Originally uploaded by norvegal
Maine is a state of seasons. We have, of course, summer, fall, winter, and spring. We have mosquito season, black fly season, and mud season. We have tourist season, hunting season, and leaf peeper season.
And we have another season too: Fryolator season. To be exact, fryolator-fried fish season.
The best fried fish in Maine--in the whole country, I believe--comes from small the family-owned "shacky" places that dot the Maine countryside. They open Memorial Day weekend and close some time in October before the first hard frost.
Seating is usually outdoors at sticky picnic tables, and facilities tend to be of the port-a-potty variety. Credit cards are rarely if ever accepted. Perhaps at the yuppie places in Kittery and Wells, but not up the coast where I am.
The menu at these places usually consists of fried haddock, scallops, or clams. Some will also have lobster rolls or crab rolls, both of which are served on toasted hotdog buns. And all these establishments will offer French fries and onion rings, cole slaw, and the staple condiment, tartar sauce.
(Some places will also offer the lesser hamburger, hotdog, grilled cheese sandwich, or--for ungrateful kids who don't deserve the investment of a haddock basket--fried chicken fingers.)
Dessert falls into one of two camps: soft-serve and hard scoop. A few places, like the one I frequent, dare to serve both. But most stick with one type of ice cream, and their loyal followers insist it's the very best on earth. Whatever it may be.
The fish place of my childhood closed a few years back, so I am still wandering in fryolator limbo while I decide where to place my allegiances now.
The top contender is pictured above, and it overlooks one of the most beautiful tidal inlets along the entire coast. The owner is a hoot. He does things like grow tomatoes upside-down in recycled kitty litter containers that are suspended from an old swing set with a hand-lettered sign above it that says, "Just hangin' around." When people ask him what tomato variety he is growing, he likes to say, "Ripe."
Anyway, fryolator season is my personal undoing. I approach its arrival with both glee and dread, because I am powerless over a good haddock basket. But thanks to Maine's notoriously short summer, fryolator season will be over before we know it.
In the meantime, anyone want some of my fries?