I’ve taken some time off from these dense emails; this one goes somewhere despite its length so follow it like the course of the fiddlehead season northward. The themes: 2 Clarence’s, a Kurlansky, GMO Labeling, and why all this leads towards your Crown O’Maine order:
Clarence 1: Author of History of Maine Agriculture, 1604-1860 and, importantly, Farming in Maine, 1860-1940. For those who have heard the inklings of our Maine Heritage Food Project – a request by Crown O’Maine to purchase Maine’s native heirloom crops and breeds from farmers in the very towns they were created in – the news that I’ve been staying up reading Clarence Day at all hours of the night will come as no surprise. Day references crops by name and the growers who curated them, this information nestled amongst dozens of trends in Maine’s diverse agricultural regions. Clarence Day’s writing refers succinctly and clearly to the rise and fall of Maine’s corn canning industry, as well as the time when there was a dairy coop creamery in every town but not nearly enough market for all that cheese. It is one of the founding sources of coop aversion in our state and interestingly that aversion persists while localized cheese making rises anew.
Clarence 2: A man whose invention (the flash freezer) would forever alter Maine’s landscape, as much for its impact on fishing and blueberries as its impact on the national and global markets for perishable products. Hello fish fillets, good-bye, parity pricing. But those effects aren’t directly Clarence Birdseye’s fault. The unraveling of that narrative is one of Northern Girl’s chief missions, right down to the trialing of pea production this summer in the County. For the County, flash freezing of peas is an industry just on the fringes of our generational farming transfer. Northern Girl’s farmer’s parents once grew peas for flash freezing at the Bird’s Eye plant, now closed. Reading both Clarences, I can see that Crown O’Maine and Northern Girl’s challenges are not new. Hopefully our narrative will be somewhat different.
On different food narratives: Jenna Beaulieu’s Summer Reading List: A blogger for the BDN who lives in Fort Kent, Jenna has a list of 10 books on food and agriculture on her summer reading list…the last one and the one that caught my eye, was The Food of a Younger Land by Mark Kurlansky. (Guess who wrote the brand new biography of Clarence Birdseye?) Mark Kurlanksy has authored several fabulous food books, Cod being my favorite so far. The Food of A Younger Land intrigues me because I’m currently reading (I know, I’m a bit behind here) Ahab’s Wife. In this story, the main character grows up in a lighthouse family with only 4 supply boats a year. You’d think with a start like that I wouldn’t be up all night curious about every bit of what and how they ate. Those of you who’ve read that one know that there isn’t much that doesn’t get eaten over the course of the story, and that the food binds the book in ways that Proust would approve of symbolically, though perhaps not literally.
So you’ve followed me through 2 Clarences, Kurlansky, a reference to Proust and even up to the County and back….oh right, the back part! I found Jenna’s list while reading her blog post about the passing of the GMO Right to Know Bill through the State Ag Committee. (The Ag Committee has a much longer title these days, forgive the paraphrase, but read the post for the fascinating details).
If one is struggling to see how all these themes relate to their weekly Crown O’Maine order, fear not. When we swapped this style of update for the flashier and photo-embedded version, some of you were thrilled. Others lamented the departure from these newsy and dense ramblings on our food system. And now comes the confession. I’ve been trying to get home earlier to my kids. Which means flashier, but more quickly composed weekly emails for you, but better suppers, and bedtimes for the kids. Which ALSO means after they go to bed I get to read (and folks, lest there be any confusion, this email is the summary of many weeks – I can’t read nearly as fast or as sustained as I used to!)…
Ordering from Crown O’Maine helps build a better food system for Maine – supports GMO labeling, small farmers, a better, smarter Birdseye pea, restoration of our heritage foods, and above all, a distribution company that can help write, albeit preemptively, an astounding History of Maine Agriculture, 1995-Present.