“Martha Ballard’s Diaries: A Kitchen and a Garden on the Maine Frontier” by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
Food writer and historian Nancy Harmon Jenkins presents the results of a deep-dive into Martha Ballard’s diary, a precious and insightful primary source for what life and food was like in the wild territory of Maine in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Martha Ballard, midwife and homemaker, wrote her diaries from her home in Hallowell on the banks of the Kennebec River for almost half a century. She never wrote a recipe or even gave so much as a hint of cooking instructions. However, she has a lot to tell us about how Mainers ate, what they grew, what they cooked, how they celebrated, and what they feared back when Maine was on the cusp of statehood. Nancy Harmon Jenkins casts a food historian’s eye on what we can learn from Martha’s diaries and, as we gear up for Thanksgiving, she brings us up to date on a table that’s two centuries old.
Nancy Harmon Jenkins is a nationally known food writer and culinary historian, with eight cookbooks to her credit plus thousands of articles in publications from the New York Times to Saveur to Smithsonian. She is best known as an olive oil expert and one of the original proponents of the Mediterranean Diet. She divides her time between the Coast of Maine and a small olive farm in a remote region of Tuscany. She blogs at nancyj.substack.com where her “On the Kitchen Porch” brings to light research, recipes, stories and gossip, people and personalities, from Maine to the Mediterranean.