The Working Waterfront

Making the case for ‘reverse take-out’

Island neighborliness takes on a foodie flavor

Barbara Fernald
Posted 2021-03-17
Last Modified 2021-03-17

One of the first things I do in January is to pull out the new “Maine Tide and Every Day Calendar” and mark the dates for anniversaries and birthdays from the past year. When I get to July and August of the previous year, it’s sometimes hard to find the special days I seek. They are wedged in tight with names and times for dinners, local cultural events, picnics, hiking, doctor’s appointments, and visits from family. When I look back on those weeks I usually smile at the memories while simultaneously appreciating the intense quiet that is January on the island.

This month there were many fewer occasions to reminisce about from last year’s calendar, but we were fortunate to have had August visits from both of our sons and their families. I miss them terribly, but I feel hopeful that things are on their way to getting better. Knowing that I’m in the age group to get a vaccine sooner rather than later is a help. So is knowing that the worst president in the history of our country will be leaving the White House soon.

I’m thinking of ways to expand this magic through these next few solitary months.

The pandemic and politics are two topics our editor gently asked us to avoid, if possible, when we last submitted columns in November. That request seems implausible during these bleak and anxious days of early January. But if there ever was a time to lift each other up, we are in it, and maybe that’s what wise Tom wants me to realize as I consider a topic during this craziest of times.

I have a true story of magic that happens not often, but more than rarely, in my little neighborhood on Little Cranberry Island. It began a few years ago, one night after dinner, when Bruce turned to me and said, “I wish we had some cake.”

Anyone who knows Bruce knows he loves cake, but we hadn’t had cake in the house for a while. Not two minutes after he spoke those words, there was a knock on the door. Our neighbor Cindy Thomas was at the door with a plate bearing two pieces of chocolate cake.

“I made a cake today and I thought you might like some for dessert,” she said. Bruce and I burst out laughing at the speed with which his wish had been granted. Cindy was delighted that her generosity had such perfect timing. We immediately crowned her our Cake Fairy, and do you know what? She takes the job very seriously!

Now, at unpredictable times, the bread or English muffin fairy visits David and Cindy. Our personal cake fairy is also known to deliver pie. We have a similar relationship with Mary and Malcolm across the street. Mary is an amazing baker and we often exchange half loaves of our latest breads. Oscar, next door to them, distributes the most amazing tamales at random times.

During the holidays the food fairies were out in force. We gave out cinnamon buns and received Chex mix, cookies, chocolate-dipped strawberries and pretzels and more. One day I looked out in time to see our neighbor, Joanne, tiptoeing away after leaving a plate of strawberry-rhubarb turnovers on our porch.

I’m thinking of ways to expand this magic through these next few solitary months. The possibilities are endless. Who wouldn’t want a nice bowl of fruit salad showing up unexpectedly at 5 p.m.? Or a pot of chili? Or a jar of sprouted alfalfa seeds?

We may not be having dinner parties these days, but we could still entertain each other by showing up with something that comes from the heart and hearth. Like reverse take-out.

The magic comes from making it a surprise. By lifting each other up, even the tiniest bit, we lift ourselves up as well. Try to feel depressed about the state of the world when you’re delivering warm chocolate chip cookies to a friend or neighbor. I think it might be impossible. And, who knows? You might just be crowned someone’s cookie fairy. Nothing is more uplifting than magic like that.

Barbara Fernald lives on Islesford (Little Cranberry Island).