Maine Eats Exhibit at the Maine Historical Society

By Carla Charter

Lobster, Blueberries, Whoopie Pies, Potatoes, Moxie and possibly even Ham Italian Subs. These are some of the Maine based foods celebrated in the Maine Historical Society’s exhibit, Maine Eats: The Food Revolution Starts Here.  The Maine Eats exhibit highlights the culture and history of food in Maine.

‘The idea for the exhibit came from staff members,” according to Kate McBrien, Director of Public Engagement and Curator. “Maine, especially Portland, is a great place with incredible food and we wanted to capture the history behind that. Serendipitously at the same time Portland was named the top restaurant city in America by Bon Appetit Magazine.”

Many of the Maine food histories in the exhibit are told through the stories of individuals and food trends. “We have tables with plates and on the plates is information about different Maine resident’s ethnic food traditions. These stories include the stories of Poutines and African dishes.”

“We have an exhibit highlighting the Pekin restaurant, Maine’s first Chinese restaurant which opened in downtown Bangor in the 1870’s and closed in 1924, McBrien said. Maine welcomed its first Chinese immigrants in 1858.

Farm life, including information on the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association is on display. The association holds their annual Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine this year on September 21, 22 and 23rd.  “They have a different poster every year. We have displayed a number of their posters from over the years,” McBrien said.

There is an display highlighting Aquaculture, fish and shellfish farming. “We highlight the story of a young lobster woman from the mid-coast as well as have a lobster trap made in Maine on display.” McBrien said.

Visitors also have the opportunity to become part of an exhibit and take a selfie souvenir of their time at the exhibit. “We have a life-sized soft sculpture of a Ham Italian Sandwich. You can lay in it and put other items on top of you such as soft sculpture cheese and lettuce and take a selfie,” she said.   The Amato food chain, based in Maine, claims to have created the Ham Italian Sub, McBrien explained although its definitive provenance is difficult to trace.