My column ran on alewives a few weeks ago and from it my readers gifted me with their memories and even more information about alewives. One reader wrote:
What memories you brought back to me this past Wednesday, June 1, with your article on Smoked Alewives. I was a child during the depression and I remember clearly the fish truck coming, my mother buying smoked alewives and baking them for our supper. THEN, my dear, dear dad would sit at the table and painstakingly pick over every little portion he put on my plate. When I asked why I just couldn’t have a “big piece” he gently told me there were tiny bones that might hurt me, or choke me. They were so good; in reflection…what a great dad…a childhood memory, perhaps a depression memory as I have never had them since.
Nevertheless, happy memories brought back once again by your article. Thank you.
The president of Nobleboro Historical Society, part of the Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder Restoration project, wrote as well with links and information on the Alewife Festival held every Memorial Day weekend in Damariscotta. Apparently, as recently as 1950, it was large enough to warrant an Alewife Queen!
While I’ve never been able to attend due to our sailing schedule, any one that I’ve known who has gone has talked about how magical the fish are as they jump and spring out of the water to reach their spawning destination. They are caught in the ladder and then smoked by Mary Jane Buchan and her family/friends in their smokehouse that has been used to smoke alewives for decades.
One way to serve them is in a traditional chowder recipe. Hope you are able to find them where you live. They are worth the hunt!
Loving the history and connection of our food