Kenneth Roberts Books: Good Maine Food

Being a book collector on a budget is both a challenge and exciting. This is the case for me when it comes to Kenneth Roberts’ books. Sure, I can buy books on Amazon or eBay, but where is the fun in that? I’ve found greater joy in finding a Roberts book at an antique store or a used book store. It’s the excitement of the hunt; the hard work is paid when a Roberts book is located and purchased.

One of the most difficult books to locate is Marjorie Mosser’s Good Maine Food – a book in which Roberts helped his niece to compile recipes and provide notes on various recipes. Roberts is well-known for the love he had for his home state; intimately linked to this love is his adoration for his grandmother’s cooking, which is evident in his various essays. Though I prefer to purchase Roberts’ novels, I have kept an eye out for Good Maine Food to add to my collection. I’ve found, though, that this cookbook has been as difficult to locate as Roberts’ earliest publications.

Good Maine Food, 1974 edToday, however, was one of the most successful hunts I’ve had in quite some time. I randomly stopped at a local antique mall to just browse, and to my surprise, I found a 1974 edition of Good Maine Food! This is the first copy I’ve ever found since I’ve begun collecting Roberts books in 1999. Granted, it is nowhere near being a first edition, but considering how long I’ve been looking for this book, I snatched it up and held on to it for dear life.

I found the pictured copy of Good Maine Food in literally the last booth I looked through; then, to my delight, one of my daughters told me that there were more booths in the basement (my other daughters chided her for bring up this delightful news). And so, on to the basement we went. About halfway through, I went to a booth that had only a few books (the booth owner focused primarily on decorative items); lo and behold, my eyes immediately landed on another copy of Good Maine Food – this one a 1947 hardback edition. I couldn’t believe it! I could not find a copy for 17 years, and in one day – within 20 minutes – I find two copies! Further, I find a cookbook on Maine food in Louisville, Kentucky – not the hub of Maine cuisine. (Below are some images of the spine, the front cover, and the title page.)

Kenneth Roberts penned the introduction to Good Maine Food, and even here his classic wit is evident.

I like good food; and ever since I’ve known anything at all about such things, I’ve known that the best foods are the simplest. Good Maine Food ignores cookery that is namby-pamby, twiddly, cloying, fussy, messy and immature, and emphasizes foods that appeal to men and women whose tastes are sound and sturdy (xi).

Even in the introduction, Roberts provides excellent biographical information and a look into the Roberts the man. At the beginning of each chapter, Roberts provides a small blurb about the kinds of food discussed. Also included are “Maine Maxims” – nuggets of wisdom to consider when preparing your food or preparation area. In short, Mosser and Roberts provide not only a cookbook of Maine cuisine, they provide a short history of Roberts and of Maine – an interesting reading indeed.

Good Maine Food (1947) - Title Page

Good Maine Food (1947) - Front

Good Maine Food (1947) - spine

Get to Know the History of Maine

Kenneth Roberts was unashamedly loyal to the state of Maine, particularly to the areas in which his family originated.  Roberts even exerted his energies in writing books on the virtues of Maine in Trending Into Maine and Good Maine Food.  If Maine was of great importance to Kenneth Roberts, then I felt it would behoove me – a Louisiana native now living in Kentucky – to get to know Maine.  But besides my own selfish reasons, I feel that any Kenneth Roberts fan that does not reside in Maine would get to know Roberts better by knowing the great state in which he lived and worked.

Two great places to visit are:

  1. Kennebunkport Historical Society. You can read their newletter The Log here and follow them on Facebook here.
  2. Maine Historical Society.  You can join the society and have great access to resources to study up on Maine history.  You can also follow their blog Maine Historical Society Blog and follow them on Facebook here.

Take a moment to visit these sites!  I will be adding these links to my blogroll for easier access in the future.  For those of us who do not live in Maine, this is one way in which we can feel a part of the great state of Maine that Kenneth Roberts loved.

***Postscript: I had visited Maine back in 2009 for only two days (I had to help a friend move things out of storage in Maine to bring to Louisville, KY).  We didn’t get to see much, but what I did see made me fall in love with Maine.  I long to go back one day and spend more time visiting and getting to know this beautiful state!***

Kenneth Roberts in the Blogosphere: “Laudator Temporis Acti ” on K.R. and Beans

Since bringing this blog out from hibernation, I’ve noticed that I have some posts that have been sitting in the hopper for almost 2 1/2 years.  One I thought worthy of bring forth is mention of a blog post from Michael Gilleland’s Laudator Temporis Acti  in which a brief list is given of the number of instances Kenneth Roberts wrote on baked beans, ranging from his writings of his grandma’s kitchen in Good Maine Food, to his essay titledAn Inquiry into Diets, and throughout his various novels.

Kenneth Roberts was unashamedly fond of food, particularly his grandmother’s food, which seemed to be his standard for anything he ate. He loved his grandmother’s ketchup (“I became almost a ketchup drunkard; for when I couldn’t get it, I yearned for it.” “Grandma’s Kitchen in The Kenneth Roberts’ Reader).  He even gave detailed instructions on how she made the ketchup. 

Roberts was also fond of his grandmother’s baked beans (the subject of Gilleland’s post), for which he provides instructions on how to prepare.  He introduces the instructions with the following:

To bake one’s own beans, in these enlightened days of canned foods, is doubtless too much trouble, particularly if the cook wishes to spend her Saturday afternoons motoring, playing bridge, or attending football games (“Grandma’s Kitchen”)

Roberts’ sharp wit and dry sense of humor extends beyond the current events of his day to food and its preparation!  Interestingly, while appreciation for Roberts’ work in historical fiction has waned over the years (with exceptions, of course), it seems the web is abuzz over Roberts’ writings on food.  Hopefully one’s exposure to Roberts’ writings on food opens their eyes to his other works.

K.R. in the News: Writer and Lover of Good Maine Food

I came across a neat article by Susan Lovell at The Forecaster that discusses Marjorie Moser (Roberts’ niece) and her recipe for fish chowder.  It seems that a new edition of Good Maine Food has been published recently with a new forward by Sandra Oliver, who, according to the article, is a food historian from Maine.  Ms. Lovell provides a kind word for Good Maine Food towards the end of the article:

But “Good Maine Food” is truly an excellent cookbook. I just happened to be amused by the recipes for cooking liver. Many of the recipes were sent to Roberts by people who read his “Trending into Maine,” published in 1930, in which he reminisced about dishes served to him during his youth. Mosser used those recipes and added new favorites as times and tastes changed.

Ms. Lovell also provides a brief bio of Roberts and his recipe for his grandmother’s ketchup, one of Roberts’ favorite recipes if I’m not mistaken.

Here is a link to the new edition of Good Maine Food.

Kenneth Roberts – a man known for his exceptional writing … and his love for good Maine food.

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