Maine potluck

Maine- Lu at the lake

As we started our drive through Maine, Lucy said suddenly, “Mama, may we please stop the car and go stand by that beautiful water for awhile?”

We listened to her. We were thinking the same thing. We had to be somewhere that afternoon but we couldn’t miss this. So we stopped. Danny filled up the car with gas, laughing at the sign for lobster rolls available inside. (We didn’t know yet that nearly every gas station and convenience store in Maine seems to sell lobster rolls.) Lucy and I walked across the street to stand on that dock and look out at that lake. We were quiet, listening to the wind ruffle the surface of the water. She sighed. We sat down. She put her head in my lap and I brushed her hair with my fingers while we looked at the leaves starting to redden on the trees.

Of all the moments on this memorable trip we took around New England, this moment in Maine comes back to me often.

Maine has this effect on people, it seems. It certainly wound its way around our hearts.

Maine- broken-down barn

It’s hard not to love a place this gorgeous. As we drove across New Hampshire from Vermont, we were struck by all the beauty. But as soon as we entered Maine, we saw dark pine trees waving against grey skies. We felt at home.

The next day, the sky arced blue and bluer. Every barn we passed grew more dilapidated and beautiful.

This one stays with me.

Maine- corn field

We saw fields of corn in every state. Every time we saw a field of corn, but particularly this one, Lu asked, “Can we please just walk through the field of corn?” We tried to explain the concept of private property to her but it didn’t seem to stick.

Something like this just looks like everyone should be able to walk through it, doesn’t it?

Maine- Common Ground

Our first full day in Maine we went to the Common Ground Country Fair, a rollicking gathering of like-minded people participating in fermentation classes, doing wholesome activities in the woods, eating maple candy, drinking apple cider, talking about fresh cheese, watching oxen pull carriages, and serving Indian pudding out of crockpots. There were Native American games, a worm-eating cafe, a compost and recycling station, goat milking demonstrations, scythe-mowing farmers, lectures on how to keep a root cellar, lessons on how to play the spoons, booths filled with groups advocating for social justice, and a tutorial on how to make mead in Maine.

I skipped the wheat-grinding demonstration. But I wanted to see the rest of it.

It’s all organized by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. We’re members now.

Oh, how we loved Common Ground.

Maine- vegetable garden parade

Where else could Lucy grab a costume from a tent with dozens of other children and march in the Vegetable Garden Parade, dressed as a pea?

Maine- planing the canoe paddle

Or spend some time learning how to plane wood into a canoe paddle?

Maine- jumping off the hay bales

Or stand in line with friends, over and over again, to jump off a hay bale?

Man, she was so happy at the Common Ground Fair.

Maine- fried dough

I laughed out loud when I saw this. For all the fish tacos and locally made foods, this booth seemed a little out of place. But it seems perfectly emblematic of so many of the recipes people are asking us to convert for our cookbook.

Hi, we are Americans, and we like fried dough.

Maine- Amanda and Tara

One of my favorite moments of a dizzyingly giggling wonderful day was having the chance to finally meet two of my favorite women in the world. That’s Tara Barker on the left, the talented pastry chef and writer at A Baking Life. Tara has long been one of my favorite gluten-free baking buddies, plus she’s also married to a talented chef and has kids she adores. We have so much in common. We’ve talked for years but had never met. After a few moments, it seemed natural to be spending the day together. I wish I had 20 days in a row with her and her family. And in the middle is one of my most favorite bloggers, mamas, and people, Amanda Soule of Soule Mama. I’ve watched her family grow up for the past 8 years, as she has documented their daily lives in Maine with grace and humor. (And a whole of knitting and sewing I have never learned to do.) Amanda was there with Taproot, her incredible magazine “…of curated stories written by and for people living fully and digging deeper; people who are interested in deepening their connections to their families, communities, and themselves as they strive to live locally and closer to the ground.” For a few moments, the crowds dispersed and we three could just talk.

Oh, this was such a good day.

Maine- 3 Crow table

The next morning, we woke up in Rockland, so happy to spend another day in Maine. We joined Tara, Josh, and their boys, Wylie and Kalen, at their home for breakfast. Need I mention that Lucy fell in love with these boys the day before? They were a constant perpetual motion machine, the three of them, teasing and laughing and running and jumping. She was so happy we could see them again.

And then we held our Maine potluck at 3 Crow, one of Josh and Tara’s outstanding restaurants. (Josh made me a warm slurpy bowl of kale and hominy the night before that I am still thinking about now.) Look at this space. They designed it themselves, built it by hand. The food is tremendous. The restaurant just makes you want to sit there and sip coffee and talk all day.

Did I mention that Tara is the pastry chef, so not only does the staff understand entirely how to take care of gluten-free customers, but also all the desserts are gluten-free? They’re also incredible. (For example, look at these salt and pepper tarts, with salted caramel, pink peppercorn ganache, Maldon sea salt, and topped with frozen cinnamon ricotta cream. Goodness, Tara!)

(This photo was taken by Erin Little of A Love Supreme Photo, who kindly attended the potluck and took photos when I couldn’t man the camera. Thank you, Erin.)

Maine- 3 Crow sponsors

We loved setting up the foods of our sponsors and handing out packages of gluten-free pasta, flavorful gluten-free granola and bars, and whole-grain cereals that are truly delicious. By the end of every potluck, I felt a little like Oprah, except a pretty low-rent one. (“You get a box of cereal!”)

(photo by Erin Little of A Love Supreme Photo.)

Maine- potluck spread

It was such a lovely spread of food at the Maine potluck, all of it made with local foods, some of it hearty stews and soups, others salads and cauliflower rices. We ate well.

(photo by Erin Little of A Love Supreme Photo.)

Maine- us at the potluck table

It was a Sunday morning and we gathered around the tables, sharing food, families laughing and kids running around. It felt like a Sunday brunch with friends.

(photo by Erin Little of A Love Supreme Photo.)

Maine- overhead of kid

Even the kids ate well.

(photo by Erin Little of A Love Supreme Photo.)

Maine- Wiley and Kalen

These two. Oh, these two. Lucy was just heartbroken by the time we had to load up the minivan to drive to the next spot. Wylie and Kalen, she would be happy to go camping with you anytime. Shall we go to the Common Ground Fair together again next year?

Maine- Lu standing by the water

After we wiped away her tears and drove down the coast, Lucy recovered. We always feel better when we stand next to water, especially if we are waiting for fish and chips and lobster.

Maine- lobster roll

You know, it’s funny. Half the Mainers (that’s what the people of Maine call themselves) insisted to us that only tourists eat lobster rolls. Someone at the potluck even said, “Wait, someone from Maine has actually eaten one?” And the other half of the Mainers we met said, “Are they crazy? We eat them all the time. Why wouldn’t we? They’re lobster rolls.”

Danny would agree with the latter group. This is lobster, bathed in butter, on a buttered bun. What could be wrong with that?

Of course, I couldn’t eat it, because it’s a gluten bun. (I had an order of lobster and butter.) But we’re going to get a gluten-free Maine lobster roll right for our cookbook.

Maine- Lu looking at the camera

There really is no way to convey how much joy it gave me and Danny to have our daughter with us as we traveled up and down the coast of Maine. We’re so happy she knows Wylie and Kalen now, that she knows who I mean when I talk about a text message from Tara, that she has seen those pine trees swaying. We’re glad she spent an afternoon jumping off bales of hay. We’re so grateful she urged us to stand in front of that beautiful water.

Maine was an extraordinary place.

We want to send out a huge thank you and acknowledgment of the good companies that have come forward to sponsor this American Road Trip Potluck Tour for us all. 

Jovial Foods makes incredible gluten-free pastas, organic tomatoes, and some of the best olive oil we have ever tasted. They make simply great food. 

Attune Foods makes some of our favorite foods in the world, including their new quinoa-chia cereal, which we will be debuting on this tour. They do things right. 

Bakery on Main makes great gluten-free foods, including good granolas and bars. We’ll definitely take some of their instant oatmeal packets with us, for a good breakfast on the road.  

KitchenAid makes some of our most essential kitchen appliances. They are giving away one Diamond blender at every potluck we are holding!

Melissa’s Produce is providing us with great fresh produce for every potluck. We love their fruits and vegetables! 

Thank you to these companies for their sponsorship of this tour. 

Maine- carrot salad

Carrot Mint Salad with Cumin and Currants

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6

Throughout the potluck road trip tour, we made dishes when we could. We were lucky enough to have Melissa’s Produce as a sponsor, so we had deliveries of fresh vegetables every few stops. I’ll share some of the other dishes as we go along, but I want to share the carrot salad here.

Since we assumed (and rightfully so) that most of the dishes people would bring to potlucks would be starchy, carby, and sweet, we wanted a little vegetable antidote to it all. It’s also hard to find lots of fresh vegetables on the road, so this was a way for the three of us to eat something fresh each day. I love this carrot salad. Shreds of bright orange carrots against green mint with furled currants play well with the earthy, woody flavor of cumin and the sweetness of cinnamon. Add a zing of lemon and this salad has a lot of layers of flavor.

It’s good just after you dress it but I almost feel like it’s better an hour later, after everything has really soaked in. (That makes it a great salad for a make-ahead event, like a gluten-free potluck.) I’ve made it twice since we returned home. I just can’t get enough of this stuff.

Ingredients

  • 6 large fresh carrots, peeled
  • 1/2 bunch fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup currants
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Shredding the carrots. Shred the carrots. (It’s easiest and quickest using the shredding blade of a food processor, but you can use a vegetable peeler or box grater.) Put them in a large bowl.
  2. Making the salad. Add the fresh mint to the carrots and toss them together. Add the cinnamon and cumin and toss them together. Taste the carrots. Want more of either spice? Go ahead and add them here. Add the currants and toss the salad.
  3. You can combine the juice and olive oil and pour that vinaigrette over the salad. Honestly, most of the time, I just juiced the lemon over the carrots and drizzled olive oil, and tossed the salad. No one complained.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

18 comments on “Maine potluck

  1. molly

    isn’t maine the BOMB? it’s the only state i’ve ever set foot in, outside of my dear home out there on the corner of things, where i thought, yup, could move here, WOULD move here, in a heartbeat, six months of winter and all. maybe it’s a corner-of-the-country thing. maybe it’s those deep green pines. or those rocky shores. or the ocean. or or or… i am SO so glad you got to go!!

    xo,
    m

    ps: tell me you’ve read lu “one morning in maine”? wonderful before, doubly so, after.

  2. Kimberly

    I completely fell in love with Maine when we were there for Paul’s family reunion last September. Don’t know whether I could handle that winter now, though I loved MA/RI winters when I lived there in the 80’s.

    Glad you got to enjoy its magic.

  3. Eileen

    What a wonderful time– thanks for sharing it all so beautifully! This kind of travel isn’t possible for me any longer so I love to see where everyone else has been. Your pictures & descriptions help me see them all the same. :)

    It’s terrific your sponsors are supporting you on these trips. Since you have their ear, would you please encourage the folks at Attune Foods not to lock their exciting new products up at a particular store, especially one that’s in so few cities? We’d love to try them but the nearest store is a day-trip away.

  4. Jacquie

    It’s funny because while Maryland is where I’m from and technically “home,” Maine has become the place I always want to escape to now since my summer there. I’m so grateful for my parents new house there and that address is actually my permanent address right now. Sometimes “home” just finds you.

    Shall we plan to meet there next year at Common Ground? I missed this year so maybe Lu can show me around next year.

    I hope you’re having fun in your adventures! xo

  5. Liz @ The Good Eatah

    Is it strange that I teared up when I viewed your first photo of Lu looking out at the water and then again at your last of her looking in to the camera? There’s something about Maine and childhood; the “way childhood should be,” perhaps? I’m so jealous of my husband who grew up on an island in Maine. Thank you for sharing your trip there. Some day we will make it to Common Ground Fair and 3 Crow.

  6. Stephanie

    You made that salad for the Boston-ish potluck, too, yes? I love carrot salads, and this one was filled with so many unexpected flavors. Thank you for the recipe!
    Thank you, also, for sharing others with us. Looking forward to reading Tara’s blog.

  7. Tracy

    My husband proposed to me in Portland, ME and if I could I would live there instantly. I moan about not having been back as I feel like I left a little piece of my heart there. I’m from outside Rochester, NY and am very much not afraid of the winters there, in fact bring it on, I’m from the snowbelt. We’re excited to eventually bring our daughter there and enjoy the people. And my husband didn’t have a hard time eating anywhere, they just felt a little bad he couldn’t drink the beer.

  8. Zuzu

    Hi! Could you fix the link for the salt and pepper tarts? Do they serve that in their restaurant? Would love to try it next time I’m in town.

  9. Ali @ Inspiralized

    This is such a beautiful post… you are going to have so many wonderful photos and stories to show Lu when she gets older.… are you going to include pictures from the road trip into the new cookbook?

  10. Emily

    I’m so glad you enjoyed Maine! I love going to the fair, and this year’s was no exception — but I must say, you and Lu are making me very excited about going with my future kids. I think that’ll take it to a whole new level of fun. And as silly as that fried dough looks at the fair, well, it’s pretty dang delicious, and probably the only organic whole wheat fried dough I’ve ever had!

    I’m sad we couldn’t make it to the potluck, we were having a rainy day brunch with some friends from downeast — but I will have to check out 3crow!

  11. lisa

    Lu looks so happy in all of these photos — makes me want to be there too. I really miss fall as we just don’t really have the same experience out here in NorCal…and the carrot salad looks delicious — can’t wait to try it with my next veggie delivery!

  12. Marianne

    Oh, I went to Tara’s blog,seems she stopped in January…will she start up again? Just as I found her she is gone.…..