Norway, Maine, USA

September 8, 2011

At first, when I got off the plane in Portland, the cynical New Yorker in me assumed that those wooden rocking chairs looking out of place in the airport waiting area were some clumsily self-conscious attempt to exploit a certain image of folksiness for marketing and branding purposes. But after spending just a short time here in Maine, I’m pretty well convinced that Maine really is the kind of state where they put rocking chairs in the airport, because they think it’s a nice way to do things. People here are so artlessly friendly I can hardly believe it.

But beyond how simply nice people here are, I’ve been most impressed in my brief stay with the local food scene, which rivals anything I’ve seen in those foodie hotspots of Brooklyn and Northern California. What’s most impressive is not the selection of local foodie offerings, from organic sodas and mead and beer to tofu and cheese and sausages. What really impressed me is that eating local is not some fad of the foodie elite here: it’s a really mainstream idea in Maine. Ordinary people here brag on their loal products and advocate for shopping and eating locally in a way that I usually only see within rareified circles of lefty food nuts.

If eating locally and sustainably are not part of a passing fad, but are, as I hope, part of a sea-change in how Americans relate to their food, then it would seem Maine is in the vanguard of that shift.

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