Continuing on in New England with Clementine Paddleford who is collecting recipes and stories for her classic cookbook, How America Eats (1960). She spent 12 years collecting, and the cookbook charms with her delightful tales of the places she went, and cooks she met. Links to recipes below each story.
One more New England story tomorrow, and it’s a good one!
All text below from How America Eats.
It was in Marblehead that I went calling on the Samuel Chamberlains, yes, that Samuel who is the famous photographer and writer, his wife Narcissa co-author, collector of recipes. It was the Chamberlains who gave me this Spite House Fish Chowder, a dish of high standing in Marblehead.
When I visited the Chamberlains they had just completed a check-up of what’s cooking in the United States. Mrs. Chamberlain had culled through hundreds of recipes to choose fifty-four she considered most typical. These they have used in their illustrated American cooking calendar edited by pretty daughter Narcisse.
Mrs. Chamberlain told me that she considers American cooking today under three divisions, the regional, the foreign, and the new. Heirloom recipes are the basic building blocks in our modern cuisine. It is estimated that two-thirds of all our recipes hinge back to old favorites of two types; the regional dish that grew up with the country based on products at hand; and the foreign, the international recipes which came to America with the immigrants from every corner of the world.
The other third of our cooking is strictly today’s, making use of the new products-the little Rock Cornish hen of recent development, the time-saving ready mixes, the instants, the quick frozens. Modern meal planners want the quick and easy, but with the plus of their own distinctive touches. Women have great need, in this automatic world, to express themselves creatively.
FROM colonial days when Connecticut was playfully named “The Wooden Nutmeg State,” it has been famed for herbs and spices. Today none of them are phonies as were the early imitations fashioned of wood in the shape of nutmegs, soaked in extract of the real thing and sold by the Yankee peddlers.
It was my good fortune to spend a day in Medford at “Saltacres,” the home of the late Rosetta Clarkson, known then as the state’s outstanding herbalist. Herb lovers from everywhere have gone there to visit at one time or another to see the greenhouses, the demonstration garden, rosemary cottage, and Mrs. Clarkson’s collection of hoary herbals dating back to the fourteenth century.
Rosetta Clarkson was an English teacher who made herbs her hobby and started an herbal renaissance in the United States. The herbs of grandmother’s time were neglected, “yarb” cookery virtually forgotten, when Rosetta planted a city lot to herbs and savory seeds. A green enchantment grew. One amateur gardener after another fell under its spicy spell. Today, herb gardens are springing up everywhere.
Recipe: BEEF À LA MODE
With memories of marjoram, of basil, and of dill tingling the tongue, I munched my way through the Nutmeg State right up to Simsbury near the Massachusetts line, there to enjoy an exhibition of culinary masterpieces by an artist with food, the late Mrs. J. Kell Brandon, before her marriage Dorothea Helt of Boston and Pinehurst.
I can close my eyes and still see that picture luncheon-a pastel in pinks.
And when the dish was ready–the rich brown of the baked chickens contrasting so pleasantly with the rosy pink of ham. And then the rice was ready-shell pink, each grain separate. What finer color scheme, the rice banked around the sauce-laved birds, a silver tray for a picture frame. It was a dish as romantic in its conception as the Pastorale of Corot.
Picture dishes came regularly from Dorothea’s kitchen but never fussed over, no filigree work with the parsnips, no cutting of carrot cameos. This was everyday food, perfectly prepared and presented with an eye for color effect. Pink color schemes were Mrs. Brandon’s delight. Pink, she told me, has a special affinity with the fine old house in which she lived.
This was a strong old house of pink-brown stone from a local quarry, built in 1850, one year in the building. It stood well back from College Highway just across the street from that historical landmark, the Congregational Church, the white steeple to be seen for miles away.
On this summer day the luncheon table was moved to the screened terrace opening through floor-to-ceiling windows from the library. And beyond I could see King Phillip Mountain going up and up. The tablecloth was white and pink with a touch of blue to match the garden flowers. Background for the setting was the pink-brown stone of the house. Luncheon appeared, pink the accent color. The food was planned as always around the specialties of the area–young broilers for example, and in peach time the local peaches, in fall the apples. “And my baked apples with strawberries are one of the best things we do,” Mrs. Brandon told me. “We use the Cortland apples, cored but never stuffed, just a sprinkle of sugar in the cavity, then baked slowly. Serve just warm, sauced with frozen strawberries defrosted to room temperature.”
Pink again: a ball of ice cream with a brandied peach and over the ice cream this raspberry sauce. Defrost package frozen raspberries, then heat. Press through sieve to remove seeds; add I teaspoon unflavored gelatin, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons port wine and chill in the refrigerator until serving time.