A cookbook celebrates Maine’s bicentennial and cultural history

by Paul Koenig
Photography courtesy of Karl Schatz

Issue: September 2020

The Maine Bicentennial Community Cookbook is less of a cookbook than it is a compendium of our family histories, told through scans of faded recipe cards and photos, holiday traditions passed down through generations, and memories of loved ones around ovens and communal tables. It does include recipes—more than 200 of them—but its essence is in the stories introducing the dishes, submitted by Mainers from all sixteen counties. Even the names of the recipes tell stories: Arlene’s World War II Spice Cookies, Dad’s Bean Hole Beans, Stinky Foot Cranberry Apple Jelly, and a Christmas mix called simply Cereal Stuff.

Margaret Hathaway and Karl Schatz, who have written and photographed five other books on food and farming, compiled and edited the collection in celebration of Maine’s 200th year of statehood. The couple took on the project when they learned that no one else was developing a cookbook for Maine’s bicentennial this year. They worked with Don Lindgren, a seller and collector of rare culinary books who wrote the introduction, to incorporate recipes and images from historic Maine community cookbooks. Lindgren, who owns Rabelais bookstore in Biddeford, wrote that community cookbooks, popularized in America after the Civil War, traditionally raised funds for charitable causes like repairs to churches and grange halls and have “helped build a record of what people were eating in households throughout the state.”

Part of the proceeds from this contemporary community cookbook is going to orga-nizations fighting hunger in Maine, and the recipes illustrate the state’s cultural diversity, from Acadian ployes to Colombian empanadas to a Laotian chilled green curry and asparagus soup with lobster. Hathaway and Schatz hope that eventually some of the recipes included will become new family recipes for Mainers. “Maybe 100 years from now,” Schatz says, “someone’s family recipe will be the Somali samosa recipe that’s in the book.”

This recipe for whoopie pies comes from Amos Orcutt, former president of the University of Maine Foundation, who pushed the state to declare the classic cookie sandwich as Maine’s official state treat in 2011.

Maine Whoopie Pies

• ½ cup shortening
• 1½ cups sugar
• 2 eggs
• ½ cup cocoa powder
• ½ cup sour milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2⅔ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt

• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• ¾ cup milk
• ¾ cup shortening
• ¾ cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cream the shortening.
Add sugar and eggs and mix well. Mix the cocoa with ½ cup hot water and add to the shortening mixture. Add the milk and vanilla and mix well. Sift together all the dry ingredients and add to the wet mixture. Drop by the teaspoonful on a cookie sheet and flatten down slightly with bottom of a glass dipped in water. Bake for approximately 19 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.

To make the filling: Mix the flour with milk in a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until thickened. Cool to lukewarm, and add shortening, sugar, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer until creamy, about 5 minutes. Spread the filling between two cooled cookies.

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