It's that time of year again. Basketball takes over the airwaves and office chatter, as images of brackets dance in our heads. We (even those of us not particularly interested in the sport) direct our attention to games on TV. It's a welcome distraction, really, given the alternative, which is to look outside and realize you're actually in Maine in March and it's thirty degrees and the forecast is for snow/sleet/rain/depression.
March really does embody madness in Maine - the madness Mainers feel, that is, waiting for elusive spring. And what doesn't help, for those of us living away from the year-round food capital of Portland, is the temporary plywood phenomenon. The Maine march plague, as I have named it, where restaurants and bars, even those that stayed open through the holidays and Valentine's Day, close their doors so their owners can conveniently escape to Florida. A known truth: if you don't have to be in Maine in March, you aren't.
Recently my walks around Camden and my drives to surrounding areas have revealed a restaurant wasteland of sorts. "Closed until April." "Gone for Therapy." "See you in the Spring." "Closed for Spring Break." "Closed for Renovations." Logically, I understand their reasoning, but I can't help but foster a bit of resentment. "Closed for renovations" is just a nice way of saying, "Gone to Florida, suckers." I have come out of my winter hibernation, however prematurely, and I want good food other than my beloved Robinhood Free Meetinghouse biscuits
I pop in the oven and have with brisket or beef stew and a glass (read: bottle) of wine in my cozy kitchen.
For those towns that depend on tourists, it's a fine line to walk between satisfying the locals in the doldrums of winter and catering towards the guests that sustain their business in the summer. And credit is due to the many fantastic restaurants that still have their doors open. Just the other day, in fact, I had a delicious warm snail salad at Francine's
that infused my spirits with a bit of, dare I say it, hope for spring's bounty.
March madness' days are numbered. Winter's last stand is today, with spring ready to take over tomorrow. But for me, the real spring won't begin until the signs come down from the doors and the food and faces return to the now desolate landscape of culinary Maine.