Our annual June visit to Southwest Harbor got off to a rocky start. A few days before we left, I woke up at 4 am with a painful stomach. It felt like a severe case of "nerves," but I wasn't nervous. I tried to distract myself with a book. By early afternoon, it felt more like there was a barroom brawl in my stomach, with hundreds of tiny punches being thrown. It took me part of a day to recognize it as an IBS attack, since it had been years since the last one. For me, they last days or weeks, usually with no other symptoms besides a sore back, abs, and quads. When a cat jumps on me, it hurts.
I switched to bland food but it didn't do much. I took probiotics. I packed for our trip. I figured I'd look for seaweed soup on Mount Desert Island. I'd had some there once, when I was similarly ill, and it helped.
On the drive north, we stopped at our usual lunch spot in Wiscasset, a lobster shack with picnic-table seating by the water. It's right across the street from the nationally known Red's Eat's lobster shack, which always has a long line snaking around the block. We're interested in a quick meal, and were not impressed with Red's lobster roll the time we joined the crowd to see what the fuss was about.
So we always go to Sprague's instead:
As you can see, the sky was ominous. It was unseasonable cold, with a damp wind whipping off the water. Not a day to sit outside and enjoy unwholesome Maine food; we were the only customers. That's me under the umbrella, trying to warm my hands on my iPhone.
We always order hot dogs with cheese. Sometimes we order fries. We are on vacation; we do as we please. They make good hot dogs, with buttered and toasted rolls. We eat our lobsters further north.
There was no bland food on the menu, so I ordered a hot dog and prepared for the consequences.
While we waited, I dashed into a few shops nearby, mostly to warm up. There's a little antique shop on the same block as Red's with most of its inventory attached to the walls. It affects me the same way some of the surreal Brimfield displays do:
I walked out quickly, resolving to get rid of a lot of unnecessary stuff as soon as we were home.
I often see this handsome dog resting in the doorway of a stationery and book shop:
That shop's window boxes were the only summery thing going on in Wiscasset that day:
I returned to Sprague's, got my hot dog and snarfed it down. I expected the interior brawling to worsen as we continued up Route 1. Instead, I was instantly cured. I have not had one pang since.
My theory is that my family and I have evolved to thrive on highly processed food and sugar. My father, who will turn 102 on Saturday, is pretty sharp (despite a number of "odd" opinions and beliefs) and is slim and in decent health . . . for 101, anyway.
His diet routinely consists of candy ("Peanut butter cups have protein!"), cake, cookies, pie, brownies, soda, Hungry Man frozen dinners, Celeste frozen pizza, deli meat, and fast food. Every cup of coffee has six spoonfuls of sugar plus sweetened, condensed milk. I forgot to mention: donuts, nut roll ("Very good for you"), TastyKakes ("All I had for lunch when I went to the one-room schoolhouse"), ice cream, and milkshakes. His supper is usually provided by my sister and often contains actual nutrients.
My father scorns my own food choices; he warns me that fresh food can be contaminated with bacteria, for example. He seems to think his freezer also functions as a sterilizer. (He also uses it as time capsule, judging from the age of things we find in there.)
If I tell him about how that hot dog settled my stomach, he will roll his eyes and remind me that my grandmother, throughout her long life, refused to order anything in a restaurant besides a hot dog. She said it was the only food she trusted to be prepared by strangers.
So it seems that, for my genes, hot dogs are medicinal. Useful to know. All the same, I am my father's daughter, so it is my nature to be contrary. Therefore I will persist in my bizarre attachment to fresh, homemade, and mostly plant-based foods. But, being my father's daughter, there must be cake and cookies, too.
In Maine, our last stop before we went to our inn was Gott's Store, one of those remarkable little places that is open almost 24 hours a day (it closes for just a few hours in the morning, planned around fishermen's work schedules). It sells a little of everything from gas and groceries to fireworks, takeout pizza (meh), and fried fish dinners (good). It's also an ice cream stand.
We always got gas there since they were the only place in the region that we knew of that had 93 octane. We were dismayed to find that they only have 91 now, but it won't stop us from going there. They do a lot of baking on the premises: thicky iced cakes, huge cookies, pies, brownies, bulging whoopie pies . . . my dad would approve.
I am most partial to their carrot cake. Last week, I bought a piece, in a plastic take-out box. I shared it with my husband and we still made it last three days. As I ate tiny forkfuls, I could almost hear my father say, "Fruits and vegetables. . . good for you!"