the Maine Summers Cookbook|
recipes for delicious sun-filled days
Linda Greenlaw and Martha Greenlaw
Viking Studio, 207pp, $30
My husband came in from the screen porch waving this book in his hand. "This is so great," he said, "it makes me wish I knew how to cook." I couldn't have said it better myself, except that I can cook and for those of us who are even modestly talented in the field, the Maine Summers Cookbook is an inspiration in myriad ways.
The Greenlaw mother and daughter team are talented imaginative cooks but they are the first to credit friends and neighbors who have contributed to their repertoire. The island of Isle au Haut is a spectacularly beautiful and isolated island in Penobscot Bay. It attracts the inspired and then tempers them. The resulting community is warm and sharing.
Some of the recipes in this book are embellishments on neighbors' great ideas, with Martha and Linda among the most appreciative. Because the island is so beguiling and the residents so welcoming, company is always anticipated. The Greenlaws live in their own unique paradise of talented cooks.
And so, on to the recipes...The book is divided into five sections: "cocktails, snacks and sunsets, light lunches and suppers for lazy summer days, start the day right, feasts with family and friends, something sweet". Every recipe is introduced with a personal comment from mother or daughter about the provenance of the recipe. The island is so full of sharing culinary talent that the majority of the recipes originate or are perfected there.
As Linda comments in her introduction to "goat cheese with chives," "Most of my neighbors are Renaissance people who can make many things out of necessity." She refers to the fact that the author of the goat cheese recipe is a master carpenter/designer who also makes "first rate goat cheese". The simplest recipe in the appetizer section is grilled kielbasa with lemon juice. There's barely a need for a recipe except that it is a combination which you would never think of yourself and it is self-explanatory: grill the Kielbasa, slice into 1/2 inch rounds and squeeze lemon juice all over them. Stick them with toothpicks and devour!
The most elaborate recipes are found in the main section, "feasts with family and friends". All I can say is that these islanders sure do eat well. Many have summer gardens and the vegetable recipes include eggplant, summer squash and new potatoes, among others. Sea food recipes are, naturally, the star of the show, freshly dug clams (frequently by Linda), freshly caught fish and lobster. Plenty of shrimp recipes (though, in this case, I doubt they are referring to Maine shrimp which are only caught in the winter and are quite small). That is not to say that meat is ignored. Beef, chicken, even a "pig roast, island style" are all part of the good life on the island.
I think you get the picture so I'll leave the dessert section to your imagination, so I'll have a little room to comment on the production of the book. It is in a word, sumptuous. The food photography will make your mouth water and the atmospheric scenes of island life are so idyllic that you'll want to move there yesterday...If that's not possible, at the very least, you'll be inspired to gather your own circle of friends and celebrate the comradery with some of this yummy food.