A Culinary History of Downeast Maine

Maine’s Downeast culinary history begins well before explorers arrived in the 1500s. Some of the food preparation and preservation techniques used by the Wabanakis and early colonists are still in use today. Lobster and other seafood from the Gulf of Maine and the area now known as Acadia National Park paved the way for a vibrant tourist food scene. The “rusticators” like the Rockefellers, Pulitzers, Astors, Vanderbilts and other wealthy families created a mixed environment of fashionable food trends and simple foods like fish chowder. Locals like the 40 Hayseeders used food as a statement to make fun of the “summer people.” Author Sharon Joyce details the rich and delicious history of food in Downeast Maine.

Sharon Joyce is a trainer/educator/chef and author who graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago. She studied Advanced French Cooking and Pastry at Cordon Bleu in Paris in 1981 and operated a catering business and cooking school in Chicago and in the Virgin Islands. She has taught various types of cooking classes, including French, International, Regional American, Downeast Maine Cooking and Cruzan cooking in such locations as Chicago, Bar Harbor, California and Christiansted, St. Croix USVI. She was fascinated by the abundance of local foods when she moved to Bar Harbor more than thirty years ago. She operates Ambrosia Cooking School in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Homard à la Français

Lobster is caught year-round, and crabs usually have more meat in them in the fall. When you are able to get fresh seafood year-round, you become more adept at trying new ways of cooking it. Lobster is usually boiled in Downeast Maine. A lobster pound is where the lobster is kept live until it is bought and cooked. Lobster is caught all year, but there are strict guidelines as to which can be kept. A lobster is measured from the eye socket to the beginning


5 large tomatoes peeled, seeded and chopped (about 3 cups)

¼ cup finely chopped scallions

¼  cup finely chopped carrots

½ cup finely chopped onions


Fresh parsley

Fresh thyme

Fresh bay leaf

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

1 tablespoon tomato past

1 tablespoon flour

. lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon

Salt and pepper

2 lobsters

6 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup cognac

Sauté vegetables in butter until soft, take off heat and add finely chopped fresh parsley, thyme and bay leaf.

Incorporate all remaining sauce ingredients. Remove bay leaf from completed sauce. 

Cook lobster in boiling water for about 12 to 15 minutes for 1¼-pound lobster. 

Cool and cut tail into large pieces. 

On high heat, cook lobster and shell pieces in oil, then quickly pour off all but a film under lobster.

Warm cognac and add over lobster. 

This more modern approach combines the vegetables, sauce and lobster.


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