I recently stumbled across a TV show called “The Lost Kitchen” on Magnolia Network. (That’s the cable network started by Chip and Joanna Gaines of “Fixer Upper” fame.) It’s a documentary-style series about a seriously farm-to-fork restaurant (also called The Lost Kitchen) in the tiny town of Freedom, Maine. The restaurant’s owner, Erin French, is a self-taught chef who grew up in Freedom working at her dad’s diner and who sources ingredients from nearby farms, fields, woods and waters. The restaurant is open for only a few months every summer, and getting a reservation is crazily difficult. A few years ago, French created a reservation-by-lottery system, requiring would-be diners to send their request by postcard in the hopes that Freedom’s tiny post office, which was threatened with closure, would benefit. Now, 22,000 postcards a year pour into Freedom from all over the country. French and her all-female staff select postcards at random to decide who gets to dine at the restaurant.
This year, French decided to give the postcard system a little tweak: Before you can send in a postcard, you have to make a donation to PFAS Emergency Relief Fund, which helps Maine farmers whose fields have been harmed by per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals.” Once you make a donation, you’ll receive instructions for submitting a request by postcard for a dinner reservation. You’ll also be entered into a drawing to win dinner for two and a two-night stay in one of the cabins on the property at The Lost Kitchen.
I know Maine is a loooong way from Sacramento, but I’ve already made my donation and sent in my postcard. If you’re interested in doing the same, go here.
I also encourage you to check out French’s TV show, her cookbook, “The Lost Kitchen: Recipes and a Good Life Found in Freedom, Maine” and her gripping memoir, “Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story,” in which she writes about her unconventional route to culinary stardom. Part “Wild,” part “Eat, Pray, Love,” the book is going to be made into a movie by a major Hollywood producer.