I took a walk through downtown Madawaska to have lunch at a restaurant on a recent hot day (seems so long ago now, with all the rain we are having). I was pondering my Philly steak sandwich and soaking up the air-conditioning when three lovely and rambunctious ladies sat down at the table near mine.
Their buoyant laughter and conversation had me smiling into my plate, trying not to eavesdrop, but enjoying the banter.
Among the dozens of topics that came floating across my table, one of the ladies mentioned that she had been in a post office recently where she had seen a large box dripping water onto the floor, and postal service employees mopping it up. Apparently, the box contained fiddleheads that a local resident was shipping out to somebody somewhere, and it was leaking “fiddlehead juice.” Not only that, she said, but the person at the post office also said that people ship fiddleheads out all the time – that, and red hot dogs.
Well that really got me thinking. My thinking was along the lines that we are so lucky to have these local, unique foods that are often hard to find elsewhere. As I enjoyed my Philly steak (thanks, Philadelphia), I started taking mental inventory of all the delicacies or locally grown goods that I have mailed out to people far, far away from here. I have sent all kinds of maple sugar, maple syrup, and maple candy. I have sent ploye mix. I have even gone to the store while visiting family 998 miles from here to purchase and make all the ingredients for poutine (so I guess, that time, I shipped myself). I have sent Canadian chocolate bars, because my Grandma loves them so, and I have sent those little watery donuts with white glaze that can only be found in either Edmundston or in local Valley stores, to a friend that had moved down to southern Maine and missed them.
I have never mailed fiddleheads, though, so that one was new to me!
Also with summer here, my thoughts wandered way back to the summer treats that my Mémère Daigle in Sinclair would make for us every Sunday, when we went to visit and have a ployes-and-cretons lunch after church. She would make rice crispy cereal squares, peanut butter balls, fudge, and cookies, and store them in Tupperware containers on her kitchen counters for when all the children would come visit. They also made for great snacks when we’d pop in after jumping off the dock 20 times in the lake behind her house. This also feels like a northern Maine kind of treat, as summers in the South as a very young child were far too hot to have real chocolate of any kind sitting on the counter; and while we lived on the ocean as a youngster, it just isn’t the same as jumping off a hot dock into a cool lake.
This summer, we Valley folks will also be able to enjoy local summer garden goods like herbes salées made from les échalottes and breads made from big zucchinis. I have never seen such gigantic zucchinis in all my life as the ones grown around here (and if you’ve never tried zucchini cookies, I guarantee it is worth trying).
So all summer long, when you bite into that red hot dog right off the grill, stir butter into your local greens, or slather some good creton or maple butter onto your ploye, count your blessings that you can get all of that right here in the St. John Valley, and don’t need to wait for a box in the mail. If last week’s heat wave returns, put the peanut butter balls and fudge in the fridge. And if you are shipping fiddleheads in water … well, double-bag it, I suppose. The folks on the other end will love you even more for it.