
the one i share a home with here in jersey
was invited to be the driver and cheerleader for her
insane, amazing friend who now lives up
there, near Mt. D and participates in the annual
bike race up Mount Washington with hundreds
of other insane people.
Every year, around March or April
i ask if her friend is still crazy and
am relieved when i hear that yes, my sister
will be going north again in mid-August.
Last week she returned home with 10 pounds
of wild berries and we have poured most of them into
freezer baggies but we are also eating
them to our heart's content (literally, so the
research folks say).
Through the winter they are an
essential ingredient to my morning bowl
of oatmeal and i will bake them up
in muffins (it is best to stir them into batter while still frozen
and bake them straight away)
put them in Sunday morning pancakes and
whirl them in banana smoothies
all the while saying a silent prayer
over those glorious small bushes and
all those who bend over them to harvest
these precious little jewels.