Marjorie Standish reviews pages of her first cookbook, “Cooking Down East,” after they rolled off the presses at the Kennebec Journal’s commercial print shop in November 1968. Maine Sunday Telegram archives

GARDINER — Not many people alive today can claim an acquaintance with Marjorie Standish, but the longtime Gardiner resident looms large in Maine’s history and in its kitchens.

Standish, who would have turned 115 this month, taught generations of Maine residents to cook via the Maine Sunday Telegram cooking column she wrote for 25 years and the two iconic cookbooks she penned: “Cooking Down East,” and “Keep Cooking — the Maine Way.”

Now, the Gardiner Public Library is inviting her longtime fans to a Marjorie Standish Potluck starting at 11:30 a.m., Saturday, June 24, for which they can bring a dish to share made from their favorite Marjorie Standish recipe.

Jean Parkin-Clunie is one of those fans, and she plans to attend.

“I am missing my second mom’s 93rd birthday and had been searching for something for us to do together,” Parkin-Clunie said.

When she saw the event posted on the Gardiner Public Library’s Facebook page, she thought it was the perfect thing for them to do.


Dawn Thistle holds copies of cookbooks written by Marjorie Standish Tuesday at Gardiner Public Library. The library director organized a potluck to take place Saturday to celebrate the legacy of the famed home cook who lived in Gardiner for three decades. Ashley Allen/Kennebec Journal

For Parkin-Clunie, the appeal of Standish’s standards has not dimmed; she still uses recipes from the copy of “Cooking Down East” she received more than four decades ago.

“I was married in 1980, and I received (it) at a bridal shower,” she said. “Her recipe for Melt-in-Your-Mouth Blueberry Cake was one my mother used, and I continue to use it to this day.”

She’s also fond of Standish’s hot fudge recipe.

Dawn Thistle, now the director of the Gardiner Public Library, recounted the details of Standish’s life in a blog post she wrote in 2016 announcing the first Marjorie Standish Potluck.

Marjorie Standish’s cookbooks “Cooking Down East” and “Keep Cooking — the Maine Way,” right, are seen Tuesday at Gardiner Public Library alongside an article about the famed home cook in Maine Women magazine. The library will host a potluck Saturday featuring Standish’s recipes. Ashley Allen/Kennebec Journal

Marjorie Holbrook Standish was born June 21, 1908, in Brunswick. She graduated in 1931 from the Farmington Normal School, now the University of Maine at Farmington, with a degree in home economics. In 1936, she married George Standish, who was from Gardiner, and they lived in a house on Chestnut Street for 30 years before they moved to Augusta. Standish taught home economics and became a home service advisor and coordinator for Central Maine Power.

Her first newspaper column appeared in 1948. In it, she shared recipes she collected and tested. Twenty years later, “Cooking Down East” was printed by the Kennebec Journal’s commercial print shop and was sent to Boston for binding. Its bold pumpkin yellow cover still stands out. Four years after that, “Keep Cooking — The Maine Way,” also known as the green one, was published.


Over time, she published other cookbooks on seafood and chowders, soups and stews.

Standish was 90 when she died in 1998. She and her husband, George, who died in 1994, are both buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Gardiner.

Thistle said that first potluck was very impromptu, held on the Gardiner Common when Gardiner had a farmers’ market there. She’d been aware of Standish and her books — her grandfather had copies when he lived in Maine — but she hadn’t realized until then that Standish had spent much of her adult life in Gardiner. About 18 people turned out with dishes to share, and it was, Thistle said, just lovely.

Earlier this year, Thistle wrote a piece on Standish for Maine Women magazine and announced this year’s potluck.

“We’ve been hearing wonderful stories,” Thistle said. “People come and talk about how they knew her, how she taught them to cook. It stirs up wonderful, charming memories.”

Thistle said a woman from Falmouth called who wants to bring a friend with her to this year’s potluck, and a woman from Boston plans to come and bring a friend. Some people have lamented the books were so well-used they had to toss them out.


The Gardiner Public Library will host a potluck Saturday celebrating the famed home cook Marjorie Standish near what would have been her 115th birthday. Guests are encouraged to bring and share their favorite of her recipes. If weather permits, the potluck will be held at the Reading Garden, seen Tuesday. Otherwise, it will take place inside the 152 Water St. building. Ashley Allen/Kennebec Journal

The books are still in print and available to a new generation of cooks.

To take part, show up with a dish. No registration is required. The library will put up tables and tablecloths and provide plates, bowls, cutlery and cups and provide water and iced tea, and signs for cooks to identify their dishes.

The weather will dictate if the event is held outside or inside the library, which is located at 152 Water St.

Parkin-Clunie has already decided she’ll be bringing the blueberry cake, but she is still deciding what second dish she’ll make for the event.

Thistle said she hopes this will become an annual event.

“She’s a Maine treasure,” Thistle said. “Her reach was far.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: