Today we celebrate all that is the great state of Maine. Once a part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts General Court passed legislation on June 19, 1819 that separated the District of Maine from the rest of the Commonwealth. The following month, on July 26, the citizens of Maine overwhelmingly voted to seek statehood.
At the time of Maine’s request for statehood, there were an equal number of free states and slave states. Pro-slavery members of Congress viewed Maine’s statehood as a threat to that balance. Democrats, the pro-slavery party of the time, would only support statehood for Maine if the Missouri Territory, where slavery was legal, was admitted to the Union as a recognized slave state. On March 15, 1820, Main became the nation’s 23rd state. Missouri became the 24th state. The balance between free and slave states once more was even.
Ahead of the Great Famine, Maine experienced a wave of Irish immigrants. They came mainly via Canada and Massachusetts. Massachusetts political landscape back then was very much anti-Irish. In 1834 the Know-Nothing Party briefly flourished in Maine, resulting in riots and the burning of a number of Catholics churches. After the Civil War, Maine’s Irish-Catholic population began their slow but steady process of integration and upward mobility, stopping any further advancement of the Know-Nothings who truly knew nothing. After all, hatred stems from ignorance and misinformation. Truth and Knowledge bring light.
Fun Facts From Maine
If you want see the sunrise first, head to Maine’s Cadillac Mountains in the Acadia National Park. It’s the first place to view a sunrise in America between October 7 and March 6. Don’t ask me where the sunrises first the rest of the year, I don’t know. One thing is certain, it’s a real crowd pleaser.
Maine has over 2,500 lakes in addition to 5,000 rivers and streams. With that much water, it’s no surprise that Maine has more pine trees than any other state, with about 90% of the state forested. Hence the nickname The Pine Tree State.
No surprise that when it comes to cold places in the US, Alaska is the coldest of all the states. But in the lower 48, Maine is among the top 10 overall. Maine also holds the title of the coldest state in the spring, North Dakota is the coldest in both the fall and winter while Wyoming is the chilliest state in the summer months. Having spent time in both Wyoming and the Oregon coast in the summer, Hubby might beg to differ. As far as I’m concerned, cold places have their beauty and should be viewed from inside a cozy lodge or cabin while sipping a hot toddy.
The first Europeans to explore Maine were Vikings from Norway. Vikings made regular trips across the Atlantic to various points including northern parts of America’s coast. Although they failed to establish any permanent settlements, there is evidence that Vikings managed to establish trade with the local tribes.
During the Civil War, Maine contributed more troops to the Union Army than any other state in proportion to the their population. Maine was the first and one of the strongest supporters of the newly founded anti-slavery Republican Party. Hannibal Hamlin, an attorney and businessman from Maine, served with Lincoln as his Vice President during Lincoln’s first term as part of the country’s first Republican ticket.
Today Maine is considered to be a Blue State. As of the 2020 election, the country was evenly split between red states and blue states. The deciding factor was population. More Americans live in Blue States such as California and New York with a winner take all than Red States like Alaska and Wyoming.
Red vs Blue and the popular vote is a subject for another day. Today it’s all about Maine. Better yet, a Maine inspired supper.
While Maine is known for its lobster, today is also National French Fried Shrimp Day and the Winter Solstice. That gave me the inspiration needed for a cozy supper. And since Maine is the Blueberry Capital of the planet, dessert was a snap. Enjoy!
Casual Fireside Supper
Beer-Battered Shrimp Fry
Blueberry Upside-Down Cake
Beer-Battered Old Bay Fried Shrimp
1-1/2 cups Original Bisquick Mix, divided
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning, divided
1 lb large (16-20 count) raw Shrimp
1 cup Beer
3-1/2 tablespoons Original Bisquick Mix
Oil for frying
Lemons for garnish, if desired
Cocktail Sauce or Tartar Sauce for dipping
In deep 12-inch skillet, heat 1-1/2 inches oil over medium heat to 375-degrees.
Place 1/2 cup Bisquick Mix into a pie pan. Season mix with 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning, set aside.
Peel and devein shrimp, removing tails. Lightly coat shrimp in Bisquick mixture, set aside.
In medium bowl, stir remaining cup Bisquick mix, 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning, beer and egg with wire whisk until smooth.
Note: If batter is too thick, stir in additional beer, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency.
Working in batches to not overcrowd skillet, dip shrimp into batter, letting excess drip into bowl. Fry in hot oil for about 2 minutes per side or until golden brown. Drain fried shrimp on paper towels. Repeat with remaining shrimp.
Transfer shrimp to a serving platter garnished with lemon if desired. Serve hot with sauces for dipping.
Oven-Fried French Fries
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1/2 bag Frozen French Fries
Salt to taste
Heat oven to 425-degrees. Place a baking rack inside a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
Pour vegetable oil into a gallon zip-lock bag. Add frozen French Fries. Close bag, shake or rub to coat fries well in oil.
Dump fries on the rack, oil and all. The excess oil will drip down onto the tray, leaving a thin coating on the fries. Spread fries out in a single layer, season generously with salt.
Bake according to package directions (Crinkle or large fries 25-29 minutes; Shoestring or Fast Food Cut 15 minutes).
About half way through baking “fry” time, shake the pan for even browning.
For a nice touch, transfer to a paper-lined serving basket and enjoy.
Blueberry Upside-Down Skillet Cake
1/4 cup Butter
1 cup packed Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Orange Juice
1 cup frozen Blueberries
Heat oven to 400-degrees. Place a 10-in. cast-iron over medium-low heat. Cube butter, add to the warm skillet to melt. Once melted; stir in brown sugar until dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in orange juice. Sprinkle blueberries over the butter-brown sugar mixture, set aside.
1 large Egg
1-1/2 cups Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Milk
1/2 cup Butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract
Remove egg from refrigerator, place into a small bowl of warm water. Let sit on the counter for 10 minutes to warm to room temperature.
In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and set aside.
In another bowl, whisk egg, milk, melted butter and almond extract until blended. Pour wet ingredients into flour mixture; stir just until moistened. Gently ladle cake batter over blueberries.
Bake in the heated oven until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 18 minutes or so.. Cool 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. Serve warm, with ice cream if desired.