Nancy Harmon Jenkins Presents: Exploring Martha Ballard's Maine
55 Main Street
Camden, ME 04843
One of the most precious and insightful primary sources for what life was like in the Maine territory in the late 18th and early 19th centuries is the diary of Martha Ballard. On Thursday, May 21, at 7:00 pm, the Camden Public Library will host food writer Nancy Harmon Jenkins’s presentation on her own deep-dive into Martha Ballard’s diary.
Martha Ballard was a midwife, nurse, housewife, cook, baker, brewer, gardener, hostess, mother of five children, and a trenchant observer of the small community on the banks of the Kennebec River where her family settled in 1777. Her diary, begun in January 1785 when she was almost 50 and kept daily until her death in 1812, is a fascinating resource for historians or anyone who’s curious about the past.
“Unraveling the diary isn’t easy,” says Jenkins, “but following the trail blazed by Pulitzer-Prize historian Laurel Thacher Ullrich, I’ve untangled the information and put it together with a few other sources to develop a picture of how our Maine ancestors lived. The information in the diary brings us as close as we can get to what Maine kitchens were like in 1820 — and it especially helps us understand what our ancestors cooked, ate, and shared with their neighbors and families. And the surprising conclusion? It’s not all that different from the way Mainers ate in my own childhood—and quite different actually from the way we live and eat today. “
Nancy Harmon Jenkins is a an accomplished food writer, speaker, consultant, and historian who grew up on the coast of Maine. She has published numerous cookbooks and is an authority on Mediterranean cuisines.