With Guest Editor Sam Sifton
Food Editor of The New York Times
My grandparents lived on Bailey Island, in a house on top of a hill that led down through a wood filled with lady slippers to the old steamboat wharf in Mackerel Cove. When I was little, I sold sand dollars there to the tourists coming off the ferry from Portland. When they left, I’d stand on the rough wood planks of the pier and dream of working on one of the tuna boats bobbing at nearby moorings, see myself way out at the end of the bow pulpit, throwing a harpoon for money and food.
This was maybe an uncommon reverie for a kid from Brooklyn. But it instilled in me a love of Maine, for its beauty and bounty alike, that has never abated. I am not from the state and could not say so even if I moved to Jonesport and raised a hull and fished it hard for 30 years and won the lobsterboat races four years running. I’m a New Yorker who works for his hometown newspaper, as food editor of The New York Times.
But I have visited Maine every single year of my life, driven over the Piscataqua River Bridge in summer and winter, spring and fall, stayed for days, for weeks, for months. And I have since childhood extolled the state’s virtues and delicacies — its secret stashes of mountain snow and of blueberries, its sun-kissed mudflats filled with clams, its salt-marsh sheep, its forest venison, its riverine fish.
For a guest editor of Down East, that turned out to be very good training. I was able to work with the magazine’s actual editor, Brian Kevin, in much the way small-airplane pilots worked with the captains of the tuna boats I gawked at as a child, flying high over the Gulf of Maine on clear, calm days, to help find fish. This state has provided me with a lifetime of joy and education. I’m excited to share some of what I’ve learned and love most about it in this special issue devoted to food.
We’re delighted to have Sam on board. Find his stamp all throughout the issue, and be sure to subscribe to his excellent NYT Cooking newsletter at nytimes.com/newsletters/cooking
Some are made, fished, or foraged here. Some are all but unique to here. Others are simply the eats (and drinks) that give erstwhile Mainers a taste of home. From lowbrow munchies to local delicacies, they’re the foods that define us.