Down East 2013 ©
Bon Appetit magazine (motto: We Will Never Admit We Had A Can Of Dinty Moore Beef Stew For Dinner Last Night) has named Portland “America’s Foodiest Small Town 2009 .”
As a Portland native, I’m not sure how to take that. If being foodier-than-thou is a good thing, does it follow that Maine’s coast should be honored if it was named seagulliest? Would the state’s North Woods be pleased to accept the accolade as America’s black-flyiest? Is Lewiston ready to assume the mantle of strip-malliest?
I suppose I shouldn’t get hung up on the trendy wording. I should just accept the fact that this is a public-relations bonanza for Portland. Culinary weirdos from all over the globe will soon be flocking here to sample our beer, bread, and seafood, not to mention what Bon Appetit writer Andrew Knowlton called “the best breakfasts in the country.” The locals won’t be able to get a seat at diners like Marcie’s or Becky’s, let alone a table at upscale joints like Hugo’s or Fore Street.
Fortunately, the supermarkets are having a sale on Dinty Moore, so we won’t starve while we wait for the foodie fashionistas to discover some new backwater to infest.
Bon Appetit’s Web site also revives a myth I thought had been ground up for compost years ago. Knowlton says the local visitors bureau claims more money is spent in Portland restaurants per capita than in any other city except San Francisco and New York. This appears to be a variation on the old fairy tale that Portland has more restaurants per capita than any place except San Francisco. (The city is also supposed to have more lawyers per capita than any place except Washington, D.C.)
Who’s responsible for these falsehoods?
The people who prepare Maine’s state budget?
Beats me, but if you want to have some fun with tourists seeking the Portland area’s next great undiscovered eatery, send them to the Super Great Wall Buffet in South Portland. According to a federal lawsuit filed by nine ex-employees , the owners have routinely violated labor laws, forced workers to live in “squalid” conditions and required them to pay kickbacks to keep their jobs.
Even if all that is true, it doesn’t mean the food is bad. It just means you want to be extra cautious about filling out an employment application.
But man does not live by foccacia alone. There’s also the soul to consider. And Maine must be one of the souliest places on the planet.
This metaphysical propensity has caused some problems in Farmington, where members of a group called Central Maine Paranormal Investigators (motto: No, Those Weird People In Your Restaurant Aren’t Ghosts, They’re Bon Appetit Readers) have been trooping around local cemeteries seeking signs of uneasy spirits  eager to discuss their post-death experiences if they can get the right kind of TV deal.
This has caused some consternation among relatives of the resident deceased, who’d prefer not to have to hear from annoying Uncle Finster or batty Aunt Myrtle again, particularly on a prime-time special on Fox. As a result, the burying grounds will no longer welcome psychic sleuths, which will allow not only the dead to rest in peace, but also teenagers using the graveyards for pot smoking and beer drinking.
Gov. John Baldacci has placed Maine under a state of emergency , which seems like an extreme reaction to some harmless specter detectors. But to give the governor the benefit of the doubt, maybe he’s concerned that the uncontrolled spread of swine flu is threatening to turn a lot more of us into the sort of wispy phantasms that tend to hang around Farmington’s cemeteries wishing they could go haunt some place in Portland where the food is hipper. In any case, Baldacci has used his executive powers to declare that schools and health-care workers are temporarily exempt from lawsuits that may result from inoculating children and at-risk adults against the H1N1 virus.
Not only will the state be offering shots for the usual seasonal influenza, but also a set of two arm jabs for the swinish variety. That should make us the shotiest state in the nation. Per capita, of course.
With the arrival of the flu will come cold weather , according to the Farmers’ Almanac.
The Lewiston-based annual publication has consulted the sunspots, the spirits, and Sarah Palin, and concluded that this winter will be cool and snowy, a prediction at odds with the National Weather Service, which is predicting warmer-than-normal temps because of an El Nino weather pattern. Meanwhile, the Portland visitors bureau is claiming the city will have more winter per capita than anyplace except Nome, Alaska.
As cooler temperatures creep into the state like swine-flu germs into a day care center, our thoughts are turning to autumn recreational activities. To that end, you can cross the Portland Sea Dogs off  your list. The Double-A minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox failed to make the playoffs this year for the first time since 2004.
Fans blamed poor pitching, sloppy fielding, and inconsistent hitting for the team’s sub-par season, but the problem could be nutritional. After all, Portlanders eat more Sea Dog Biscuits per capita than any other city. Except, maybe, Westbrook.
Fear not, my tubby friends. Even without baseball, there’ll still be exciting sporting events to watch this fal l, including, for the first time ever, mixed martial arts. A new state law permitting this particular form of managed mayhem goes into effect next week.
Even if you have no intention of taking in an exhibition of this competition, you may want to employ a combination of judo, kickboxing, and jujitsu in your daily life. It could be the only way you’ll get a seat at Marcie’s Diner.
There’s also another attempt underway to put a casino in Oxford County .
Although such plans have been rejected a couple of times in the past, both by voters and legislators, organizers say they’re confident of success. That’s because the gambling emporium will include restaurants described as even foodier than Portland.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org . Put the words "Dinty Moore" in the subject box.