With cookbooks, I usually start with one quick flip through the pages and land on a recipe or two that catches my eye. I know I should start from the top - and eventually, I do work my way back through, but it usually takes me a good amount of time and honestly, I end up passing over a lot of recipes because of their complexity and as a result, neglect to take the time to read more about the dishes.
However, my quick flip method with Kate Shaffer's book, The Maine Farm Table Cookbook, was quickly tossed to the side. Her thoughtful collection of recipes, stories and reflections about the people and places behind the featured diverse dishes was immediately intriguing and something beautifully different than any other "cookbook" I have read. My first flip landed on Erin French's "Fried Green Tomatoes with Buttermilk & Chives" and I found myself moving from standing at my kitchen counter to snuggling up on the couch to read more about Erin's journey with her infamous restaurant, The Lost Kitchen. Because what Kate does so brilliantly in this book (because really, it is more than a cookbook) is not only showcase the incredible bounty that we are spoiled by from Maine's hardworking farmers (and brewers, artisans, etc,) but she digs deep into each of the chef's connections with their local farms and their passion to truly highlight the ingredients.
What I loved most of all was Kate's commitment to showcase a diverse group of people and experiences - from fine dining establishments, to family run farms, to small bakeries. One of my favorite features was reading about "Eat At Joe's" - a food truck run by a wife & husband duo that is permanently parked at Fogtown Brewing Company in Ellsworth. Everything on their menu is less than $20 and their menu board lists the farms customers can choose from for the beef in their burger. Joe, the owner, is quoted in the book: "We don't really make much money but I'm proud that we have the ability to source everything we serve from local farms. And I'm really proud of that." I mean, how lucky are we? We get to live in a place with this much respect, this much dedication to one's community, this much divine, inspired food at our fingertips with hard working, kind Mainers at the helm. This cookbook made me proud to live in Maine.
There are over 100 recipes in this cookbook, and since I had essentially bookmarked 30+ pages, it was a tough decision deciding what to cook first. I decided to lean into the gloriousness that is a Maine summer and make a dish for lunch that felt light, airy and inspired - one that I might make for friends after a salty ocean kissed day at a Maine beach. The recipe for Erin French's Spring Bread Salad with Asparagus, Radishes, Peas & Mint was straightforward, unpretentious and truly just focused on making the ingredients the star of the show:
Next up, for dinner, I embraced the rain falling outside and started to dream about Fall. I thought about what I might make on the first really crisp night this Fall for my family - so, next up for dinner was Kate Shaffer's Roasted Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar & Butter and Corn Soup with Parsley:
Again, straightforward but wonderfully nuanced. And just totally freaking delicious and crave worthy.
If you are a Mainer, a lover of Maine, or someone that just appreciates a home cooked meal that was inspired by real people and real ingredients, get your hands on a copy of this cookbook.