This past spring, I attended an open house for Friends of the Thomas Crane Public Library. I love Quincy’s library system and think supporting the library is a great way to be a philanthropist — even if only on a small scale.
I’ve been a Friend of the library for years, but it was my first time attending this type of event. And I’m so glad I did. I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Maria Olia, who writes about travel in the Boston area and New England in general.
Maria’s current book, New England’s Colonial Inns & Taverns, is a great resource and timely too. For those of you who believe in ghosts and are looking forward to Halloween, she lists some haunted historic inns in her book.
But don’t be scared! We’re going to resume this ongoing series with the 14th interview of You Pick Six and learn some more about Maria.
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What brings you peace every day?
My long walks around Crystal Lake in Newton bring me peace every morning. I love walking outside every day, in all weather. Sometimes I walk with a friend, sometimes I listen to classical music. Walking helps set my mind for the rest of the day. And sometimes walking is the best part of my day!
What is a favorite quote?
One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain- ” In New York they ask, ‘How much money does he have?’ In Philadelphia they ask, ‘Who were his parents?’ In Boston, they ask, How much does he know.'” Of course, historically, Boston was the intellectual impetus for the American Revolution. And I think Twain’s quote is still apt- we are “smaat!”
What is a favorite childhood food memory?
I’m a child of the 70’s so one of my fondest food memories was having cheese fondue.The idea of sharing food from a communal pot was totally hippy. It was very exotic for the time- the little enamel pot filled with melted swiss cheese and the long forks with the color coded handles – I always picked red. In our house, my Mom, my Dad, my little brother and I would eat fondue sitting on the floor huddled around the coffee table in the family room which just added to its “specialness.”
What is the best meal you ever had and where was it?
I eat out constantly in Boston doing research for my travel books and I have had some amazing meals along the way. But my most memorable meal was 10 years ago in Tuscany. My husband and I, along with our three sons, our daughter and my parents toured the Castello di Brolio vineyard. Afterwards we had the tasting menu at the vineyard’s small restaurant. I don’t remember exactly what I had for each course, but it was an authentic Italian meal outside on a perfect summer day in a magnificent setting and with all the people I love.
How did food become an important part of your life?
Ever since I was a teenager, I was a foodie. One summer I made a project of cooking meals from around the world. I would do the research and make things like saurbraten with spaetzle, or Venezuelan beef tamales in banana leaves. One year, for my high school French class final report I made a croquembouche- a tower of cream- filled choux pastry balls decorated in caramel sugar. Naturally, dining is a huge part of my travel writing. You can plan entire days around the restautrants, bakeries and food markets that I write about in my guidebooks.
Tell me about your book.
My newest book is New England’s Colonial Inns & Taverns (Globe Pequot). It’s a travel book that profiles 29 historic New England inns and taverns that have a connection to the colonial era; places that date before the year 1800. Some of the places are well known, like the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge or the Union Oyster House in Boston. Others are less common, like Mount Hope Farm in Bristol, Rhode Island and Eben House in Provincetown.
What is unique about this book is that I delve deeply into the colonial history of each place; how and when they were established and the tavern or inn’s relationship to their community through the years. And for these places we are talking centuries! I have also written about what today’s traveler would expect; the types of rooms or amenities at the inns and the dining experiences found at the taverns. There really is something for every taste; romantic country inns of course, but also high-end boutique inns, elegant townhouse inns and rustic chic- inns. Some taverns are all about Yankee pot roast and chicken pot pie, but there are several that are fine dining destinations with excellent wine lists.
Finally, the book has nearly 100 color photographs throughout- what I like to refer to as “Instagram-worthy” photos. There is a two-page spread of cows in a misty meadow, a full page photograph of a bicycle with a wicker basket of hydrangeas propped against a country fence and a full page collage of seafood dishes from Maine’s York Harbor Inn that looks like it should be in a food magazine. The book is a large format paperback but it has the feel of a coffee table book. It’s visually very appealing. I think that we are very lucky to be living in this corner of the world!
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Thank you so much for participating Maria!
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Photos: Provided by Maria Olia.