My name is Debbie Daigle and I was born and raised in Fort Kent, also known as the “Crown of Maine". Growing up in Fort Kent shaped, influenced, and firmly inspired me to celebrate life every day. Meals were never taken lightly, but were always well thought-out, and enjoyed by the whole family.
My mom loved cooking and baking with whatever she could pick in the garden or in the wild. She was a forager, and taught us to enjoy the outdoors as well. Dandelion greens were a favorite and I can still see my momma walking into the spring sunset with a knife and a paper bag in hand, in search for these delicious greens. Fiddleheads were another favorite, picked by my older brother. These greens, steamed to perfection, drizzled with melted butter, are still one of my favorite vegetables today.
Berries of all kinds were picked by the family; in fact, it was always a whole day affair. My mom would pack a picnic and off we’d go to my dad’s childhood farm to pick strawberries - wild ones at that! Do you know how small wild berries are?!? It took us all day to pick gallons and gallons of berries. Mom would tell us not to taste a single berry, for surely it would not stop there. Of course we wouldn’t be able to stop at just one, and she knew it. We’d get home late and it was mom’s job to clean all of the berries. She would clean enough for all 8 of us to have a bowl with some heavy cream for dessert. What a treat after all that picking in the hot sun and trying not to eat even one. It was worth the wait. She would continue cleaning them well into the night, so they would be ready to be made into jam and pies for our winter eating.
All summer we picked rhubarb, raspberries, blueberries, hazelnuts (mom taught us how to peel them without getting our fingertips full of prickles), crabapples, and in the fall - potatoes! In northern Maine, all school children were (and some still are!) released for “potato harvest” where we picked bushels of potatoes to be sent throughout the country. Maybe YOU even ate some of the potatoes I picked! And guess what my mom did with left over mashed potatoes - into the bread dough they went! Yum!
My love for baking came from my mom. As I grew older, my job was to bake a 13x9 pan of dessert every night after school. With 10 of us in the family, the dessert was always gone by the end of the night.
I married a wonderful man and together we had 4 daughters that we raised in Wallagrass, Maine. As I established my new home, I began my own baking adventures. Bread making had always been my mom’s job, but now it had become mine. I quickly learned to make this ritual my own, the aroma of baking bread made my home our home.
While my children were still small, my brother, who owned a large hunting lodge known all over New England, approached me to make bread for his customers. I agreed readily since I enjoyed making bread so much. With 4 little girls in tow, I began baking 40-90 loaves of bread a week in my small home.
Thirty-six years later, I am still baking from home for family, friends, and customers. Though some things have changed (I went from hand mixing my dough and baking in one oven, to an industrial mixer and 3 ovens!) I can still remember the love for baking that I was taught at my mother’s table.
I hope to continue to provide this comfort food for those who also love and enjoy the fresh baked taste of homemade bread. Coming out of the oven, sliced and buttered – there is nothing like it - is your mouth salivating right now? I’ve got some coming out of the oven right now - can you smell it?
In the summer months, to buy a loaf or two, head over to Stevenson’s Farm Stand in Winthrop and at Christianson Farm Stand at 368 Main St in Readfield.