Ever eaten elk or Dungeness crab?

In my novel Nearly Canaan, Joshua and Jaya settle into a place unlike anything they would have imagined. It’s desert, for one thing, where nearly everything has to be irrigated, for another. Quite simply, it’s a lot like Yakima, in the middle of Washington state.

  1. Dungeness crab. I really miss this. It doesn’t travel well. You have to go to the source. Someplace like Ivar’s on the waterfront in Seattle. One crab per person is fine.
  2. Salmon. How many varieties do you know? Sport fishermen will tell you their favorite.
  3. Tillamook cheddar. An Oregon coop.
  4. Beer. Must be all those local hops and barley. My favorite was Rainier.
  5. Geoducks. (Pronounced gooey-ducks). A large razor clam species.
  6. Those chewy apple, peach, or ‘cot bars. A sweet and chewy candy. Used to get ’em up around Wenatchee. Wish I could remember the brand name.
  7. Rainier cherries. Definitely distinctive.
  8. Chanterelle mushrooms. Had ’em once, and it was a treat. You really have to trust your source when it comes to picking wild ‘shrooms.
  9. Elk. Helps if you know someone who wins a license in the annual hunting lottery. Seriously.
  10. Walla Walla onions. OK, I hate onions. Or they hate me. So I’m just passing this along, based on the praise by cooks I respect.


What food is special where you live?

Dungeness crab, a specialty in the Pacific Northwest.


What I’ve learned about the ocean

We’re talking North Atlantic, though I had earlier exposure to the North Pacific in Washington state as well as the Atlantic in Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, and Long Island.

New England really is different. Here’s why.

  1. The water’s always restless, don’t be fooled. Those slow swells can get you seasick, too.
  2. The current in the water can push you one direction while the wind twists you toward the other. As I learned the first time I took the helm of a sailboat and tried to steer by the compass.
  3. Tidepooling presents an amazing crystalline world of miniature color in its unique range of flora and fauna. It’s well worth exploring in the rockweed at low tide.
  4. At night, the ocean can be terrifying. It’s utterly dark, surrounded by swirling and slapping sounds in unseen places. The stars – and distant beacons – are icy comfort.
  5. As for those romantic walks along the beach in moonlight? Most nights of the year are too cloudy and too cold. Maybe you need to book a flight to a Caribbean island.
  6. It’s dangerous. You think you’re standing sufficiently far back on a rock outcropping overlooking the water, but don’t be surprised if a big wave somehow crashes up behind you, threatening to sweep you out to sea. January and March add their own complications.
  7. I love bodysurfing in some big waves, come summer, meaning after the Fourth of July. Here we go! Whee!
  8. Whales! The tour captains know where to find them. But their blow spray stinks. Meaning the big leviathans, not the skippers, as far as I know.
  9. And seals! (And sharks, which go after them at Chatham, down on the Cape.) And lighthouses!
  10. The tides themselves are heightened here because of a fluke in the global streaming. They’re really impressive up in Fundy Bay and the easternmost flank of Maine. (Twenty-five feet change every six hours at Eastport, Maine, for example. It’s like draining and quickly refilling a lake.) Less than half of that where I live in New Hampshire, but still impressive.
Me at the helm of a 32-foot sailboat back in the late ’80s. It didn’t want to go where we were supposed to be headed, and I was worried the wind might tip us over.   

As a footnote, there are only a few places you can swim in Chesapeake Bay without being stung by jellyfish.

And I love the way you really can see the curvature of the earth when you get an open panorama.

Just so you know about Lake Winnipesaukee

  1. Situated near the center of New Hampshire, it’s the state’s largest lake and the third largest in New England.
  2. It stretches about 21 miles and varies in width up to nine miles, covering about 71 square miles.
  3. The lake contains at least 264 islands and has 288 miles of shoreline.
  4. Maximum depth is 180 feet, augmented by a dam at Lakeport.
  5. The center part of the lake is called the Broads.
  6. The outflow joins with the Pemigewasset River to form the Merrimack, which heads south into Massachusetts before turning east to the Atlantic. Its waters powered many of the industrial mills along its way, including Manchester, Nashua, Lowell, and Lawrence.
  7. The Native name translates as either “smile of the Great Spirit” or “beautiful water in a high place.”
  8. Officially, it’s not a lake but a “great pond,” which the General Court has defined as a natural lake of more than ten acres. The state owns the beds of all the great ponds, making the surface public water.
  9. Ice-out is a popular measure of the end of winter in the Granite State. It’s declared when the ice on the lake breaks up sufficiently for the Mount Washington cruise vessel to make it to every one of its five ports: Center Harbor, Wolfeboro (“the Oldest Summer Resort in America”), Alton, Weirs Beach, and Meredith. It’s also considered the beginning of boating season. The date has varied from March 16 to May 12.
  10. It’s hard to spell. That’s why it’s often known as Lake Winni.

Beating the crowds at the seashore

Tourist season in northern New England doesn’t start until the July 4 holiday, and even then, the ocean is too cold for most swimmers. Of course, living in the region, much of June and September is prime beach time, if you want to be free of the mobs.

Just look at this, though I won’t tell you exactly where it is, only that it’s a state park and the high rises that seem to be sitting on the jetty are actually along Old Orchard Beach, Maine’s longest stretch of seaside sand and leading honky-tonk sunspot, all the way across Saco Bay.