When I was a kid, spending a precious month every summer on the coast of Maine, mussels were a hazard we tried to avoid. At low tide, spiky beds of the blue-black mollusks clustered on the shoreline ledges that were our favorite playground; only those with the most calloused feet dared walk on them. If I look closely, I can still see the faint, vertical scars on my knees from falling on those damn mussel beds while playing flashlight tag (why our parents let us roam around on the rocks in the dark is a mystery, but no one came to any real harm). If we had wanted to eat mussels, they were there for the taking. But no one did.
Ted and I both grew up marking the beginning of summer by eating soft-shell crabs—him at the Jersey Shore, me in Washington D.C. Soft shells are blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay in their molting state; they fatten up as they get ready to shed their shells, which accounts for their sweet, rich flavor. They are in season from early spring—when they are most plentiful—to early fall.
Dogs have always been a part of my life. I grew up with cocker spaniels and my “first child” was a sweet chocolate lab named Caramel. But it wasn’t until Ted that I truly became a dog person.
Ted introduced me to the brilliant—and sometimes maddening—concept that two dogs are better than one, and to the black-and-white herding dog. He has had pairs of border collie/Australian shepherd/cattle dog mixes for years, and together, we are on our second pair. Both of our girls are rescues from the deep South. When the transport driver handed us Dixie in a parking lot off a New Jersey highway one morning before dawn, she was a tiny, 6-7 week-old from Tennessee, still looking to nurse. She is now a sturdy, four-year-old corgi-border collie who nudges us by our ankles to steer us to where she wants to go, and imagines herself the ruler of the roost. Mavis was born in a kennel in Louisiana, where her pregnant mother was found tied to a tree next to a river. A lanky speed demon with an impressive—and often a surprise to visitors—vertical leap (we’re working on her manners) she is as best as we can figure, a border collie-pointer. They both make us laugh, drive us crazy, and melt our hearts, and we can’t imagine our lives without them.
Ted and I are emerging from what seemed like an especially long winter, each determined to shed several pounds by shorts season. We’re using the free version of the “Lose It” app to track calories, while ramping up our exercise quotient (also because we are training for the TD Beach to Beacon, a famous Maine 10K race held in early August).
Ted likes to joke that we live 15 minutes from the eighth wonder of the world … L.L. Bean. But I’m being totally serious when I say that about the same distance in the other direction is another wonder—the culinary mecca that is Portland, Maine. Anyone who has even a passing interest in food has no doubt heard about the high concentration of superb restaurants in this pint-sized city. We’re often asked to name our favorite, which is a tough if not impossible call, but among the Portland restaurants we truly love is Sur Lie.