New England Cooking
New England Cooking Uses the Best Ingredients
New England cooking combines the traditions of British regional cookery with that of the Native Americans. The result is a distinctive
melding of Old and New World cuisines using the freshest ingredients - and a dash of Oriental spices. As the base for many settler expeditions into
the interior, New England has also had a strong influence on cooking throughout much of the United States.
Native Americans used many staple ingredients unknown to European colonists. These
include corn (maize), beans, yams, pumpkins and maple syrup. Bartholomew Gosnold's expeditions
to the also found
bountiful fruit and game:
'Strawberries, red and white ... much bigger than ours; rasberries, gooseberries, whortleberries,
and such an incredible store of vines ...; also many excellent springs of sweet water, and a great
standing lake of fresh water. Here are also in this Island, great store of deer ...'
The sea also provided its own harvest for the early settlers. Cape Cod was
named after the teeming cod found in the area - salted codfish became a staple food. As well as
cod, haddock, striped bass, bluefish, flounder and shellfish were common. Clams remain a
New England speciality. Softshell clams may be served as "steamers" as an appetizer or light meal.
Hardshell clams, or quahogs, can be served raw. And, of course, New England clam chowder is
Accordingt to Brooke Dojny (The New England Cookbook):
"By the mid- to late-1600s, the basic elements of an emerging regional
cuisine were in place.
"More than the imported foodstuffs, it was the ingredients indigenous to the
New World that defined the character of this cuisine. In addition to the all-important corn,
a colonial larder might include beans, cranberries, blueberries, wild plums, pumpkins and
other squash, maple sugar and syrup, wild mushrooms, wild turkeys and other game birds,
venison, oysters, hard- and soft-shell clams, eels, cod and other finfish, and (eventually)
She goes on to describe their cooking style:
"Cooking in big cast-iron cooking pots slung over the hearth, colonial
housewives borrowed directly from Native Americans such dishes as corn and bean succotash,
cornmeal cakes and stewed cranberries." They also adapted some of the traditional British
recipes they had brought with them for boiled met dinners and custard desserts, "created
new versions of seafood chowders, and invented dishes such as New World beans, slow-cooked
with maple over damped-down coals. They roasted wild turkeys and other game birds, and they
baked their beloved English pies - filling them with maple-sweetened pumpkin and stewed
Influences on New England Cooking
New England cuisine also carries memories of Portuguese cooking, derived from 19th
immigrants who crossed the Atlantic from the Azores and to join the
great fishing fleets of Nantucket. Not surprisingly, tunafish appears on many restaurant menus in Cape
Cod and the islands. Like the British, Portuguese immigrants also had a taste for Indian spices such as
cinnamon, ginger, mace and cloves. These flavours are still found in many dishes.
New England Cookery Books
There are many books on New England cooking with widely different interpretations of what this means.
Brooke Dojny's The New England Cookbook is a modern classic, covering
350 recipes. She is an experienced cookery writer, a New England native and has an engaging and
authoritative writing style.
The children's author Tasha Tudor maintained a 19th century way of life in Vermont, and her
illustrated collection of recipes, The Tasha Tudor Cookbook: Recipes and Reminiscences from Corgi Cottage
reflect an old-fashioned way of cooking. Many of her recipes have been handed down from
generation to generation. Her soups such as 'potato and onion', 'pea soup', cream of mushroom',
draw strongly on British traditional cooking - although the potato was unknown in Britain until
New England was settled.
For a completely authentic 19th century cookbook you can not do
better than Fannie Farmer's 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book available as a facsimile
In complete contrast, The Black Dog Summer on the Vineyard Cookbook,
draws on recipes from the Black Dog Tavern on Martha's Vineyard. This restaurant has been
feeding huge numbers of residents and summer visitors since 1971, with their breakfasts gaining
cult status. Their recipes are clearly based on New England traditions and make use of plentiful
local ingredients in delicious and imaginative combinations. Where else would you eat broccoli in an
omelet? In fact, their advice on how to cook omelets is second-to-none. Other breakfast favorites
include Eggs in the Grass (poached eggs over asparagus with hollandaise sauce), "M" Go
Blue (banana and blueberry pancakes), and Huey, Louie, Andouille (pepper, onion, and
andouille sausage omelet).
Main meal dishes include: Quahog Chowder, Crunchy Pecan Chicken with Lemon Sauce, Caramelized Scallops with Smoked Chili Cream, and Seared Tuna on Watercress Salad.
For desserts try Fudge Bottom Pie, Blueberry Pudding with Lemon Sauce, and Black Dog Ginger Cookies.
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