I never really thought about what New Hampshire’s state slogan, “Live Free or Die”, really meant to me. Perhaps it is the epitome of good memories and feelings I have from over 25 years of trips to Lake Winnipesaukee a.k.a. The Lakes Region.
I am not there this July 4th Independence Day and miss the food, friends and family. New Hampshire being a place where you don’t have to wear a helmet to ride a motorcycle. That may constitute freedom (or stupidity as a former motorcycle rider who once needed one). My mind flashes back to moments in time. All those days swimming in the pristinely clean water, sun bathing on the floating dock, jet skiing or jumping off a boat deck.
On the flip side my stomach remembers old-fashioned beef jerky from the jar at the local family owed grocery store down the winding country road (now sadly replaced with some less tasty plastic wrapped version). The traditional fried dough (a circle of deep fried dough doused in powdered sugar on a paper plate) at the place that doubles for a greasy pizzeria (same paper plates) by arcade alley at Weirs Beach, the honky-tonk strip with quintessential bumper cars, penny arcades, souvenir and T-shirt shops.
I wonder did I feel free because I was a kid and had less worries or independent because with my pocket full of tokens I could roam around Funspot (one of the world’s largest arcades) and choose whatever game I wanted. Better still, sleeping until whenever I was ready for brunch at the Village Kitchen (which hasn’t changed a bit in years). The big breakfast is still heartily called “The Farmer’s” with thick cut ham, sausage, bacon, baked beans, grilled potatoes, fresh toast and jam, plus a bottomless ceramic mug of diner style coffee or orange pekoe tea (which I usually sub in). A meal like that usually filled us up until about 3:30pm when it was time for another typical lakeside attraction, a hand scooping ice cream parlor.
A memoir about such a place could not be complete without an ode to one of my favorite lobster roll joints in New England. The Tamarack Drive-In, still serving up a very expensive butter toasted roll stuffed with a blended filling of lobster meat, mayonnaise and a hint of chopped celery. Granted the quality and quantity of lobster filling has gone up and down over the years, but it’s really that feeling of pure joy and then a whole lot of “full belly” that makes the cost easier to swallow. As for that ode, my cousins and I sang this as kids, “Tamarack food, it’s bad, it’s slow, Tamarack Drive-In way to go!” Lyrics aside, we couldn’t wait for an outing around the lakes ring road for such a treat.
On special occasions (or when the economy was better), fried clams and scallop platters with mountains of onion rings were added to the order and of course polished off with large Root beers (or an ice cream float version for good measure). I’ve heard they have other items on the menu, but don’t ask me about them. Honorable mention goes to Sawyer’s Dairy Bar & Restaurant which serves up their lobster roll with extra creamy coleslaw. The debate continues to rage on about which is the best, so before that gets ugly, I’ll press on with my musings.
Between all this eating and craving of lakes region grub, there was some time made for mini-golf. I once scored a hole-in-one which cancels out the “odd” lost ball. I recall a carved wooden sign out front that when looked at a certain way was not G friendly (it’s long since been torn down). A quarter mile down the road was one of the two local places for Go-Karting. Anyone will tell you that driving before you have a license is a joy of joys, whether it be a Golf Kart or a moped on private property. Go-Karts were best because you could race someone like your Dad or Uncle who had a real license and win.
One final thought that pops into my now giddy mind is of the old water park – Surf Coaster. Freedom on a suspended waterslide is about the most liberating experience I can remember. No seatbelt, no speed limit, just you and your shoulders against what we fondly re-named the Surf Toaster (a little cliché, it is now business toast).
Can you tell I am much more into the live (I live to eat) part of the state slogan. Did I mention the diners and eat at home BBQ nights? Slogan or not, freedom to me is a fresh lobster roll on a midsummer’s eve in New Hampshire by the lake.
About the Author: Jeff Shoer: Having traveled the earth in search of a happy stomach. Jeff continues to follow a path to food loving destinations. He hopes to walk off the calories en-route to more great tastes.