The Working Waterfront

Planning for my apocalypse pantry

Higher ferry fees have columnist thinking about staying put

Sandy Oliver
Posted 2018-07-04
Last Modified 2018-07-04

It isn’t the zombie apocalypse yet, but it’s a good dry run for one. 

My car-and-driver ticket on the ferry from Islesboro to Lincolnville went from $13.75 to $30. Fortunately, I never did have a need to go to the mainland all that often anyway, and when I did, the list was long and deliberate, with little browsing, and few leisurely lunches out.

The shopping list hangs on the kitchen bulletin board and collects items gradually. Right now: lightbulbs, ground cloves, back-up package of chocolate chips, and a bale of shavings for the chicken coop. No emergencies here. I have one more lightbulb, but I use long-lasting LEDs. I might forgo the shavings if my neighbor Terry cleans his shop and brings his planer shavings over. Lacking that, there is straw. (Redundant back-up.)

There are still ground cloves but if I suddenly needed more, I have whole cloves and a mortar and pestle. We are about to open the current back-up package of chocolate chips, so that is not a crying necessity either, and anyway, I have other forms of chocolate so I could manufacture chip-like items as needed.

The one thing we go through pretty quickly is our favorite Dark Harbor coffee from Green Tree in Lincolnville. It would be a real headache to run out of coffee. But I have some vacuum packages of French roast to fall back on and the Island Market carries Dark Harbor for a couple bucks more than the store across the bay. Still, it is cheaper than a ferry ticket. So coffee is not a problem either, really. Actually, the island stores almost always have anything I really need.

In time past, I stayed on-island for five months once while I finished a book. Heck, I’ve gone a week without going south of the Narrows. I don’t have to go off until later in June when I am obliged a couple of times to go flog the new book of Marjorie Standish recipes that I compiled for Down East Books (it is called Cooking Maine Style, in case you are desperate for something to read).

Then as luck would have it, I have to go off again to Bangor to the periodontist which I do twice a year. Those trips will be major pre-summer hunting and gathering expeditions, because I hate going off in summer what with long ferry lines and canceled runs because of ambulance trips. (Though maybe lines won’t be so long this year.) 

On the way back from the trip, I’ll drop a modest bundle in Portland at Trader Joe’s (dried fruit, nuts, Three-buck Chuck, box wine, coffee, crackers, and then over to Micucci’s for stocking up on pasta, capers, large jars of pesto because it will be later summer before I have enough basil to make my own, by the way, with the extra gallon of olive oil I got). 

The Bangor trip will involve picking up work boots I ordered, hardware, a stop in the co-op in Belfast for bulk supplies of spice, grains, gallon jugs of dish detergent and laundry soap, and I want a mattress pad. Actually, Colburn’s Shoes in Belfast said they could ship me the boots, so I don’t have to stop there. 

In the coming months, I expect my neighbors and I will learn a lot about who will ship what. Like most islanders anywhere, I never went to the mainland for one thing anyway. I’ve heard of some summer people who go get their nails done and come right back, but most of us have a route with lots of stops. So do, by the way, people who live on bridged islands and long peninsulas—nobody wants to spend time in mainland traffic in summer or in inclement weather in winter. And most of us try to keep turning right so we don’t have to cross traffic.

Meanwhile, my robust pantry and full freezers stand me in good stead. I routinely buy rolled oats in 50-pound bags because I make my own granola, enjoy oatmeal for breakfast, and have a few favorite oat-y treats—fruit crisps, scones, and cookies. I buy flour in 25-pound bags, so when I run out of bread, I make my own.

I haven’t quite adopted the old islander practice of buying a case of evaporated milk for the winter, but I always have some, plus septic, plus sweetened condensed milk, plus dried. Soon the garden kicks in to keep me in salad and vegetables until November and beyond. I expect my household could stay put for a few months and be fed and caffeinated (shifting to tea when coffee runs out) just on the present supply.

I don’t know where the ferry service thinks it is going to get its shortfall money from but is isn’t going to be me. If I don’t have to go, I won’t. And believe me, with my apocalypse pantry, I don’t have to.

Sandy Oliver is a food historian who cooks, gardens, writes, and lives on Islesboro.