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.

Kenneth Roberts on Mexicans – An Unflattering View of K.R. the Man

I came across a blog today (Making History Podcast: The Blog) that referenced Kenneth Roberts and his Post days in a post that seeks to show that “xenophobic and racist tirade[s]” against Mexicans is not a new issue (the reason for this post is Jay Severin – a shockjock – (never heard of him) and his recent dismissal from a radio show for his comments on Mexicans.  The author(s) of this post reference a quote made by Roberts in one of his articles for the Post:

And here is what Saturday Evening Post columnist Kenneth Roberts said, not last week but in 1931: “They are the criminal Mexicans, worthless in labor and always a social problem. They are also chronic beggars and sizzling with disease. This class should never pass the immigration officers on the border.”

They conclude their reference to K.R. with: “We are now, just as then, in the throes of an economic crisis where anxieties become attacks and the targets prove to be the nation’s most vulnerable populations.”

Roberts’ comment aside, I don’t think the analogy between Severin’s comment and Roberts’ comment is that relevant of an analogy.  The link the authors see is that Severin made his comment in a time of dire economic straits, a growing Hispanic population in America and during the middle of an outbreak of a Mexico-born virus.   The authors seem to pick Roberts’ comments in part because of the time he wrote it – 1931, the year the Great Depression began (but was the quote written before or after Black Friday?  They do not say, nor do they reference what edition of the Post in which the quote appears).  The authors do not, however, make any other connection to Severins’ comment and context.  Despite similar vitriol in the two quotes, Roberts’ comment is not necessarily a result of the economic crisis of his time, for it could be just a prejudiced comment made by a very opinionated man – a comment that would have been made no matter what state the economy was in.  Roberts just happens to express a similar view to that of Severin, which is more than likely just coincidental.

Nonetheless, this quote gives a rather unflattering glimpse of Kenneth Roberts – a man known for his being very opinionated.

Kenneth Roberts in “Old News from Southern Maine”

I came across an article by Sharon Cummins yesterday on Old News From Southern Maine on Kenneth Roberts – who resided in Maine – titled “Kenneth Roberts Was Audacious but Authentic.”  Though a bit jumpy as an article, it is a breath of fresh air compared to the same old short bios I keep finding on the Web about Kenneth Roberts.  Ms. Cummins provides several aspects about Kenneth Roberts’ works and person that I have not yet heard of.

When discussing K.R.’s work before his rise in popularity, she mentions that one of his early articles for the Post, ” ‘Good Will and Almond Shells,’ won him popular acclaim when it was made into the movie ‘The Shell Game’ in 1918.”  I’ve never heard of this movie, nor did I see K.R. mention this in his I Wanted to Write (it may be in this book, but I don’t recall seeing it).  She also writes how K.R.’s passion for history developed out of his “childhood love for fairy tales and myths” (she doesn’t go further to show or explain how this development occurs, but I believe this is due to limited time and space).  Interesting little tidbits regarding K.R.’s work that are worth checking up on.

Ms. Cummins also quotes an episode written by the editor for High Tide in 1940 (apparently a local paper – local to K.R. – in Maine) that gives us a glimpse into Kenneth Roberts the person:

Last Sunday was an average day,” wrote the editor of High Tide, “Mr. Roberts was sitting, guarding his better ducks (he has two classes) in his better duck pond; ran to get a shot gun when a hawk appeared over the pond.  (Between hawks, mink, and owls, it’s a race with death).  When he returned to the pond the hawk had taken warning, but a mink was placidly swimming about with its head above water.  Mr. Roberts fired… belatedly discovered that the mink was a friendly woodchuck; that he had also shot one of his blue-blood Formosa Teal ducks for which he had paid a handsome sum; regretfully at the duck for supper.”

To see one of the ponds at K.R.’s house, see the post below discussing the sale of his home and click on the link for the slide show.  Those ducks sure had it nice.

Take an article to read Ms. Cummins’ article – like I said earlier, it’s a breath of fresh air from those stale short bios.

****Update 10:34 pm****
I forgot to mention this earlier … Ms. Cummins’ article does leave the reader with a couple of unanswered questions:

  1. In the second paragraph, Ms. Cummins mentions that “a critic for the New York Times called [Kenneth Roberts] truculent, irascible, cantankerous, arrogant, sardonic, blunt, prickly, blustering,” etc.  This is well and good, but who is the NY Times critic in question?  When was this published?  Why is this critic important in relation to K.R.’s other critics?
  2. In discussing K.R.’s background, Ms. Cummins briefly mentions his time at Cornell University (class 1908), during which he “earned a reputation for pushing the controversy envelope.”  But, how did he earn this reputation?  Most can read on the Web that K.R. wrote Cornell’s school song, but there’s little to nothing on his reputation as such.  So, where did she get this information? 

Do you know these answers?  I hope to locate these answers…in the meantime, let me know if you know!

***Update #2 – 9:48 pm 4/19/09***
Ms. Cummins has kindly responded to my questions above … take the time to read her responses (well-informed!).  I must apologize if the tone is this letter comes across as questioning her credibility or writing; I in no way intend this to be.  Again, thanks to Ms. Cummins for her feedback.  -Danny

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