Posted: October 3, 2017
8 ways you’re doing Maine wrong
Written by: Ray Routhier
Up Next: Pizza By Alex makes one thing: 10-inch pies just the way you want ’em
Don’t be that guy.
You know, the fellow who arrives in Portland from out of town and asks how to get to Cal-ay. Mainers will tell him to fly to Paris and take a train to the French port city.
Or the person who proudly prints out a recipe for Maine blueberry pie then goes to the market and buys blueberries the size of pingpong balls with “Grown in Michigan” written on the bottom of the package.
People like this are getting Maine wrong. And people who know and respect the state’s nuances can spot them a mile away.
Whether you’re a tourist in town for foliage season, a recent transplant or a longtime Mainer who hasn’t been paying attention, you might be in danger of making some major Pine Tree State faux pas.
There are lots of publications with snappy-sounding guides about what to do in Maine, but maybe what’s really needed is a list of what not to do. So we at MaineToday have put together this handy list of eight mistakes frequently made in Maine — so that you never make them again.
Don't forget the Gazetteer
Is it true in Maine, as the old Yankee joke goes, that "you can't get there from here?" Yes, if you're fool enough to not have a Maine Atlas &
Gazetteer in your car at all times, chummy. The bright blue atlas with the state of Maine on the cover has been guiding people to the far
reaches of the state, obscure-sounding places like Upper Cupsuptic Township or Webster Plantation, since 1976. Besides showing every hill, boat
launch and dirt road in every town, the Gazetteer lists recreation areas, historic sites, campgrounds and unique natural features. So it's not
just about getting from one place to the other, like a GPS, it's about knowing about all the places you might be missing. Your GPS might tell
you how to get to Cobscook Bay State Park near Lubec, but it won't tell you that Cobscook is the Maliseet-Passamaquoddy word for waterfall. The
Gazetteer will. And it won't stop working when you lose service.
Staff photo by Gordon Chibroski
Don't get confused by the shell
It's a scene played out at fish markets around Maine: A customer is told the lobsters today are soft shell, not hardshell and they say "What's
the difference?" Well, the difference is pretty obvious, one is hard and one is softer. They are not different species, as some folks like to
declare. Soft shell lobsters are soft because they recently molted, or shed their harder shell, which is what they need to do to grow. A
lobster that just shed its shell is in a weakened state and often has less meat and more water. Whether the meat tastes any different is a
matter of opinion. The peak season for molting is summer, which is why tourists face this dilemma.
The true upside of a soft shell is it's a heck of a lot easier to break open and eat. So if you don't want to spend your dinner hacking away at
a shell, with pieces flying into your hair and eyes, get the soft shell. You'll look a lot more like you know what you're doing.
Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette
Don't snub the Maine Italian
Mainers will know you're not from here if you order an Italian sandwich, then ask why there's no salami on it. The ingredients are standard all
over Maine: ham, American cheese, pickles, olives, onions, tomatoes and green peppers on a very soft roll. The sandwich has no discernible
Italian ingredients; it got its name because it was created by Italians living in Maine. The Maine Italian dates back to Giovanni Amato, an
Italian immigrant who had a bakery on India Street in Portland in the early part of the 19th century and sold sandwiches to dock workers. His
family continued selling sandwiches, and sometime in the mid-20th century, Amato's and other sandwich shops made the Italian a Maine staple.
They are tasty comfort food, and most importantly, something you can really only get in Maine.
Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette
Don't ever get caught in the crowd at L.L. Bean
In the weeks before Christmas, you pretty much need to park in Yarmouth if you want to do some shopping at the L.L. Bean flagship store in
Freeport. People literally come on tour buses from all over the country to shop there. But a real Mainer doesn't fret about this and certainly
doesn't park in Yarmouth. We just go at midnight or 6 a.m., because we know that L.L. Bean is open 24 hours. Don't fight someone from Iowa for
the last size 10 Bean boot on the shelf, just go when there's no one else in the store.
And speaking of Bean boots, Mainers don't believe in messing with a good thing or turning winter warmth into a fashion statement. You need to
get the standard boot, with the brown rubber bottom and the tan leather upper. That's what mother and dad wore in the clam flats, and that's
what every Mainer should wear. Not "field olive" or "sail orange" uppers, just tan. And not insulated, for gosh sake. Just wear some heavy
socks, and you'll be fine.
Staff photo by Derek Davis
Don't say Say-co
You could spend a semester trying to master all the tricky pronunciations of Maine towns and still not get them all correct. But there are some
obvious ones that you should know and do right. The beautiful mill city of Saco, where the mighty Saco River dumps into the see, is pronounced
Sock-o.If you go up to Washington County, the big city up there is pronounced Cal-is, even though it's named for the French city of Calais. Up
near Farmington, there's a tiny unorganized township named Madrid, but don't pronounce it like the city in Spain, say Mad-rid.
Don't think globally
Remember, Maine is its own universe. Everything that matters is here. And that also includes cities in other countries, as well as other
countries themselves. If you're in Maine and someone asks how to get to Moscow, Palermo, Paris, Naples or Belgrade, don't reach for a globe,
reach for your Gazetteer. Those are all towns in Maine. So are Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Mexico, China and Peru.
In researching his book "The Names of Maine," Brian McCauley found that some of those towns, like Mexico and Peru, were founded around the time
those countries became independent. So the towns chose the names to honor the new countries.
Staff photo by John Ewing
Don't bake with blue marbles
Not all blueberries are the same. Just because you're in Maine does not guarantee you're eating or baking with the authentic Maine wild
blueberry. Those are deliciously sweet and tiny, maybe the size of a raisin but rounder. A cultivated blueberry from away is two to three times
larger, like a large blue marble, and has only a fraction of the blueberry flavor.
Maine was way ahead of the curve on the trend toward eating what's in season. For generations, locals have picked wild Maine blueberries in the
summer, then frozen them so they could still bake pies in January. If you go to the market in January to buy blueberries, you'll see the
package says they're from Michigan or New Jersey.And trying to bake an authentic Maine blueberry pie with fruit from Michigan is just plain
Staff photo by Whitney Hayward
Don't put fruit in your local beer
Corona advertisements picture its lager with a lime wedge in the bottle, so clearly the company has no problem with the combination.
Similarly, Blue Moon started stocking bars with oranges so they'd serve a slice with their Belgian wit. But you're not going to catch Allagash
Brewing Co. founder Rob Tod with a lemon in his Allagash White. "I think the blend of coriander and Curaçao orange peel provides enough depth
of flavor," he said. If you prefer it with a lemon, however, Tod says, "go for it"; he's just happy you're drinking his beer. But if you want
to look like you know what you're doing, tell your bartender to forget the fruit.
Photo courtesy of Allagash Brewing