The world’s most glorious sauerkraut

For most of my life, I never would have thought sauerkraut could rise any higher than maybe a gag-inducing edible in an obligatory sort of way. You know, like liver. Something in some households you might be required to eat on New Year’s Eve to assure a good 12 months ahead. Think of lutefisk (lye fish) in Nordic cultures as a parallel.

Well, my best friend’s parents, of good German Lutheran stock, made their own, but they also composted for their garden, and back in the ‘50s, that seemed pretty weird.

I am convinced that there are certain dishes that will never become acquired tastes to some or even many tongues. (Feel free to make nominations here.)

That said, imagine my surprise in recent decades in discovering the joys of fine Chinese cuisine, along with the shock of learning that the filling on those snappy eggrolls and spring rolls was essentially sauerkraut, just by another name.

Maybe that set up the moment of revelation.

Morse’s in Waldoboro.

First came some nibbles after an old Mainer made his annual pilgrimage, returning with 20 or 30 pounds or so.

The taste was sweet and tangy, even refreshing. I do like pickles, but these are in a class all their own. I mean, they’re glorious. OK, I had come to prefer coleslaw with a vinegar dressing more than the conventional creamy one, so maybe that had prepared me. (Not that I turn down either.)

That’s set up our own trips in the family, including one with me in the depths of a very snowy February. The road out of the village to the store seemed to take forever, I was sure we had taken a wrong turn somewhere, but then the small store appeared, and it offered more crocks of pickled traditions than just kraut. It also had a small but very tasty German restaurant, which appears to have fallen victim to Covid restrictions. All in all, a delight.

Upshot is, it’s a dish I’ve come to anticipate each winter from our own ten-pound or so purchase.

Morse’s is, in itself, a fascinating story of a family business that’s undergone some transformations but maintains a small niche in an increasingly monolithic food industry. I have no idea if you can find it anywhere near where you live, but then maybe that might inspire another entrepreneur to rise to the challenge. Bigger is not always better.

We have some heavy-duty shipping, too

While washing dishes one night shortly after moving to Eastport, I noticed strange lights between a neighbor’s house. So I went upstairs with my binoculars and still couldn’t make out much, other than it appeared to be a ship. Or maybe two. It definitely wasn’t one of our fishing boats. Here’s how one of the big freighters looks in daylight.

This ship sits at anchor while awaiting the harbor pilot to board and direct the critical final moves to the Eastport’s commercial terminal. I do have to wonder how the skipper can see anything ahead from the bridge so close to the stern.

The Breakwater downtown isn’t the only important pier in town. The Eastport Port Authority also operates the Estes Head Cargo Terminal around the curve to the south. The 55-acre, high-security site includes warehouses, an aerial conveyor, and two berths. It’s where the big barges and oceanic freighters pull in.

The cargo terminal from the water.
There are even tugboats.

It’s also the deepest natural harbor in the continental U.S., with the Breakwater close behind.

The name of the ship, its cargo, and its destination will be reported in the shipping activities log on page 3 of the next edition of the Quoddy Tides.

Most of the shipping these days is exports of wood pulp for paper production, though recent cargo has included delivery of giant blades for the wind farm electrical generators in Hancock County.  .

Seems a shame they can’t drum up more business, try as they might.

 

 

Some of the most successful farms around here are out on the water

As many fish stocks dwindle precariously, salmon farming and related aquaculture are hailed as a viable alternative.

Salmon pens at Broad Cove.

Young salmon are placed in the circular enclosures when they’re about six inches long, where they leap and splash under netting that protects them from eagles, osprey, cormorants, and gulls. In about two years, they grow to a harvestable size of about two feet and ten pounds. A specially designed vessel sucks the mature fish from their pens and its conveyor stream immediately cleans and guts them.

Lubec rises in the distance.

Cooke Aquaculture, based in Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick, manages 15 pens in Deep Cove and Broad Cove, operating from a former fertilizer plant on Estes Head. A feeding barge sits amid the pens, which house about 450,000 salmon. About one-third of the pens are left fallow at any time.

A pen like this can hold 25,000 fish. The netting protects the salmon from osprey, eagles, and other predators.

From our upstairs windows, we can see other salmon farms at Campobello Island across the channel.

As for recipes? I’ll often make mine as sashimi.

 

Is there a dry cleaner in the county?

Geographically, Sunrise County is one of the largest in New England – the county line is an hour-and-a-half drive away from where I live, unless you’re going to Canada – but there are a lot of things we don’t have.

There are only three traffic lights, for instance – all in Calais en route to the busy international border crossing.

So I was wondering, just in case, where the closest dry cleaner is. We have two laundromats, but say, what if I wanted to send my dress shirts out to be washed and pressed, as I did back when working in an office?

The answer, it turns out, is forget it.

This really is a do-it-yourself kind of place.

If you’re planning on visiting, be prepared.

 

Confessions of a booklover

Looking at my book purchases over the past few years, I’m finding that most of them are ebooks. The new paperbooks in my collection are mostly gifts, gratefully received, augmented by a few used volumes purchased online.

Cost is a factor, admittedly, but so is shelf space. We still have a thousand or more titles to cull from our collections before moving the remainder up here, and keeping them in storage ain’t cheap. My own practice of the past decade requires me to say adios to one copy every time I get a new one, and I find the swapping to be heart-rending. Books really are personal, and who ever wants to let go of a friend?

Among the harder aspects of putting our old house on the market was one we hadn’t anticipated. Our Realtor told us the bookshelves couldn’t be jammed, as ours were, but that buyers were entranced when shelves were only half full. We didn’t want to repulse them but, well, we had several walls to go through on that point.

That meant buying a lot of boxes from U-Haul to pack. Buy boxes? They stack better, for both transport and storage. Worth the price.

~*~

When it comes to how I’m now reading, I do find a distinction between ebooks and paper.

If it’s a page-turner being devoured quickly for pleasure or else an authority I’m using for background reference, I prefer digital. The digital search function’s very helpful, believe me – much better than relying on an index – and if I’m quoting something in a writing project, cut-and-paste beats keyboarding any day and is less likely to include typos. On the other hand, if the text requires slow reflection and digestion, traditional paper moves to the fore. Krista Tippett’s Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living is a prime example, along with Robert Alter’s The Art of Biblical Poetry and The Art of Biblical Narrative.

Maybe the divide even comes down to whether it’s something I want to read hands-free or hands-on.

~*~

These also play into my considerations in my own publishing strategies.

As I looked to outlets for my big nonfiction project, Quaking Dover, I realized it was the kind of volume most readers would want to have in their hands or even wrap as a present.

It was one I’d want to place in bookstores and libraries, but that became a big hurdle.

If I put it the book up at Amazon’s KDP, the bookstores would back off. As for libraries? Dunno.

The alternatives I saw were prohibitively expensive for what would be a niche item, unless it magically took off on the charts, even as print-on-demand.

The plot thickened when my ebook haven, Smashwords, announced it was being absorbed by Draft2Digital. Yeah, the promises of no changes were there, but really?

Yet from what I’m seeing, maybe not. Maybe this is the big challenge to the Amazon juggernaut.

Upshot is, that’s where I’m planning to place my print version.

What’s the future of retail after Covid?

We all know the boost the Covid shutdown gave to online shopping and delivery. Ordering from the comfort of home, when everything went well, could be a pleasure. For some of us, it even meant being able to find exactly what we wanted, even after we had tried without success to find the item in a bricks-and-mortar store.

Of course, it could also be exasperating, as I discovered when a promised item failed to arrive before Christmas, even though it had been ordered more than a month before, and cancellation and refund weren’t available, due to the fine print that the product was being shipped from an independent source rather than the classy brand name. It was finally delivered in February, even after I had finally got the retailer to cancel the purchase.

As we also know, not every website is easily navigated, either.

~*~

I think about that when I look at the vacant storefronts in Eastport’s historic and charming downtown. Just what would fit in here efficaciously? Retail, of course, is the heart of it, along with a mix of offices and studios.

It’s a situation we share with many other communities, where the pleasures of being able to stroll from one option to another are countered by the expectation of easy parking. Just what do we really want or need, actually? More possessions? Services? Treats for the eyes or taste buds?

If you open a store, you’re not going to get rich at it, even though retailing requires a special insight and savvy. To be successful, you’ll also need value-added lines in ways the online rivals can’t compare. Think of the personal touch as a shopper when you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for to fix a particular problem.

Eastport has the additional complications of a small year-round population that swells in the summer, meaning the retail season can boil down to half-dozen prime weeks with a long slowdown in between.

~*~

You’ll hear people talk fondly of the old Woolworth’s or Newberry’s, with their lunch counters and swivel chairs or their extensive fabric selection or whatever, or the way these emporiums anchored the block. Not so for the dollar stores or Walmart.

I’m well into a stage of de-collection and downsizing, so I hesitate to add more possessions. Still, when I walk into a place like the Rock & Art store in Ellsworth or Bangor, I can be tempted.

Obviously, I don’t have the answer for what will revitalize the district, but my guess is that it will be an array of things not currently in our vision. Who would have thought of brewpubs a decade or two ago, for instance?

Or, as they used to say in the days of black-and-white television, “Please stay tuned.”

Here comes the paperbook edition!

A history book seems like a natural for a print edition, but it can be a risky deal for a publisher.

After all, few titles are of the bestseller scope aimed at a nationwide readership.

My Quaking Dover is a prime example of the niche appeal that can arise when you zero in on a small community and then further refine it to a crucial minority. Even when it becomes a microcosm of a much bigger picture, as I believe mine does, the hard reality is that it’s hard to break even in traditionally publishing such a work.

~*~

Independently producing at Kindle Direct Publishing was one alternative, but it wouldn’t get copies into brick-and-mortar bookstores, which would have to buy the books at full price from Amazon and then add an additional fee, or into many public libraries – and I do see those as essential outlets for this work.

I looked into several other services but concluded that the costs to me would have been prohibitive, no matter how attractive the result.

Now, however, I have good news to share.

Quaking Dover is appearing as a print-on-demand edition from Draft2Digital, available through its affiliated traditional retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

D2D first came to my attention when it acquired Smashwords.com, the pioneering ebook enterprise that’s been my literary haven for nearly a decade now. The more I learned of it, the more I sensed that releasing my print editions there was no-brainer.

~*~

See what you think. Like the ebook edition I’ve previously announced, the paperbook is being offered at a reduced price in a pre-release – in this case up till its October 8 release.

You can help me prime the pump by requesting your own physical copy at your favorite bookstore or library.

Check out my author page at Books2Read for details.

Let’s shake things up!

‘Congratulations! You are qualified to get better services and a better rate.’

This is what I got in the mail from our cable company, a month or so after it had hiked our broadband fees by 30 percent. He they were now, returning with a pitch to cut the monthly bill to $5 under what we were paying earlier but with television channels included.

The first problem? We don’t have TV and don’t want it!

“Redeem your upgrade today.”

Who are they kidding? You can bet that a year from now that monthly bill will skyrocket. Trying to scale that back to where we were would be with just the broadband becomes the second, and bigger, problem.

Of course, the third problem overshadowing all of this is the inefficiency of unchecked monopoly. Where are the Teddy Roosevelt Republicans when we need them?

How do these companies justify their rates, anyway?