Letters to the editor
Lumberjacks Are Okay
The logging quiz in your February issue was great fun, informative, and nostalgic. Along with a few lucky guesses, I credit most of my twelve correct answers to seeing log drives on the Penobscot River as a kid on the way from Houlton to Bangor. My father would stop the car so we could all get out to watch.
Your mention of wild goose beans was new to me — and intriguing. On Saturday night we always had baked yellow-eyes or pea beans. The Internet gave the origin of the name — the bean was originally found in the belly of a Canadian goose — but I really wanted to know if they are available now in Maine. Having read the item ("Information Please," North by East) in the same issue about Susan Wennrich, a reference librarian at the Bangor Public Library, I called there. She answered, did some research, and called me back. Large, white, and heavily speckled, wild goose beans are now an heirloom variety, so one would have to acquire seeds and grow them, or find someone who does.
Finally, Monty Python in the final quiz question was a bonus and left us laughing.
—Byrna Porter Weir
Rochester, New York
Upon opening my February issue of Down East last night, I immediately came upon Jeff Clark's article about the increased demand being put on Maine food banks. I wish to echo many of the facts and sentiments in that article. Hunger is as present in southern Maine as it is in the rest of the state. Here at the Wayside Soup Kitchen we have two programs: the food rescue program and the soup kitchen program. We collect food from large donors and distribute it to more than a hundred pantries, soup kitchens, and social service agencies in Cumberland and York counties from our warehouse in Sanford. We do not charge for the food. In 2006 we gave away more than 1.5 million pounds of food, up 20 percent from 2005. Our member agencies describe the same increase in the number of people that you found in other parts of Maine. We also distribute food from the USDA commodities program.
At our soup kitchen in Portland, demand for meals is also up. In 2006 we served 125,330 meals, up more than 12 percent from 2005. We are open every night for dinner and for weekday lunches. All meals are prepared, served, and cleaned up after by volunteers.
We, too, see people having to make choices as they try to "keep all the balls in the air." Part of the challenge is the high cost of fuel. Sometimes people think the southern part of our state is affluent and carefree. In reality, hunger is as present here as it is to the north. Thank you for shedding light on this far-reaching problem.
—Elinor Redmond, Executive Director Wayside Soup Kitchen and Food Rescue, Portland, Maine
I am an avid reader of Down East and was surprised and delighted to read your article on hunger in Maine. I was alarmed to read about the dire needs of the food kitchens and pantries but more importantly who the new clients are. I am mission-minded and work very hard with my church to help alleviate the problem of hunger in my community. Thanks go to the author of this article; he is certainly sensitive to community needs and I am sure has educated many of your readers to the problem of hunger in Maine.
Where in Maine?
The mystery photograph in your February issue is a beautiful view of Browns Head Light, our next-door neighbor on the Vinalhaven shore of the Fox Island Thorofare. It shares our view of the Sugar Loaves, North Haven, and the Camden Hills. The horn's blast is tame compared to the resounding gong of its predecessor, a monster fog bell operated by a wind-up mechanism that struck it with a huge hammer once a minute. The sound could throw you out of bed at our place, several hundred yards away. We vividly remember one foggy summer when the resident Coast Guardsman and his family went away for several days, leaving behind a bright eighteen year old. The fog — and the accompanying clangor of that bell — did not go away for that entire period. He did not sleep a wink the whole time, and left looking like the ancient mariner.
—Norman & Sherry Bunin
I saw the picture of Browns Head Lighthouse in your February issue and wondered when it was taken. As town manager of Vinalhaven, I live in that house. We haven't had a lot of snow this year, so I'm thinking it must have been taken last winter.
I'm not really the lightkeeper — the lighthouse and foghorn are maintained by the United States Coast Guard — but I do occasionally check things out and push a button to reset a malfunctioning foghorn now and then. Oh, yes, about the horn: I wear earplugs at night in foggy weather.
—Marjorie E. Stratton
town manager, Vinalhaven, Maine
As one-time residents and longtime visitors to the state of Maine, my wife and I have had the pleasure of visiting our share of lighthouses. The one featured in your February issue reminds us of our three kids' first ferry trip on a bright, late June morning. It was the family's first island vacation, complete with lupines, lobster brought to our door by a lobsterman next door, quiet harbor life, and sunsets that were almost surreal. Thanks to Down East for continuing to provide us with the triggers for so many fine memories.
—Jack Jury Westfield
Being a native of Portland, I can remember the fifty-cent Italian sandwiches from Amato's, the subject of your January dining review. There is something about those sandwiches that cannot be duplicated anywhere. I will always remember that special store and the popularity of the sandwiches back in the 1940s. The Whoopie pie was one of my favorites, too. I am a resident of Hollywood, Florida, and hope one day to have an Amato's here. I wish them luck with all their expansions.
—Dorothea F. Calderin
Thanks for the entertaining historic photograph of the two Bangor nurses in your January issue. However, the smaller tub in the background is an adult sitz bath, not a bath for babies. Patients sit in it and control the flow of water from the side.
This weekend I prepared "Fava with Maine Shrimp, Oregano, and Ouzo" as directed in your February article about Gulf of Maine shrimp. It was absolutely delicious and easy to make. However, I do not recommend sampling the ouzo while cooking. It is a drink that should always be masked by Maine shrimp and lots of butter and garlic!
—Erin Van Otterloo
I am an avid reader and follower of Down East. Suggestions from your writers on where to visit, dine, etc., have always served as a wonderful guide for my husband and friends. Unfortunately, you missed a jewel in your February getaway. On the Marsh restaurant, now into its seventh year in Kennebunk's Lower Village, has served as an amazing example of what fine dining is all about. It has held the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for six years, was voted the most romantic, has been featured on the cover of Taste of the Seacoast, and on and on. I know this since we dine there regularly and take our European visitors and out-of-state clients to experience a bit of Europe without pretense.
San Francisco, California
Editor's Note: Sadly, not every fine restaurant can make it into our monthly getaways. For a complete review of On the Marsh, please see our February 2003 issue.