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beachcove

Life on an island

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Hello John!

In "Serious Pig" you write about your experiences living on Long Island, Maine, and your friendship with Edgar Clarke, the owner.

In addition to your limited kitchen facilities, you had a limited supply of food to choose from. Is there any food from that time that you still make today? Or remember fondly? Or with a shudder?

Alix Kates Schulman, in "Drinking the Rain," about her time on Long Island, wrote about following the lead of Euell Gibbons, and eating periwinkles, etc. Did you ever experiment along those lines?

Also, do you have any thoughts on the sustainability of island stores like (what used to be) Clarkes?

Finally, I've been trying to figure out just what part of the island you lived on that Mary Justice wouldn't venture to?? :raz:

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Hmm. How could anything in paradise make me shudder? Well, maybe cans of food left behind in the cottage kitchen on previous summers that had been thawing and freezing and thawing and freezing for who knew how many years. My mother used to thoughtfully write the date on the cans she left, but her brothers didn't. (Of course, in this context, "thoughtful" might have better meant tossing them over the cliff rather than leaving them behind. [in those benighted days we used to heave our trash over the cliff at high tide. Not good. But in those days, trash was not much and mostly biodegradable.]) I discovered ol' Euell when I was living as a college drop-out in NYC and at his (spiritual) urging, took the subway all the way to a huge park in the Bronx (it's name escapes me) to pick acorns. I then boiled these for a full day and was so disgusted by the smell that permeated the apartment I was never able to eat them. Sort of like chestnuts, which I had another misadventure with later. I coated them with sugar and gave them to some friends who ate one and threw the rest out. At the sea coast, however, he proved of more use. People on the island (natives) told me that mussels were poisonous (they could have done better to warn us of the red tide, which made the clams poisonous -- those I had always dug and made clam chowder), but I went ahead and harvested and ate them -- and I'm still here. I did collect and boil periwinkles, too, but that's a LOT of work for a LITTLE to eat; something more to write about than actually make a daily habit of. I also made sumac ade with the wild sumac (pretty good), picked lots of berries (blueberries and raspberries for the most part, but some blackberries), and caught a lot of crabs.

If you're familiar with SERIOUS PIG you'll know there's a little piece in there about Maine country stores and how they've evolved over the years (mostly into lottery card agents). Maine isn't the same and those stores, run without much profit by owners who sat there into the evening watching television for the occasional sale, are pretty much a thing of the past. I haven't been back to the island since...maybe 1977, 1978, which is a long time now. I miss it fiercely, but I prefer to miss the Long Island of my memory than to experience the pain of the Long Island of today. In any case, the cottage passed into the hands of another part of the family. By the by, our cottage was one of three on top of a cliff that you passed just before you arrived at Cleaves Landing. (That now long gone.) The part of the headland we lived on jutted out the furthest into Casco Bay. Mary Justice refused to take her VW bus up the rutted dirt track that went up and over a hill to get to our place. But she got us close enough.

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