Guest blogger Alex Steed on Maine, food and making friends

Ed. note: Today, Culture Shock readers, please welcome my first “guest blogger,” Alex Steed, producer of the hilarious, irreverent Food Coma TV, the Maine-based web series that hit it big over the fall of 2011 (in the picture below, by Brian Fitzgerald, he’s the guy driving the motorcycle, Joe Ricchio is the one getting frisky with the champagne, and this probably explains a lot about their friendship). Alex will be giving a presentation about the show at Bangor’s Pecha Kucha Night Vol. 4, set for 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 9 at the Bangor Opera House, and he offered to share his thoughts on food, Maine and making friends. I’ll periodically offer up Culture Shock to guest bloggers, as they come along, to write about a variety of topics. Read on!

Food Coma TV, our web series about Maine food culture, started as a bit of a joke. What would it be like to make a show about food culture in Maine and completely avoid the hottest food locations in the state? In doing so, it fast became for us a window into the state we quickly realized we, citizens and natives, knew next to nothing about. Since starting, we have eaten with independent wrestlers in Sanford, shot guns with public officials in Allagash, and discussed Maine food with Anthony Bourdain and Chef Eric Ripert. This Saturday we will eat Indian food and fried clams in Kittery with Maine rapper Spose. The show has served as an all access pass to a state we thought we already knew, and we are excited to launch a second season next month.
While it sounds like a cliche, none of it would not have been possible without the support of hundreds of Mainers, from those who donated to our initial fundraising campaign to the businesses who have underwritten (and continue to underwrite) our episodes. Restaurants share with us their food, people share with us their recipes, and in all of this we are able to bring viewers along with us on a ride through our giant and dynamic state. We have been fortunate to hear from viewers that they have eaten something new, or traveled somewhere new, because they saw us there having a good time and this has made the entire endeavor (including the pounds gained and shortened life expectancy) worth while.

And for all of this I am grateful. I have lived in this state for 23 years and have never had the access that we are allowed because we have a couple of cameras, a YouTube Channel, and thousands of viewers. This should have come at no surprise, as one of the primary inspirations for the creation of the show was a 2 week long work visit I made to Fort Kent early last year. I was fed, brought into homes, and a stranger treated like family in a land I hadn’t known. Seeing and sharing the experience with friends, I quickly realized that many Mainers my age in particular hadn’t had intimate experiences with the rest of their states. I later had a conversation with Tanya Pereira, Bangor’s Development Director, about promoting towns like these by way of digital video, and she was extremely encouraging of the idea. Through the marriage of those two experiences, one of the kernels of our show was born.

And while, because of the size of the personalities of our co-hosts, it might appear that the show is exclusively about a John Belushi-esque food/booze hound and his sassy, death metal loving, gay sidekick, the uncredited third character featured on the show is the State and people of Maine – the farmers, the ployes, the gun-toting vixens up north, the woods, the barflies, the chefs, the waitstaff, the people who bring us into their homes and make fun of our host on camera, the sandwich shop owners, the folks who still run candlepin bowling allies, and everything else that makes this state such a wonderful foil for the two affable loudmouths we put in front of the camera in towns throughout the state.

We are all proud of what we accomplished in the first season, and we couldn’t be happier with the feedback we received. A number of businesses and individuals we have featured have been in touch to let us know that they appreciated being featured to an audience that otherwise might be unaware of them. Another batch of people have, as I mentioned earlier, been in touch to let us know that they ventured out past their own neighborhoods and comfort zones as a result of watching the show. It is for these reasons, that we are excited to be in the process of shooting the second season, which is due out in April, and to be getting intimate with our great state (and assaulting our waist-lines) all over again.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, UMaine graduate, proud Bangorian and a writer for the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food to all the cool things going on in the Greater Bangor area. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra. She's interested in everything that happens in Maine.