Archive for May, 2012

may breakfast

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

40 cents for breakfast. And a good breakfast at that, with corn fakes and fruit, fried potato, bacon and eggs, pan cakes, maple syrup, rolls, doughnuts and coffee. It seems the Ladies of the Universalist Society were inclined to include as many possibilities  as they could in their menu. A universalist approach to breakfast indeed.

The verso includes pencil notes on the divvying up of chores for the breakfast, with a special crew assigned to the pancakes. This broadside is from Hillsdale, New Hampshire, circa 1930.


planting the garden

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

garden beds

It occurred to me last night at 3:00 AM, when I had to run outside in the thunder and lightning in my nightgown to put my tools away, that I have been very lucky with the planting of our garden this year.  After each major planting session we have had a couple of days of rain. I left my tools exposed to the elements because when I went in for the day there were no signs of inclement weather. I usually put them away at the end of a session, unless I know for some certainty that rain is unlikely. Spring in Maine can be pretty wet, sometimes for weeks on end. This year we have had some pretty hot sunny days early in the season, including a week long stretch of 80 degree temps in March. I have no doubt that global climate change is a reality. In just the past seven years that we have been growing here we have seen some pretty distinct changes in the timing of seasonal changes.  Every year Spring comes a little earlier, and Fall stays a little later. This year I have been confused about my planting schedule due to the extreme temperature swings since March.  Should I plant the peas?  The potatoes? Is it too early for cucumbers? Zucchini? Am I late for planting my Sweet Peas? I spent three hours yesterday planting a second round of beets and carrots (the bed with the checkerboard mulch above), a bed of shell beans, the pole & bush beans, and a bed with assorted greens- chard, Dinosaur kale, radicchio and (new this year) cumin.  I was going to seed the cukes and zukes, but stopped myself.  Even though it was probably in the mid-70’s yesterday, those cucurbits like it even warmer-say in the 60’s at night- to germinate.  So while I could have planted those seeds, they would have sat miserably in the ground while we have this cool wet rain that we’re having today.

young taters

So I’ll wait another week, or more depending on the weather, before seeding those guys.  But I’m betting the beans and greens I planted yesterday are mighty happy about all this wet today. And the second round of carrots will germinate much better in the damp.  Carrots are always a challenge to keep damp enough to sprout in the Spring warmth. Our garden is down the slope from our house, far enough away that I have to remember to check on sprouters with a trip down the hill. Needless to say, it doesn’t always happen.  So I have had some bad luck with carrots.  The potatoes that were planted about ten days ago are poking up, as are some weeds… Last year out of sheer laziness we planted potatoes that we bought at a local garden center. They were not organic. They were not good. This year I went back to our usual source, Moose Tubers, and am happy to be back with our friends. We’ve got the bed netted to keep the chickens from digging up the little taterlets.  So in order to weed I’ve got to disassemble the protection.  Bit of a deterrent to the humans as well as the chickens.  When this rain stops I will climb in and weed that bed.  By then all of the potatoes should be up, and I can apply the first layer of mulch.  Vegetable garden season is here!



Friday, May 25th, 2012

murdered le creuset

I haven’t done this is a long while.  Shows you that cooking is a contact sport. One that should not be done half-heartedly.

You are looking at a five quart Le Creuset that is no longer usable as a cooking vessel.  Ouch.  It started as a pound of rhubarb and two cups of sugar.  It was supposed to be rhubarb syrup.  Instead it is a horrifying mess, a distinct fail.  I am a great fan of Le Creuset, we have quite a few of them, purchased over the years.  This particular pot was part of Don’s dowry, bought at a Park Slope stoop sale.  When we married we discovered we had two of these lovely pots.  Mine is a shred larger, weighing in at seven quarts.  They were a good complement to our batterie de cuisine.  If you own any of these pots you know that they are wonderful to cook with: heavy; solid and dependable.  Until you walk away from one full of sugar and rhubarb to do some quilting.  I am rather embarrassed, and pissed off.  These things do not come cheap.  And we use them all the time. So I am going to need to go and replace it.  Damn, that was stupid. Sigh.

I am often guilty of nagging at Don not to walk away from the kitchen while he is cooking.  Now look at me. Dose of my own medicine. When I used to bake for a living I relied on my timers. I had a couple of them that I brought to work with me all the time. I endured some teasing for depending on a piece of electronics to practice my craft.  Having a timer for me meant that I move on to another project without worrying about burning the cookies. It gave me the freedom to release that task from my crowded brain and replace it with another. I am out of practice. Should have used a timer for the rhubarb.  Hopefully will not make this mistake again any time soon. It was a painful, and costly, one.


dinner with friends

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

A couple of bottles of wine, some pink, some red.

Nettle soup, stingless.

Ottolenghi chicken with hazelnuts, honey and Orange Blossom water.

Pan roasted fennel.

Asparagus with homemade mayonnaise.

Maple Pineapple upside down cake.

A lovely Sunday late afternoon meal with good people.  The outdoor season has begun. Praise be.


dinner at Hugo’s

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Yesterday was our anniversary and we set our sights on a meal at Hugo’s with our friends Arlin, Andrew and the rest of the crew.  They bought the business from Rob Evans and Nancy Pugh just a couple of months ago.  The transition has been seamless and we are very proud to call these talented professionals our friends. Dinner was sublime.  As always.  Arlin showed us the work they have been doing to get their new venture, Eventide- a raw bar of which Portland was in great need- and we were thrilled to see what has become of our old space.  Yes, Eventide is at 86 Middle Street.  We couldn’t have picked a better business to take over our old space.  They plan to open their doors sometime in mid-June.  Keep your eyes peeled, this is sure to be the newest hot spot in Portland.


good friends

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

are a good thing to have.  This luscious loaf of Slavic style bread was gifted to us from our dear friend Anna last Saturday.  We are trying hard not to inhale it in one sitting.  As I believe I have mentioned in the past, I am not much of a bread baker.  Being a stone’s throw from Standard Baking in Portland absolved me of trying.  We are a shred further from that blessed Portland institution now, so I make sure to include a stop on Commercial street to any trip to ‘town’.  So when we get a gift like this, it is truly precious…

Bread from AnnaSamantha


Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Wow, that went by fast.  We are now on a regular schedule with open hours every Saturday from 11:00 to 5:00, or by appointment.  For clarification purposes, by appointment means you can call us and see if we are around when you would like to come visit.  If we’re already here we will be happy to welcome you.  Saturdays work well for most civilians, but for those who work in ‘the business’ it is almost always a workday. So for those who sling hash, or pints for a living, we can be flexible on your days off.  Since you are there for us when we need your loving care, we will do a level best to return the favor.

Reference Wall

Saturday was so much fun.  We saw smiling faces we hadn’t seen in months, as well as some new ones.  The flow of folks was consistent so at no point were we lonely, although I may not have had quite enough time with each person.  I apologise if you didn’t get enough time with either Don or me, but the beautiful thing is that you can just come back next Saturday, or the one after that, or….

Moving out of a retail space was bittersweet for both of us.  We desperately needed more room, and more quiet time for working, but we were very proud of the community that built up around Rabelais in Portland.  The constant flow of cooks, bartenders, farmers, dishwashers, home cooks, wine geeks and armchair gastronomes was extremely gratifying.  We started the business with an idea, an idea borne from the gastronomic integrity and diversity that is Portland, and Maine.  Rabelais was also making a point about brick and mortar book stores, and how they can still succeed in this electronic world.  But our needs and the machinations of the world of modern publishing diverged too greatly.  It became necessary for Rabelais to move.  The transition was smooth, but a bit anxious due to the unknown nature of where we were going and what this new location held for us.  We are so happy and relieved to discover that this new setting is just what we had hoped it would be.  Physically it is quite perfect, and if you haven’t yet checked us out in person you are in for a treat.  Two desks on opposite sides of the loft allow us each the room to spread out and take care of our business without getting in each other’s hair. The flow around the standing bookshelves is smooth, and since we have so many square feet, I cannot yet imagine it being overcrowded in here.  There is tons of light from the seven windows. The shelves can now hold all the editions of any given book we may have.  Oh how my heart sings at the full shelves of James Beard and Julia Child, among many others.

All of that would be great in itself, but then you add on the fact that you lovely people are seeking us out, traveling the distance, short or not, to check us out.  That is a beautiful thing.  For so many reasons.  Amazon be damned, to hell with ereaders.  Indie book ventures can thrive.  We look forward to re-inventing this concept in the future with your support. We are still fine tuning (!?) the kitchen, still filling out the inventory.  But the days ahead will only be better and fuller.  So thank you for being part of Rabelais and let’s get cracking!


ladders and boxes and sinks

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

It’s a little crazy around here while we get ready for Saturday.  We just got our three bay sink, which will not be functional by the weekend, but hopefully soon after.  Our trusty and trusted Karen is here shelving and alphabetizing.  Don is assembling another Metro shelving unit.  Raleigh is skulking around, nervous about all the activity. Baker & Taylor(one of our distributors) has delivered some new books, will do so again before Friday, as will Ingram (another distributor).  It’s a little chaotic at the moment but will all come together before 11:00 on Saturday.  Do hope to see some of you then!

May 1st

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Rabelais News   ~   May 1st, 2012

Chalk wall

CSA anyone?
Black Kettle Farm
If you haven’t already signed up I believe there are still shares available at our neighbors in Lyman, Black Kettle Farm.  Check out their website for more info.

Italian Pottery
Jonesing for some Rabelais talk? We have had a blog for years, but honestly we were desultory bloggers.  We spent more time talking with folks in the store than writing.  Now that we spend more time by ourselves, we still have plenty to say, so it goes on the blog. You can find our musings at Rumblings.  We’re going to be re-designing the blog in the near future, so let us know what you think of it now…

“First prepare the soup of your choice and pour it into a bowl. Then, take the bowl and quickly turn it upside down on the cookie tray. Lift the bowl ever so gently so that the soup retains the shape of the bowl.
Gently is the key word here. Then, with the knife cut the soup down the middle into halfs, then quarters, and gently reassemble the soup into a cube. Some of the soup will run off onto the cookie tray.  Lift this soup up by the corners and fold slowly into a cylindrical soup staff. Place the packet in your purse or inside coat pocket, and pack off to work. “

Steve Martin

The countdown begins.  May twelfth we will re-open the doors of our new home to you lovely people.  Less than two weeks.  As we said previously this will be a soft opening, or in industry parlance, a friends & family opening.  We invite you all to come (although not all at once) but this will not be a grand opening celebration.

We will have a real party in the very near future and you will all be invited to that. But for the time being we really just want to get our doors open. You know how you can futz with things endlessly until they look just right?  Well, who knows if we will ever look just right, but we do need a deadline to work against.  So May 12th it is.  We will have some nibbles and sips, Raleigh will be waiting eagerly by the door and Don and I will have smiles on our faces for having made the transition. The hours will be 11:00 to 5:00.
The huge mountain of boxes is getting smaller and smaller day by day.  After some questionable moments, I do believe we will have room for it all.  Well, I guess I should say shelf space.  There is plenty of room in here.  Walking from one end of the space to the other takes a full minute.  Enough time so that you want to make sure you know what you are going over there for… We had thought that our new shelving would house all of the books, but it became glaringly obvious that we would need to use some of the shelving from Middle Street. We have integrated the Metro shelving with the wood shelves quite well I think.  We hung out our shingle the other day so now you can see where to find us from down the hall.

The Stainless steel tables will hold the new stock, in piles, same as in the old place. We have some stacks that we moved, but orders for brand new titles have been placed and inventory should start arriving any day now.  We’ve got the newest issue of Kinfolk and the Lucky Peach #4 is on the way.  Nigel Slater’s Tender Vol.II, renamed Ripe in the US is coming, as is the Sugar Shack book from Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal.  There are many more new titles on their way, most scheduled to arrive by May 12th.

Starting with the 12th, we will be open every Saturday from 11:00 to 5:00.  If those hours don’t work for you at all we will also be available by appointment.  We are in the space most days, but busy with cataloguing and the like. If you can’t make a Saturday, give us a call.  Chances are we can make arrangements.

We are very excited to start this new phase of Rabelais. Do come by on the 12th, we are looking forward to seeing you!


fine books on food, drink, farming & gardening

2 Main Street  #18-214  Biddeford  Maine  04005  207 774 1044

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