You can plan and plan, but sometimes you stumble on to a place by accident that simply demands that you stop and “be there”. Fryeburg, Maine, was just a dot on a blue highway map, on the way to Somewhere Else, until we actually got there. It was nearly lunchtime, and the driver was getting sleepy, so we pulled over at the farm stand and parked in the shade of an enormous old maple. There was a convenient picnic area on the lawn in front of the store, so I sketched the barn and store, while my husband went sound asleep in the car.
I left the foreground blank, thinking I would find a peach or something inside to add later. Nope, no peaches in Maine in early August, BUT they did have baskets of intriguing little homemade treats called Whoopie Pies. The young clerk explained that they were made from, “… like, um, cupcake tops, with, um, you know, stuff in the middle…” Icing? Frosting? “Well, yeah, kinda but different. They’re a Maine Thing.” I have always thought that the whole point of a cupcake was the icing – in fact, when my kids were in school, I maintained that I could have re-used the same set of cupcakes for 10 years because kids only ever licked off the icing and threw away the actual cake. Maybe these Mainers were on to something! Taking off the saran wrap took some doing, but eventually we succeeded. Whoopie! It was like having a giant soft Oreo only with triple cream cheese filling, so you twisted it open, licked off the filling, and tossed the cake bits, which were stale anyway. I never did figure out the “pie” reference, sorta like Eskimo Pie I guess… but it was the perfect pre-lunch post-nap snack.
The store had a lot of “Maine things” on the shelves; the ubiquitous maple syrup in little jugs that wouldn’t be allowed on the plane home in a carry-on bag, adorable knit baby socks and thick mittens that I have absolutely no need for, and much, much more. I finally opted to photograph some of the unique produce and paint it later – who ever heard of yellow-eyed peas, or canned fiddle-head ferns?
The pickled cauliflower sounded yucky, to be honest, but whoever prepared it had the good sense to stick a red pepper in the jar for visual appeal, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been… It took me three weeks to get around to it, but here are my slightly-wonky-perspective sketches from my photos.
On the checkout counter at the farm stand I had seen a donation box labeled, “Save Our Spire”. A good idea, because we had noticed far too many little villages like this where the famous New England church spires were missing, leaving squatty little churches decaying by the roadside. We left the store and looped back to the main street, where I had spotted the 302 Smokehouse Tavern. It was a lively place, and a good lunch, and I was pleased to discover that the spire repairs were indeed underway across the parking lot!
I read in a newspaper article that the community and church had raised $33,000 so far of the $186,000 necessary for the job – ouch. I wish them luck – maybe Donald Trump will stop by in a generous mood…