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'Best Cook' Began in Maine

‘Best Cook’ Began in Maine
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The first story I published in Yankee was about a potato farmer’s wife from Aroostook County, Maine. Her name was Avis Dudley. The year was 1977, and Avis Dudley’s homestead had become a local landmark in northern Maine.

During the fall potato harvest, her husband’s hired hands would crowd into Avis’s dining room and be served these wonderful caramel rolls and all the meat, potatoes, vegetables, and pies they could handle before going back to the fields. When her husband died, Avis did not fold her tent. She took her genuine, hearty, down-home farm cooking to the public.

Her story and recipes became the first in a 20-plus-year Yankee tradition — a series we called Great New England Cooks. Over the years, I wrote about a number of these locally notable cooks: Nellie Reed from Owl’s Head, Maine, whose chicken-pie suppers helped build a firehouse; Judy Marsh, the wife of a game warden whose specialty — of course — was wild game; Helen Burns from Amherst, New Hampshire, who was chosen to prepare lunch for President Gerald Ford when he came through the state; and many others.

What made all these stories special was that they were all ordinary New Englanders with an extraordinary gift in the kitchen. They were the people you most wanted to drop by the potluck supper.

One of the first things I wanted to do when I became Yankee’s editor was to once again celebrate the culinary gifts of our neighbors. We call it Best Cook in Town. I couldn’t think of a better writer for this section than one of the best cooks in the Monadnock region — Edie Clark.

Edie’s loyal readers know her, of course, for Mary’s Farm, her long-running ode to the pleasures and travails of country life. But to her friends, she is a delightful cook and hostess, and her food mirrors her writing — simple, yet elegant, and always memorable.


Now here’s where you come in. Edie wants to know about the Best Cooks in your town. Be sure to let her know by submitting your suggestions online, along with a description of your favorite local cook’s food, to Best Cook. Or write to us at “Best Cook,” Yankee Magazine, 1121 Main St., Dublin, NH 03444. With your help we can begin a new Yankee tradition.

Mel Allen is editor of Yankee Magazine and author of A Coach’s Letter to His Son.

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Updated Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

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