Franklin Countys First News

Boiling Off: The Story of Sugaring in Maine, a review by Devaney, Doak & Garrett

Boiling Off: The Story of Sugaring in Maine by John Hodgkins

TEMPLE - We could all use a bit of reassurance now and again that something in this world is just as it should be. That amiable task is thoroughly fulfilled in Boiling Off: The Story of Sugaring in Maine. We would hope that a book called Boiling Off would reflect the distilling process in its own character and happily it does. A good story embodies, as does a good maple syrup, a careful blending of its ingredients so that the result is greater than the sum of its constituent parts. John Hodgkins' new book is well edited down to its essentials, resulting in a rich narrative full of the subtle flavors of well cured history and anecdote. It perfectly reflects the smooth and unified character of its subject, pure maple syrup.

Hodgkins' narrative strategy involves interspersing topical personal memoir alongside a broader account of the topic, so that the two strands inform each other. A Temple resident, the author has used the same dual narrative principle he employs in Boiling Off to good effect in both his previous books. A Soldier's Son painted a vivid picture of World War II era Temple which illuminated both the experience of being a boy growing up on the home front in rural Maine, and his Father's time on the front. Our Game Was Baseball was an engaging account of the author's colorful career playing semi pro ball for the Temple Maine Townies while also providing insight into the world of semi pro baseball in Maine at large.

Boiling Off, his new book, is filled to the brim with local interest. Much of the book is set in Franklin County and deals with familiar places and people. As you may know Maine maple sugaring has its roots right here in Farmington. The first pure maple syrup producer is broadly considered to be Stephen Titcomb, who began sugaring in 1781 at the same site as The Titcomb Hill farm which still produces maple syrup today.

In Boiling Off Hodgkins invokes a world rich in both general and personal history. With over fifty years of maple sugaring under his own belt, along with two turns at the helm of The Maine Maple Producers Association, he had his hands on changing technologies, the establishment of Maine Maple Sunday, and all the pleasures and vicissitudes involved in his part time vocation. Whether writing of the onset of plastic tubing, Leader Special Evaporators, or the ins and outs of grading, Hodgkins writes with a winning combination of experience and research, humorous self deprecation and hard won authority.

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2 Responses »

  1. Just finished reading John's excellent book. A wonderful history lesson and education on the topic of making maple syrup.

  2. John's dry humor and ever present perseverance make
    for great reading and a fine contribution to the history of Temple

    Great review, thank you Kenny Brechner