Letter from the Editor
The Comfort Issue
I don’t like to brag, but I do need to boast a little bit about my direct connection to M.F.K. Fisher, the mid-20th century author whose sensuous, personal essays set a standard for modern American food writing. My most distinguished BFF, mentor and fellow Maine transplant, Pat Brown, was managing editor of Bon Appetit in 1978 when the then-fledgling magazine boasted on its May cover: “EXCLUSIVE: M.F.K. Fisher on Comfort Food.”
I read the essay in hard copy because I scored all 12 magazine issues printed that year on eBay. I wanted to leaf through them with Pat for pandemic fun. As is true with all things fashionable, this issue of edible MAINEalso centers on comfort food.
Mary Frances, as Pat refers to Fisher, made a distinction between foods that comfort and foods that revive. “Revivers demand a certain amount of public ceremony … no matter how plain, but comforters are a private ritual,” wrote Fisher. She listed her top revivers as anything with sugar taken in the late afternoon and The Midnight Egg, made and eaten with a partner after dancing but before bed. Her comforts included a warm baked potato eaten at the kitchen table with uncounted amounts of butter and salt; and hot, canned tomato soup, laced with cinnamon, and sipped from a blue and white pitcher in bed.
Comfort foods are deeply personal. And while neither you nor I may want to try cinnamon tomato soup, as we round the corner into the second year of this lingering pandemic, we do understand being comforted by food in quarantined quarters. In these pages, we feature personal essays portraying the comfort gleaned from whisking bechamel in the face of grief; the solace quality seafood brings a fisherman’s daughter; and the delight in sharing a spouse’s comfort food from an island far away. We tap Maine artisan pasta makers for sauces envelop all the shapes of pasta. We highlight a Roman pinsa maker serving up Italian comfort from a corner in East Deering, and we showcase the work of a group of home cooks working to feed Maine’s hungry.
We also hope to push you out of your comfort zone a bit. We tell the story of an eel wrangler who wants more Americans to love unagi, and we explore the pitfalls of delegating seafood buying decisions to a third-party ecolabeling scheme. We show you how to set up a Mainely-sourced mocktail bar if alcohol no longer fits comfortably into your life, and we give you a dose of advice on how cannabis products sold in Maine can raise your brownie game.
In these pages, I hope you find some comfort that brings you joy.