There are just some states in the US that wouldn't be the same if it weren't for the dishes that helped to build them. While that might be a bit dramatic, there's still no denying that aside from regional American cuisine, there are certain states in the US that cook to the beat of their own drums and have traditional dishes that are so deeply rooted within their history, that you'd think they'd always been around. When it comes to Maine, specifically, there's so much more than blueberries and lobster (although those are two things that distinctly make up the state's food culture).
If you ever have the chance to travel to Maine, one of the best things to do as a traveler is try the local food. Maine is home to some of the best seafood on the east coast, and it's thanks to the local fishermen who fish the Atlantic regularly, as well as chefs who know how to treat fresh, live seafood. Maine is also home to some of the best produce, and, thanks to its many fields and farms, it's something that has shaped the food culture of this state.
Bean Hole Beans
Black hole beans have a history that dates very far back, back further than many people even realize. During the early 1800s, Maine was known as a logging state and the earliest English settlers would cut down pine for England's navy. The pine was then used on the ships in the English Royal Navy but cutting down all of this lumber took time - thus, camps were set up in the forests and around logging communities so that workers could do their jobs efficiently.
This is where black hole beans came from; the meal's high level of protein and fat, along with the ease of cooking that comes with a cast-iron pan and an open flame, popularized the dish. The process of cooking sometimes extended overnight, as the English settlers adopted a Native American way of cooking, which was to set the pan over hot coals in a hole dug underground, for hours at a time.
An absolutely essential part of Maine's culture, lobster rolls have also been a long-standing part of the state's history... for more than 150 years, in fact. Visitors to this coastal state might not even realize that when they take a bite out of a lobster roll, they're actually indulging in Maine's incredible history with both the sea and the art of fishing. Not only is lobster fishing part of Maine's history but it's also part of its economic climate, supporting the state in a way that many are unfamiliar with. It's only over the last 120 years, though, that laws were slowly applied to fishing, as the waters around the state began to be overfished as the need increased for Maine lobster, specifically.
For those seeking a traditional lobster roll, they can expect a classic potato roll, top split, that's piled high with meat from a lobster's claw, tail, and knuckle, combined with a thin base of mayo. For those who expect butter as opposed to mayo, this style of the lobster roll is called the Connecticut-style, and the two shouldn't be confused.
Blueberries, in general, are another crucial part of Maine's food culture. They grow wild, and in abundance, in the state, and there's really nothing quite like the Maine blueberry. The history of these slightly tart and very sweet berries can be seen clearly in the cookbooks that have come out of the state, especially those that date back decades and even a century. In small communities, and especially for church services, the blueberry cake was the dessert of choice with which to use freshly-harvested blueberries. Every year, from the end of July until around Labor Day, blueberries are harvested from bushes that grow wild in Maine, and it also brings with it groups of tourists who want to see the spectacle for themselves and be part of the harvesting process.
Back in the late 1800s, Maine's blueberries were first harvested commercially and have been ever since. These tiny berries account for another large part of the state's economic profit and still, to this day, a jar a jam that's made with wild Maine blueberries as opposed to any other will still fetch slightly more. Wild blueberries grow well in the soil in Maine, and the Native Americans had a ground-burning technique that was used when cultivating their own, which encouraged even more blueberry growth, according to Bangor Daily News.