Maine’s Best Breakfast Sandwich Is Gone
Perhaps you’re one of those people who thinks there are more important matters to discuss this week, such as who is winning the race for worst gubernatorial candidate of 2010 (it’s currently a five-way tie, unless you count the write-ins, in which case it’s too complicated to be sorted out), or whether students should be allowed to “grind” at high-school dances (it’s some sort of physical interaction involving most of the elements of what previous generations referred to as “dry humping”), or how Maine will recover from being named by Forbes magazine as the worst state in which to start a business (which explains why we still have no Hooters franchises).
While those are all worthy subjects for extensive ridicule, they’re not the sort of thing one wants to tackle first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day (except for free snacks at happy hour), essential to building a firm foundation for the morning’s agenda. This is no time for granola or egg substitutes or tofu shaped into the form of bacon. Nor is it an occasion for weirdly processed fast food that bears no trace of its origins in chicken, cow, or pig.
To face a world in which it costs $1,000 each time people get stuck in the balky elevator of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and have to be rescued, you need real food. Farm-fresh eggs. Freshly baked English muffins. Sharp cheddar cheese. Spicy sausage. Non-tofu-nated bacon. All conveniently assembled so you can eat it in the car as you race across the state to reach a bar with exceptional happy hour food.
To fuel up for that trip, you want the breakfast sandwich made by the staff of the Ugly Moose in Industry.
Unfortunately, like Saki’s Filboid Studge, you “cannot buy it now.” That’s because the Ugly Moose, perched on the lovely shores of Clearwater Lake, closed on October 15, having fallen victim to a society that would just as soon eat Egg McMuffins or fiber bars, rather than the most delectable assemblage of real breakfast food this side of the Clover Grill in New Orleans.
The decision to forsake the Moose’s offering for artificial and tasteless competitors can only be explained by, once again, turning to Saki’s classic work:
“And so it was with the new breakfast food. No one would have eaten Filboid Studge as a pleasure, but the grim austerity of its advertisement drove housewives in shoals to the grocers' shops to clamour for an immediate supply,” wrote H.H. Munro (Saki’s real name). “Once the womenfolk discovered that it was thoroughly unpalatable, their zeal in forcing it on their households knew no bounds.”
This also may explain Maine’s miserable rating in the latest Forbes poll. While state officials have been scrambling to discredit the magazine’s awful numbers — last in first-rate breakfast sandwiches, first in excessive use of tofu-like substances as substitutes for real meat — the fact remains that Maine’s image is not conducive to modern marketing.
Business executives think of this state as a pleasurable place, filled with quaint harbors, quiet back roads, majestic scenery, and yokelly natives. They enjoy vacationing here, but feel it lacks the austerity, the sullenness, the hopelessness that breeds a standard corporate climate. If it’s not a severe trial to endure your time here, the CEOs all say as they head back to Utah, Virginia, or North Carolina (the three desolate wastelands that topped the Forbes list), it’s no place to get any real work done.
“If I lived here,” one COO told me in a conversation I’ve mostly made up, “I’d spend all my time going to high-school dances and grinding, instead of sitting in a windowless cubicle, shipping jobs to China and importing products containing harmful levels of whatever chemical they use to make Egg McMuffins taste like that.”
One other small problem with the state’s business climate: Postal service is a little slow.
I realize nobody actually uses the mail anymore, except for Netflix and stuff they order from Amazon.com. But corporate types tend to be old-fashioned about getting letters from each other on embossed stationery with signatures signed with Mont Blanc pens that cost more than a car. So, they can’t have been pleased at the news that a postcard sent in 1946 from Winthrop to a freshman at Farmington State Teacher’s College finally arrived this week.
I’m not surprised. I just received the special election issue of the American Journal, a weekly newspaper from Westbrook that I subscribe to. Turns out independent Angus King is Maine’s new governor.
Back to the postcard. While the senders seem to be long gone (neighbors say they moved to Utah in 1960 to start a business), the intended recipient, 83-year-old Ruth Webber McGary, was still around. In fact, she was still on campus. And I thought it took me a long time to graduate.
Actually, McGary had returned to what’s now the University of Maine at Farmington to present a scholarship she endowed and to collect her mail. She thought the postcard was nice, but had really been hoping to get the latest issue of Collier’s Weekly. Also, she wanted to hit the college’s fall dance and do a little grinding.
Postal service aside, Maine is making some progress in attracting new business. In recent weeks, plans have been announced to open strip joints in several towns, medical marijuana dispensaries in a number of locations, and even one of those quaint relics of the pre-Internet era — a porn shop. Also, Linda Greenlaw — the fishing boat captain and author, who’s famous for not getting killed in Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm — has started a company selling Linda Greenlaw-brand swordfish. Greenlaw’s swordfish differs from ordinary unbranded swordfish in much the same way that one gubernatorial candidate differs from another (although that Angus King seems nice), but this enterprise isn’t really about competing with McDonald’s Swordfish McMuffin. It’s about educating the public that swordfish is now being harvested sustainably, and the species is no longer threatened with extinction.
Which brings to mind the fitting conclusion of Saki’s tale of Filboid Studge. The man who figured out how to sell the dreadful stuff is cheated out of his reward, the hand in marriage of his boss’s daughter.
“[Y]ou have this doubtful consolation,” he’s told by a friend, “that 'tis not in mortals to countermand success.”
Al Diamon welcomes all breakfast-sandwich recommendations e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.