In 1973 a group of students in Kennebunk, Maine complied a series of home-spun articles about life in New England into The Salt Book. Led by the group’s adviser Pamela Wood, they documented lobster men making traps, a barn raising, the gathering of sea moss, wrote articles about how to make your own wooden snow shoes and generally waxed on about the characters and daily life by the sea in Maine.
Recently while I was booking a cottage in Maine for the summer, I was reminded of this book and my jaunt up there last year. I have a hard time disguising my affection for the state and nothing fills me with anticipation like an escape up to Maine. It doesn’t have to just be summer – I’m equally impressed by fall, winter and spring in the Pine Tree State. Even though I grew up in Ohio, much of my family was from New England originally and we often when on summer trips to The Cape, New Hampshire and those parts. Long after those trips I am still fascinated by Yankee culture and the salty folks of New England. So even though I am stuck in this new york winter (stuck largely inside for the better part of the past six weeks due to the most ironic of injuries) the stories in The Salt Book can easily transport me to one of my favorite places.
Thinking about how high school kids would go about this type of thing now, it just wouldn’t be the same. This blog could never come close to having the presence, the physical actuality of something like The Salt Book. It makes me appreciate those kids for telling the stories, Pamela for compiling it, Jared Stern for giving it to me and it makes me appreciate a book that I can really hold in my hand. Even being just 35, I can recognize that many things just aren’t the same anymore. Though maybe one day they will get the science just right and the the perfect algorithm will replicate on your Kindle what it feels like to flip through an old book. That’s progress, right?
Comments on “The Salt Book.”
I have a lot of memories (and pics) of time in Maine (MDI/Seal Harbor mostly), but my favorite meal preparation one was while at East Blue Hill at a friend’s family home. After having our first cocktail, he announced that he was going out to collect the first course.
Out came the waders and bucket and in came the mussels from right off the front lawn. YUM!
Neat-It’s like the Foxfire series on Appalachian life.
@jim – totally – they name check Foxfire in the intro infact. great book.
You tore your ACL?!
Get well Mr Williams!
..this charming man
What a lovely book. It looks like I could get lost in it for hours.
Tell me more about sea moss pudding.
The back story on the Salt book is that it is then”‘yearbook”, as it were, of the best of the work produced by Salt, a specialty school in Maine that focuses, in a two semester program, on three ey trusted the teenagers more. areas of study, of which you choose one: documentary photography (think Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans) documentary radio (think Ira Glass and NPR) and documentary, narrative/editorial writing.
I did eachnot attend ( Im a photojournalist) but many friends have. It is intensive, community based, and the students final projects, yes, Maine stories. In the perhaps early 90s they went to a once a year best of journal format, and published a second Maine skills best of book, which I am lucky to possess, along with a lot of the yearly best of volumes.
The comparison to Foxfire ,is accurate, yet Foxfire came first and was/ is a high school program that stunned a lot of people with its ability to gather what anthropologists were pulling. their hair out trying to write down quick enough, before the old timers died. I t craftsmanship, oral history, documentary photography, wilderness survival, that sort of stuff and we have used these source materials often. Many of the people in both Salt andFoxfire have passed and they are the single source for some knowledge. . The Foxfire series has covered so much in Appalachia material and can’t imagine what left to cover. Photographically speaking the books to get are Sodum a Laurel Album and and Salt and Truth,two fanatic tomes of writing and photography about old Appalachian lives still being lived exactly the same today. It’s not Maine but it’s the same sort of regionalism I think you’ll love. Too bad, Salt.edu is still doing great but squit publishing hard copies of their best of last year. I’m willing to let some of these gems go, and dome of the Maine storied are hilarious, enduring and emblematic of hard people choosing to live in a hard land.
Kate: In the early 70’s when I was a kid I remember collecting this particular type of sea moss with my grandmother on the southern tip of Whaleboat Island in Casco Bay in Maine. She made jelly and pudding with it. It acts as the thickening agent. It’s a vegan version of gelatin. The pudding was called Blancmange. If you google it you will find plenty of recipes. The trick is to get the right sea moss. It is very scarce now in Casco Bay but occasionally I see small amounts washed up on Harpswell and Merepoint. You need to go to remote beaches that border deep water ledges as is confirmed in the Salt Book.
One of our more recent alumni sent me this post! It warms my heart to see that photo of the original Salt book – especially since we only have a few precious softcover editions lying around here at Salt!
I am a Salt alumna, and now the executive director. We are still telling great stories about the people and places of Maine. Things have changed a bit in terms of technology and story delivery, but the heart of what we do – teaching the art of nonfiction storytelling – is alive and well here in Portland Maine!
Please come and visit us anytime… you can find us on the web and in Portland’s arts district. You can find old Salt magazines in homes around Maine and stories are abounding here, as they will be for decades to come I’m sure!
I’m putting my collection up for sale. E mail me if interested.
Interesting about the evolution of Salt. People love to point out the old house in Cape Porpoise that used to be their “HQ”, just down the road from my place. Re: the newer softcover edition, I’m not sure it has all the illustrations from the original. Will email you Eric â€“ I sold all my original copies of the magazine to Alex Carleton and miss ’em. Anyone heading up to Maine this summer, drop a line and stop by the Cape.
If you’re going to be in Maine this summer, we should arrange for you to get a tour of the L.L.Bean Manufacturing facility in Brunswick, home (or maternity ward I guess) of Bean Boots, Maine Hunting Shoes (they are different, you know), and those legendary Boat and Totes. Just had a tour a few weeks ago and while the whole operation was amazing, it was the dedication and comradery of this remarkable group of Maine craftsmen that made the visit so memorable. One reads about “hand-sewn” (including often in your wonderful posts), but it’s an entirely different thing to actually see it up close and happening in person. These craftsmen have that powerful, but quiet, non-boastful pride about their work and it really is infused into each and every pair of boots. You must meet the woman to whom generations of devoted Bean Boot owners entrust their beloved, time-worn boots for re-soling and repairs. Looking at a bin of old, and I thought beyond salvation Bean Boots, I pointed to a particularly well-worn (but by some owner’s estimation, not worn-out leather and rubber), and I incredulously asked how she would repair that pair. She examined them carefully, paused, then turned one boot toward me and with a bit of a twinkle in her eye said “Well, I’ll probably do it the same way I did it 20 years ago when this pair was last here for repairs,” as she pointed to the most incredibly beautiful small leather patch that she recognized as having sewn two decades ago. You almost just want to wear out your boots on purpose so she can patch them up with such artistic skill. Also, it’s fun to meet the woman who made her own Bean Boots. (There are about 12 steps to making a Bean Boot, and most workers master 4 or 5 steps, but this woman is one of the few craftsmen who has mastered each step.). They were making a special order pair of “white on white, shearling lined” Bean Boots for a bride the day that I was there. It’s all just what you’d hope the L.L.Bean Manufacturing plant to be… and more. Great people!
I was there in October actually, completely agree it’s well worth the trip.
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