This wonderful book will make you hungry

Given that I love food and Downeast Maine, when I saw the book title, A Culinary History of Downeast Maine, I quickly ordered a copy. And I’ve got to say author Sharon Joyce did a wonderful job with this book.

Sharon starts us off hundreds of years ago with the Wabanaki, who lived off the land, but according to Sharon this does not mean they did not eat well. I was surprised to learn that some of the food preparation and preservation techniques of the Wabanakis are still being used today.

As the book takes us up through the centuries, I learned a lot, including the fact that many of the edible plants we raise and eat today were brought here from Europe.

I do need to issue one warning: this book will make you hungry! After each chapter, Sharon provides wonderful recipes for the food in that chapter. You’re going to hold onto this and try many of its recipes from the glazed blueberry muffins to the crab cakes. The book also has a lot of wonderful photographs.

Most of the stories are on Mount Desert Island, and the book isn’t just about food, because Sharon includes a lot of history of Mount Desert Island. I enjoyed the stories about the islands wealthy families including the Rockefellers and their favorite foods.

But it made me sad to read of the demise of our wild blueberry industry. For many years Linda and I would visit Lubec and find places where we could pick wild blueberries, and I’m sure I ate as many as I picked.

Sharon does, near the end of the book, report that many of our traditional farms and food producers are struggling. “We, as Americans, want things that are quick, easy, that taste good, that are impressive and healthy. We want everything.” Well, sure!

She also expresses real concern about the impacts of climate change, especially on seafood. Do you remember how wonderful Maine shrimp were before they disappeared?

Without question, Maine has a rich and delicious history of food, which Sharon captures in this wonderful book, and I am sure pleased to be part of that history today!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.