Fourth of July Traditions

salmonpeas.jpg The “old timers” in Maine always eat salmon and peas for their fourth of July family feast. This tradition was started a long time ago when salmon still came “up river to spawn” and people still rushed in the Spring to plant their peas so they would have the first peas of the year, hopefully by the 4th, if the weather was good.  (I still have customers that plant their peas in the fall so they sprout when they are ready come Spring.)

The old tradition is to bake a center cut chunk of salmon at 350 degrees till it is less than moist, (so all the relatives like it) than nap it with a white sauce, better known as a béchamel sauce to which you add in chopped hard cooked eggs.  And peas, lot of peas cooked with butter, salt, pepper and a little water. The rule of thumb was to cook them till when you blew on a spoonful they wrinkled.

This meal always includes Tupperware filled bowls of salads that guests brought with them -- potato salads, macaroni salads, and their “best” homemade pickles. Dessert was always cookies, whoopie pies and the standard strawberry shortcake made with biscuit dough and billowing mounds of freshly whipped cream.

If you drive around Maine on the 4th you see houses surrounded by lots of cars and in the backyard a long table set up covered with Tupperware containers, loads of people eating and kids playing but I bet most of them aren’t eating chunks of salmon. Times change and food changes too. (see, the way we cook peas, now.) 

snappeas.jpg We still tell our younger customers about this 4th of July Maine food tradition and some still honor it and others just decide on lobsters or chicken for the crowd that descends on Maine in the Summer. But it’s hard to pass up the fresh Maine peas!

As pea farmers get fewer and fewer in Maine because large farms are going the way of the dinosaur we cherish our farmers that still plant and pick peas by the bushels to keep our food store stocked with the half ton of peas necessary to “get thru” the fourth without running out, which would be a disaster that I could hardly describe.

After waiting on all the customers, my sister and I still go home, long after the dishes are done in everyone else’s house and have a real 4th of July feast. Ours doesn’t stray too far from the traditional feast of yester years...


Grilled Maine salmon with beure blanc

Fresh peas boiled with freshly harvested honey and a bit of water, until barely cooked

Cold green bean salad with chopped tomatoes and mint

Freshly harvested handpicked tiny red potatoes with local butter

Fresh strawberry shortcake with local cream, gently whipped

Cheverny wine


Brenda Athanus runs a small gourmet food shop in Belgrade Lakes, Maine with her sister Tanya called the Green Spot.

The Green Spot
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