Pickled Wrinkle?

Saw a small, weathered sign at the side of the road.

A restaurant, it turns out: Pickled Wrinkle.

While that particular location is long gone, not so over at Birch Harbor, near Acadia National Park.

“Wrinkle,” as I’ve learned, is a diminutive of “periwinkle,” which are commercially harvested around here. In the old days, pickling them was perfect for packing and shipping. And they are an invasive species, FYI.

As for today, you can look up the recipes yourself.

So much for local flavor. Or maybe French.

Oh, for the glory of pickles!

Not everybody shares my delight in pickles, at least the kind you put on sandwiches, but I pile them on, when I can. I’m not much for lettuce there, by the way – I prefer that as a separate salad.

I like the crunch and acidity the pickles add, or even the sweetness, depending on the variety.

My wife grew up in Mount Olive, North Carolina, where many of these originate today.

My eyes were opened to this reality the year we went largely vegan when we practiced the Eastern Orthodox feasting for Advent. The hardest part for me was finding snack food. (Well, that plus a satisfactory creamer substitute for my coffee and something in place of cheese and … the list goes on.) Fortunately, my wife makes a great humus, and the wraps can be filling, though bland over repetition. And that’s when the pickles took center stage. A row of the green orbs in the torpedo was truly heavenly.

Not that I stop there. When we’re out to eat, the rest of the family puts their kosher pickles on my plate. Not that I’ll argue.

And then there are the summer pickles, meant to be consumed shortly after the cucumbers taken from the garden and put into canning jars. Sometimes it’s a challenge to keep up with the harvest. As if I’m complaining.

Only in the past few years have I begun to appreciate other kinds of pickles – beets, green beans, and eggs, for instance – dishes that used to appear on family dinners at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Especially on big events like Thanksgiving and Easter. Just how far back in our heritage does that go through generations of farmers?

Anybody else love that pickled ginger they serve with sushi?


Gobble, gobble, darn it, gobble

There’s a widespread assumption across America that no household should be without a turkey on Thanksgiving Day. And that’s led many charitably inclined groups and individuals to deliver free turkeys to poorer families ahead of the holiday.

What gets overlooked is the realities of the recipients themselves. Some may not welcome the challenge in front of them. Some don’t cook, period. Some don’t have a full-sized oven. Some live by themselves and have no way of dealing with all that meat. Carving the heavy roast gets tricky, even if you have a large platter and the right knife and serving fork. Not everyone even likes the taste, white meat or dark.

I’ve heard of one group home that had a dozen of the brick-solid big birds stashed away in the bottom of its chest-style freezer, no date attached. A diligent volunteer finally took charge and into the trash they went, one a week.

Speaking of volunteers. Many people step up to volunteer for the holidays, only to be told the spots are already filled and then turn testy. What do you mean?

Doing good can get tricky and lead to hurt feelings.

The real needs continue all year, especially through the depth of winter, when the food and volunteers would be most welcome.

That holiday spirit doesn’t have to be expended all at once, does it?

When sardines were big

Eastport’s economic glory days were when the city was the Sardine Capital of the World.

They’re small herring and abounded in the waters around Eastport, where they were easily caught and delivered straight to the cannery atop the wharf.

Here are some related facts.

  1. Napoleon Bonaparte helped initiate the canning of sardines, the first fish to be so preserved.
  2. Packing in Maine took off from Eastport in the 1870s and peaked around 1900, with 75 plants, mostly along the Downeast coast. The first sardine cannery in Eastport started in 1865 but failed to reduce the moisture in the cans, leading to a sharp, unpleasant odor. Its owner returned to Portland and found success with baked beans. Others in Eastport improved the process.
  3. The workforce was largely women, with blurring hands and sharp knives or scissors expertly packing the small fish into cans – as crowded as sardines, as the popular expression went. Their hands were in cold seawater, year-‘round.
  4. Eastport also cranked out the cans and lithographed labels.
  5. The fish were packed in cottonseed oil, soy oil, or upper-end mustard sauce.
  6. The world’s biggest sardine cannery jutted 250 feet out from the shore at the entrance to Shackford Cove.
  7. Home refrigeration doomed the industry, making fresh cod, haddock, and other fish readily accessible.
  8. Sardine tins were part of soldiers’ rations during the world wars.
  9. The discarded fish parts were used to make fertilizer, while the scales were transformed into pearl essence, a shiny coloring used in many consumer products.
  10. Vintage sardine cans and labels are collectors’ items.
Eastport’s sardine canneries were also centers of child labor, as photographer Lewis Wickes Hine documented in August of 1911. Above, Fulsom McCutcheon, 11, was a worker at the covering machines. The world’s biggest sardine cannery extends behind him. It was about two blocks from my house. 
Hiram Pulk, 9, cuts sardines at the Seacoast Canning Company’s Factory No. 1 in Eastport. “I ain’t very fast – only about five boxes a day. They pay five cents a box,” he was quoted. Both photos from the Library of Congress collection.



Some of my favorite food flavorings and spices

In my relocation, I’ve often been on my own. And that means fully recognizing my tastes in food, rather than relying on my wife’s memory of what delights me.

Let’s go.

  1. Real vanilla. And yes, I now know there are differences between Mexican, Madagascar, and Indonesian beans, which are really orchids. These are quite distinct from that artificial stuff, by the way. And for the record, I’m not a chocolate guy, but if you must, make it dark or white but not in-between.
  2. Butterscotch and toffee. I’m a sucker.
  3. Butter or olive oil. As my wife says, quoting others, fat carries the flavor. One, though, is better than the other in the cardio category.
  4. Garlic. Onions and I don’t get along, but this alternative is glorious, especially in the ones we’ve raised. It even saved our marriage.
  5. Leeks. Ditto.
  6. Miso. I’m fond of Japanese cuisine, OK?
  7. Rice vinegar. As I was saying?
  8. Sesame oil. Ditto.
  9. Rosemary. Maybe it’s the way it goes with lamb and other Greek dishes. Or simply the way we grow our own.
  10. Fresh, coarse, ground pepper. Anything wrong with the basics? Well, we could add parsley or basil here, if we wanted.

What would you add? Or maybe subtract?


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.