When I moved to Maine, I knew I was an outsider in this new place. I came from away, from the flatlands, and was unversed in the nuances of Maine culture and history. I’d never had a Moxie or needham. I hadn’t hiked much or fished, didn’t know The County from a county and wasn’t tuned into the craft brew scene.
That was all fine too, because Maine didn’t feel like home. It was a place that for awhile felt like somewhere I was visiting. With all my stuff.
But then it did start to feel like home. My kids and I found our place in our new town, and made friends. Things have fallen into place.
Still, a little over a year later though, there are so many times when I feel so much like an outsider.
Expressions like “ayuh” and “jeezum crow” still don’t ring with familiarity. When I leave the house, I know how to get places, but I don’t know many — or most — of the shortcuts. And though I’ve eaten out dozens of times over the last year, I am still learning about the restaurants, eateries and their specialties here.
Learning about this place has been part of the fun of living here. When I don’t know something, I ask — and usually am greeted with excited answers by kind folks happy to help me get to know Maine better. Usually.
And there are things I have learned about all on my own. Two summers of shopping at farmers markets has helped me learn which vendors I love most for different things. Smith’s Smokehouse, for instance, has smoked chicken breast that my kids and I adore. It’s the best we’ve had. Meanwhile, I love Lor Farm’s halloumi cheese, fried until golden in a hot skillet. And Balfour Farm’s Vanilla Whole Milk Yogurt is perfect for breakfasts with homemade granola and fresh fruit.
I know I’ve only scratched the surface here. I could live here a dozen more years and still have much to learn about the food, people and culture of Maine. I’ve never even seen a moose.
The truth is though that feeling like an outsider in a place you call home is uncomfortable. I’ve been here long enough that I’m not a stranger, but not so long that I don’t sometimes get caught on the things I just don’t know.
But there is some comfort in seeing changes happen around me. New restaurants keep popping up around Bangor, for instance, and I love learning about them at the same time as people who’ve been here for decades.
And then there are smaller changes, like the addition of more food trucks to the Bangor Waterfront — a welcome addition.
When I stopped by the Bangor Farmers Market on Sunday, it had changed too. Actually, it was like I’d walked into a whole new market. The vendors were arranged on a larger footprint, that made the once a week market seem so much bigger than just days earlier.
Speaking of the farmers market, blueberries are in season. Little sweet wild blueberries were available from a number of farms. And tomatoes are starting to appear at the market as well. Little cherry and grape-sized varieties were available from several vendors. There were some plum tomatoes as well, and at least one farm had the first gnarly heirlooms out.
Basil is still readily available. And onions are becoming more and more plentiful.
This recipe could easily be called Confetti Chicken Pasta with Bacon or The Freshest August Veggies at the Farmers Market Chicken Bacon Pasta. But it’s summery. And tasty. And captures the flavors of the farmers market while the sun is bright and warm, and the days are long.
For this, you’ll need red onions — I love the little ones from the farmers market that are still on stalks. Saute them until they are soft with bell peppers (I used a purple one for this). Then add in some halved grape tomatoes, diced zucchini, white wine, salt and pepper. Cook it for a little while and then toss with grilled or roasted chicken breast, a little crispy bacon, and some pasta. Then season it with more salt and pepper — and perhaps a little parmesan cheese — to taste.
This is a simple dinner, but sometimes simple is just the best. Simple can taste so much like home.
- ½ lb chicken breast (about 1 breast)
- ½ tbsp cajun seasoning
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup chopped red onions
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
- 1 small zucchini, diced
- ½ cup white wine
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 lb Campanelle pasta
- 4-5 slices bacon, browned and crumbled
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, or prepare a grill for grilling. In a resealable bag, combine the chicken breast, cajun seasoning and salt. Shake well to fully coat the chicken. Bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping once, or grill until done. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and bell peppers, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened -- about 5-7 minutes. Add the tomatoes and zucchini and stir well to combine. Pour in the white wine and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are all softened.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Slice the chicken and cut into bite sized pieces.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the pasta, vegetable mixture, chicken and bacon. Toss well to combine. Let sit for 5 minutes and toss again. Taste, and adjust seasonings as desired. Enjoy.