WEST FARMINGTON — Cleaning houses for a living, Megan Brown sees some high-end stoves, the kind she expects cost a cool $10,000. She admires them, scrubs them and mops and vacuums around them. Thoroughly. “Super OCD,” she says of herself. Then she heads home to her own tidy home on the western side of Farmington, where her very basic Whirlpool stove is waiting for her.

If she has stove envy, it doesn’t show. She knows what she can do with that modest Whirlpool. She’s produced everything from spectacular wedding cakes to a prize-winning challah (second place in yeast breads at the Farmington Fair this September). This week, she’ll be using it to produce 250 cookies, cupcakes or some other confection in an effort to claim a title in the new Maine’s Best Bakers competition sponsored by the Hemophilia Alliance of Maine.

Brown hasn’t figured out exactly what she’ll enter in Saturday’s contest yet – possibilities include Thai ice tea cupcakes, tiny opera cakes, or maybe something inspired by a Disney movie, like the oatmeal cream pie from “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” The only certainty is that it has to be special, because Megan Brown wants to win.

The prize money is only $250, too small to do much but go in the kitty for a freezer or maybe a second fridge to safely store completed wedding cakes, but the title of champion would be a bonus to her fledgling company, Meg’s Sweets, based out of this kitchen since she obtained her kitchen license from the state in February.

Megan Brown talks with her son, Wyatt, after picking him up from school.

At 32, Brown has been a single mother since her son, Wyatt, was 9 months old. He’s 10 now, and thanks to her network of family and friends, has never been in day care. Shortly after she and Wyatt’s father broke up, Brown took herself down to Madore’s convenience store in Farmington and asked for a job. Her duties there included everything from ringing customers up to stuffing Madore’s finger sandwiches with egg salad or making mini-Italians. “Hundreds of ham Italians,” she says. On Fridays, she started bringing in things she’d made “to give away,” and the seeds of a future dream were born.


Her baking habit is tied to both her grandmothers by different threads. Her grandmother Ruth Hall, who gave her a cookbook every year for her birthday, made mysteriously good bran muffins. Though she took the recipe with her when she died in 2008, those muffins left an impression. “I’ve literally never forgotten what they taste like,” Brown says.

Megan Brown rolls out dough to make an apple-raspberry slab pie at her home in Farmington last week.

Her grandmother Agnes Marin (“Aggie”), who died in 2012, was a single mother of six who made a living cooking at the local jail. “They say people used to go to jail so they could get fed by Aggie,” Brown says. Brown and Wyatt have lived in her former house for about a year. “She was known for smelling good and wearing sexy lingerie,” Brown says. Aggie had a cake-decorating business on the side, although her granddaughter recalls with a slight wrinkle of her nose, that Aggie’s cakes tended to be iced with overly sweet frosting. Her chicken divan, however, was something special.

Megan Brown distributes apples on dough for pie. Brown began a housecleaning business about five years ago. Now she’s contemplating a baking business, having baked in earnest since high school.

“She used to cook right here,” Brown says, looking around the small, neat space. “This kitchen is outdated,” Brown continues. “But having it be my gram’s …” her voice trails off. There’s a framed set of obituaries for both grandmothers on the wall nearby. An artful pile of framed signs on the kitchen table make food-themed declarations, among them “People who love to eat are always the best people” and “This is my happy place.”


In high school Brown began baking in earnest, developing a liking for ambitious recipes. “I like things that are five pages long.” She’d read them over and over, take notes and show up at Madore’s with dishes like fresh baklava to hand out. “People think that’s hard but it’s really not. More like tedious to make.” Brown developed a reputation in the Farmington area for being the friend who always shows up with baked goods. She might not have a lot of money, but if you did her a favor she would pay you in cupcakes. Or maybe soup. Recently her car guy requested, and received, a batch of pasta e fagioli in exchange for a repair. “I can’t really go anywhere without bringing food.”

The cleaning business began about five years ago, when a friend watched her scrubbing a bathroom, seemingly for pleasure (“I do like the gratification!” Brown says) and suggested she start a side business. Working at Madore’s was a good introduction to potential house-cleaning clients. Word spreads “if you’re reliable and you are friendly,” she says. In the summer she might clean 15 houses a week, often bringing baked treats with her (Allen’s Brandy Ring Dings anyone?).

Writer Bill Roorbach is a Farmington client, and enough of a fan of Meg’s Sweets to have offered his place in Scarborough for her to do prep work before the baking competition this Saturday. The stack of empty egg cartons in the kitchen attests to her clients’ loyalty to their cleaning lady. “I never have to buy eggs,” Brown says. “All my clients have chickens.”


In the past few years Brown has had a handful of baking jobs, including at the Homestead restaurant downtown, and running the Snack Shack at Prescott Field for another restaurateur. She’s made wedding cakes, teaming up with a florist friend to find brides and grooms looking for a reliable baker. She can get $375 for a wedding cake, but when the ingredients have been paid for and her labor has been accounted for, the profit margin is slim. She grew up with her customer base; she knows she can’t jack up her prices. “People around here aren’t going to pay $500 for a wedding cake,” Brown says. “They are going to go to Wal-Mart.”

Brown dabs butter onto her slab pie.

Her move to get a license was motivated in part by the aftermath of a bad breakup; it left her with a resolve to carve out something for herself, something that is just hers, a baking business she would run independently. She’s still trying to decide on labels and packaging and how exactly she’ll approach the business. Will she try to launch an ongoing bake sale out of Aggie’s house? She’s not sure. But her desire and her need to bake have only heightened in recent years.

“I think it was my therapy, so to speak,” she said. “Because I’m not like, a feelings kind of girl.”

Baking (and eating) her feelings is her “bad habit,” and she figures, it’s a lot better than some. If she wants to devote her spare time to dreaming up homemade versions of Little Debbie cakes, made with all-natural ingredients, what’s wrong with that? Sugar isn’t great for you, but she’d rather bake away her sorrows than drink them away.

“I feel like I was born an old lady,” she said, laughing. “It’s been an ongoing joke about my dating life.”

Brown always imagined herself with a “bunch of kids,” never a single mother living in her grandmother’s old house with a small boy, a bearded dragon and a betta fish. She might have gone to some sort of baking school if things had been different, but not college, she says. In all likelihood, she would have left Farmington. “I always wanted to travel,” she said, rolling out pie crust on a wedge of counter space, her forehead nearly touching the cupboard. “I think I would have been out of here.”

But instead there is Wyatt, and she is not complaining, not one bit. She knows some put a label on her: “Poor-Meg-the-single-mom,” and she’d prefer they save their pity for someone else. “I hate that stigma.”

She instituted “date nights” for them when Wyatt was very small, quality time together. Maybe they have Nerf gun wars or sneak Chinese food into the movies. Or watch “The Great British Baking Show.” Wyatt is her loyal companion and best taster, although he does grouse over some of her fancier spins on pie, like a recent slab version topped with parboiled rosettes of apple slices. She races to finish the pie she’s making, a more traditional apple and raspberry, and realizes she doesn’t quite have time to put it in the oven before driving to pick him up. It’s OK; the kitchen still smells like the ginger molasses cookies she made earlier. She likes her kitchen to smell like cookies.

Brown works in her home kitchen, which belonged to her grandmother before her. “This kitchen is outdated,” Brown says. “But having it be my gram’s …”

Driving through town to pick up her fifth-grader from school, Brown points to various landmarks. There’s her hair salon, where a box of Meg’s Sweets might be exchanged for a trim of her femme-punk ‘do; shaved on the back and one side, then falling in a soft wave down to her shoulders. She turns the wheel, the tattoo on her right wrist of a whisk, a spoon and a rolling pin flashing into view as she points out the site of a former home owned by a town eccentric. Once she saw him naked in his yard, but for an adult diaper “and a pair of Crocs.” He died recently and his house was subsequently razed. “Crazy Joel,” Brown says fondly.

She knows this town, and it knows her, knows her whoopie pies, her baklava, her blueberry crumb cake with the cream cheese inside. It’s a cozy circle.

But come Saturday, she hopes a few more Mainers will know what she can produce from flour, sugar and the simplest of stoves.

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