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There wasn't much hard news in our local paper back home, but there was lots of soft news. Every week you'd get all the police and fire calls, engagements, weddings, births, obits, classifieds and occasional reviews of one thing or another.
Journalist Thelma Ames took her food reviews seriously. As one of the few people in town who got an out-of-state paper Thelma always tried to write like she was from a big city, too.
When she would review a local bean supper she'd go off on a tangent and talk about things like plantains and artichoke en croute and panna cota. Once she suggested that, instead of franks and beans, the local Baptist Church should serve a honey mead glazed pork with sweet potato, tomatillo relish and ginger red pepper coulis.
If she had written things like that years ago she'd have been accused of being a communist, or something.
I thought about Thelma's reviews the other day after reading an article that went on about all the publicity Maine is getting lately in some of those glossy national travel magazines.
Magazines with names like “Bon Appetit,” “Wine Spectator” and “Shape” have written all kinds of things about Portland's Old Port that would make you wonder if they ever saw the place. One writer compared it to the French Quarter in New Orleans. The writer didn't say if it was before or after Katrina.
In the “Bon Appetit,” a writer said of a Portland restaurant, "Spending time there is like being transported to New York's East Village."
I've always assumed that magazines like “Bon Appetit” and the rest are read mostly by people stuck in places like New York. For that reason the magazine articles were mostly about fancy New York restaurants. If that's the case, why would a sophisticated New York couple drive eight or nine hours north to Portland on congested roads in order to eat at a place that's just like the restaurants in their New York neighborhood? You'd think that people spending all that time and money to get up here to Maine would want to experience something you couldn't get back in the big city.
Seasoned travelers - people who don't read snooty travel magazines - know what Maine's all about. If I were up here from New York, my first priority would be to gobble up a classic, bright red steamed Maine hot dog, followed closely by attending a traditional bean supper.
You won't find anything quite like those Maine classics in New York's East Village - or any of its other villages for that matter.
Bon Appetit.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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