Cooking by the Book in New England
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
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Table of Contents
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List of Illustrations
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Where does a reader or cook turn to get a good taste of traditional New England cuisine? Up till now, those exploring the region’s culinary past have found mostly adaptations of historic recipes. Usually highlighted within this narrow repertoire are dishes that were developed during the colonial revival of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
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In our study of New England food history we have relied on the work of many scholars, curators, and librarians. First among those to whom we are indebted is the staff of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, which has again guided us unerringly through the Library’s invaluable trove of collections and services. We have also drawn on the resources of...
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Cookbooks are big business. Titles in the America’s Test Kitchen series regularly show up on the best-seller lists, and The Joy of Cooking, a fixture in American middle-class households for two generations, could still become a best seller in its 2006, seventy-fifth-anniversary incarnation. Anyone who has ever worked in a public library,...
Part 1 - Cooks and Cookbooks
Chapter One: Culinarily Colonized: Cookbooks in Colonial New England
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During the colonial era, New England cooks in a position to make use of printed recipe sources had to rely on English cookbooks, since, as noted in the Introduction, the first American cookbook was not published until 1796. In the seventeenth century, the most popular of these was Gervase Markham’s The English Hus-wife, first published in 1615 and frequently reprinted until late in the century.
Chapter Two: The Young Republic: Amelia Simmons, Lydia Maria Child, Mrs. Lee
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Among the slimmest volumes on the bookshelf of early British and American cookbooks is American Cookery, published in Hartford in 1796, as noted the first cookbook written by an American author and the first with a distinct focus on American cooking. 1 American Cookery was an immediate commercial success, with a second edition appearing in Albany later the same year.
Chapter Three: Cuisine and Culture at Midcentury: Sarah Josepha Hale and Catharine Beecher
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Our next writer was what her century might have called a “true New Englander.” What they would have meant was that Sarah Josepha Hale was white, Protestant, middle class, and from a rural (in her case New Hampshire) farming family. It would only add to her pedigree that the patriarch of her family had fought in the American War for Independence.
Chapter Four: The Civil War and After: Community Cookbooks, Colonial Revival, Domestic Science
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By now we can see that industrialization and consolidation of resources, on the one hand, and nostalgia for a past that was imagined as disciplined, pastoral, and more humanly cohesive, on the other, were the warp and weft of the fabric of New England life in the nineteenth century and as such formed the social circumstances out of which the idea of a particular and noteworthy New England style of cooking emerged.
Part 2 - Recipes and Commentaries
Chapter Five: Pottages, Chowders, Soups, and Stews
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It could be said that New England history began when English met Indian, so we think it is fitting to begin this collection of recipes with a dish that, in its New England form, is a mixture of Indian and English influences. Most commonly known as pottage, it is the progenitor of the baked beans and chowders for which New England is still famous. At the outset, pottage was no more than a pot of boiled meat, fowl, or fish, grain, seasoning, and whatever vegetables were on hand.
Chapter Six: Fish and Shellfish
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In China, fish have always been highly esteemed, not only nutritionally and gastronomically but also culturally, thought to symbolize such desirable conditions as wealth, freedom, and marital harmony and such virtues as perseverance and courage. Mostly because of guilt by association—in Europe with Lenten deprivation, in North America with the scarcities of the earliest years of English settlement, as well as with Indian “savagery”—Anglo-American attitudes toward fish have been more wary, as indicated by the fact that the English word “fishy” means worthy of suspicion.
Chapter Seven: Fowl, Wild and Tame
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Fowl is fair in our time. While Americans still eat more beef than chicken, for reasons of both health and convenience the little bird is pecking out a larger market share each year—chicken consumption increased by 70 percent in the last quarter of the twentieth century, at the same time that annual beef consumption fell by twenty five pounds per capita. Yet the Anglo-American taste for fowl is much older than the current craze.
Chapter Eight: Game and Meat
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Touring England in the 1690s, Henri Misson was only one of many continental travelers who had “always heard that [the English] were great flesh-eaters” and who found that this was indeed true. While the people he observed would only “nibble a few crumbs” of bread, meat they would “chew . . . by whole mouthfuls. . . . Among the middling sort of people they have ten or twelve sorts of common meats which infallibly take their turns at their tables.”
Chapter Nine: Pie Crusts
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Pie crust’s continental antecedents can be found in medieval courtly kitchens, but our story begins more recently and among lower, if aspiring, social groups—the English gentry and middle class—where forms of aristocratic display such as elaborate paste sculptures decorating the tops and sides of pies were simplified and reserved for special occasions. Nevertheless, English pies could be large, requiring many pounds of flour and butter or lard.
Chapter Ten: Pies—Mixed, Meat, Mince
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Savory foods baked in crusts, such as steak and kidney pie, pork pie, and Cornish pasties, have a long and continuous history as British favorites but are virtually unknown to the average American. We may occasionally pop a frozen, manufactured beef or chicken pot pie into the oven for dinner, but those soupy repasts crowned with industrial-strength pie dough hold little resemblance to the rich, substantial, handmade pies of old England.
Chapter Eleven: Pies—Fowl, Fish
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From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries in both England and New England, pies were built around domestic fowl and game birds, most notably chickens, geese, ducks, and pigeons but also turkeys, partridges, peacocks (although these were abandoned in the seventeenth century as too tough), and quail. More exotic fare such as swans and bustards were particularly fashionable in the 1690s but fell out of favor thereafter. Diners were as apt to encounter fowls baked into pies as they were to meet them roasted or fricasseed.
Chapter Twelve: Pies—Vegetable, Fruit, Custard
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We begin a sequence of three chapters filled primarily with sweet dishes by recalling that, as noted in Chapter 1, in early modern England such dishes constituted a separate department of food preparation, “confectionery,” which was more prestigious than “cookery,” the making of all other types of food. The ladies of the aristocracy and gentlewomen of the gentry participated directly in confectionery activities, while leaving cookery for the most part to their servants.
Chapter Thirteen: Puddings
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Many of us, we suspect, grew up as we did with the idea that when cake, pie, or ice cream was not to be had for dessert, pudding was the ho-hum fallback offering for that part of the menu. All those little dishes filled with chocolate-, vanilla-, or tapioca-flavored glop that were always lying in wait at the end of the school lunch line. The only thing worse—even more boring in taste and creepy in consistency—was Jell-O.
Chapter Fourteen: Breads and Cakes
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Caroline Howard King, reminiscing about the foods of her Salem, Massachusetts, childhood in the 1820s and ’30s, recounts that “pancakes also were great favorites, made of batter, sometimes raised with new-fallen snow, and eaten with sugar and wine or lemon. Then for tea, we had flapjacks, which were large griddle cakes often made with rice, which were cut in four quarters and eaten with powdered sugar and cinnamon. And pandowdy, a dark brown mixture of baked bread and apples, rich with spices, and sweetened with molasses.
Notes to Part 1
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Sources for Part 2
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Art Credits for Part 2
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Page Count: 488
Publication Year: 2011