Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Rarest Bird 'Round Katahdin Lodge Was A Formally Dressed Finley K.

Finley Kenneth Clarke in Katahdin Lodge's kitchen, 1969.

The rarest bird 'round Katahdin Lodge was a formally dressed Finley K.

I can't remember where my Uncle Finley was going at the time this photo was taken. I just remember that I took the shot because it was the only time I ever saw Finley wearing a formal suit and tie.

See those stacks of canned goods and other goods on the pantry shelves back there?

At Katahdin Lodge, we stayed well stocked with food and other supplies all the time.

In November 1968, the Lodge's freezer had four deer worth of butchered meat in it. No beef was eaten at the Lodge until late the following spring. It was venison for red meat, chicken and local slaughtered pork for plenty of variety. And some canned Tuna Fish a few times.

Then when the venison ran out, it was back to ordering wholesale amounts of freshly butchered beef from Cry Brothers up ta' Caribou.

At any time, anywhere from one to thirty or forty people might be enjoying a good, all you can eat home cooked meal in the Lodge's dining room.

But it was illegal to serve wild game to paying guests, so my aunt and uncle and I ate most of the venison. Only our visiting family members or Mainer friends were allowed to eat Deer meat there. I ate delicious venison almost everyday that winter. And I've bragged about that many times since.

It is illegal to feed paying guests wild meat, because that practice puts too much hunting pressure on the deer and moose populations. It also makes it much more profitable to hunt out of season. It encourages Lodge owners to become, or hire, big time poachers.

One of the countrywomen, who worked on the housekeeping and kitchen staff at the Lodge, a wonderful woman named Winnie, baked fresh breads, rolls, muffins, pies, and cakes.

Winnie's daughter, who is my exact age, made most of the birthday cakes though. She was married to the Katahdin High School principal, in 1977, when she was asked to create my, 27th Birthday, birthday cake. That cake she made for me was the most delicious one I will ever eat.

I can bake some basic handmade cakes from scratch, and using whole wheat flour, honey, and other all natural ingredients. My grandmothers, some of my aunts, my cousin Bonnie, and my mother were, or are, all proficient bakers. Plus, where I grew up, in Dundalk, Md., we had some very good bakeries in our neighborhood.

Until I moved to Maine, I had attended numerous birthday parties for all of my extended family, on both sides of my family. My Granddad Crews had retired as foreman of numbers 9 + 10 Blast Furnaces at Bethlehem Steel in Sparrows Point Maryland, and my Grandfather Clarke had retired as a carpenter over on "the ship side", the Sparrows Point Shipyard. My parents had grown up in the company mill town owned by Beth Steel-- Sparrows Point Maryland. It was a wonderful place to live. Just like Patten Maine. All of my aunts and uncles had attended the same schools. And, up until 1965 when Fin and Marty moved to Maine, none of them had moved very far from home when they got married. Many worked "down the point" too. Fin and Marty were next door neighbors while growing up on Sparrows Point. That made it easy for any of us to get together for holidays and birthdays. I ate a lot of birthday cakes at a lot of family parties.

Consequently, I know a little something about good birthday cakes.

But I have no idea how that 1977 birthday cake, which was homemade for me by Winnie's daughter in Maine, could have been 100% perfectly tuned to my sweet tooth. It was the best I have ever had, and I am 100% positive that it was the best I ever will have.

Birthday cake is the one thing in life that I know I have had the very best of.

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