Immigrating to Fish
You might not, at first, think of Brunswick as a fishing town, but the history of fishing here runs long and deep. Between Merrymeeting Bay, the Androscoggin River, and all of the coastline, not to mention freshwater ponds, there have always been plenty of opportunities to go fishing for a variety of species. MCFA co-hosted a recent program celebrating the area’s fisheries with the Pejobscot History Center to mark the opening of a collaborative exhibit, “Hook, Line and Sinker.”
The event, “Immigrating to Fish: An Italian Family’s Journey’s to New England and Maine,”
featured local fisherman Tom Santaguida, who has been fishing for over 50 years for species
ranging from squid to groundfish and swordfish to lobster and crab. Tom recounted the story of
his family immigrating from Italy to a coastal community in New Jersey where he grew up
among Portuguese, Asian and Norwegian fishing families who each had their own preference
for certain species and techniques of preparing them. Along with instruction from his Italian
grandmother, it was here that he learned how to appreciate and cook a wide variety of
species, many of which might not be familiar to the average seafood consumer. He applied this
to a cooking business he ran for several years called “Cucina Pescatore” (Fisherman’s Kitchen).
Tom tied his past to the present by describing the number of people from other parts of the
world that he now meets as a part of his charter business where he takes people out to see
what it is like to lobster along the coast.
A curious audience stayed on to ask many questions and enjoy samples of Maine Coast
Monkfish Stew, produced in collaboration with Hurricane Soups in Greene, Maine using locally
harvested monkfish. The proceeds of the Stew benefit MCFA’s Fishermen Feeding Mainers
program which purchases fish from fishermen and donates it to schools, food banks, and
community groups. We have been able to donate over 400,000 meals in the past year and a half.
Tom is an amazing storyteller and graciously spent his evening sharing his stories with the
audience who had a unique opportunity to learn more about Maine’s fishing heritage.