In colonial times in North America, lobsters, which were too plentiful, were used to fertilize fields and bait hooks for fishing. These scampering water creatures were also served to children, prisoners and indentured servants. Now they’re pricey, in high demand and a draw for abundant tourist bucks. oo many annual cruises on Holland America’s six-year-old, very well-appointed Amsterdam. Our stops were at Newport, Gloucester and Bar Harbor in the U.S. and on to Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, the Ssaguaney River, Quebec City and we terminated the sophisticated city of Montreal.
We had many taste treats during our travels, then we adventured into restaurants at our different ports and learned what their menus had to offer. We also learned what the natives of this part of the world were dealt as to agriculture, sharings with original settlers with their earlier English and French influences. The southern areas have the best lobster catch in Canada, and the Gulf Stream brings great fish variety to the entire area.
When they arrived in the new world they discovered such new foods as corn, maple syrup, local game, squash, cranberries and sweet potatoes. However, it had to be “hearty, filling and preservable against inhospitable weather.” Thrift and “Necessity is the mother of invention” were overriding credos of that day.
The American Indians taught the Colonists how to tap the maple tree for its sap and boil it down to what the Indians called “sweetwater. The “sugarmakers” insert spouts into the maple trees (a grove of which is called a “sugarbush”) and hang buckets from them to catch the sap. Quite simply, maple syrup is sap that has been boiled until much of the water has evaporated and the sap is thick and syrupy.
Spices filtered into New England from all parts of the world as explorers “stopped off.” Cooking, itself, centered almostly entirely on bread, beans, fish and salt meat. The British habit of overcooking came with them, also. They ate a lot of salt pork, because they didn’t have money to fatten cattle with grain, which they needed to eat directly. Their pigs foraged for themselves.
The above-ground vegetable growing season was short and so were leafy green vegetables. Hardy cold-weather root vegetables were in abundance. “Root cellars” kept these for food throughout the long winters. Veggies most common were: corn, potatoes, beets, carrots and parsnips. Squashes were pumpkin and butternut.
Plentiful salmon, scallops, halibut, haddock, tuna, mussels, and other seafood pulled straight from the sea just hours before.
Boston Baked Beans: pea beans slow-simmered with spices, pork and molasses
Lobster – plain, in cream sauces, over pasta or casserole. Sometimes garlic is added to drawn butter
Boston Brown Bread: a baked or steamed classic bread made from rye flour, yellow cornmeal, graham flour, molasses, buttermilk, seasonings and raisins
Fried Mush: solidified Hasty Pudding
Grunt (aka slump): Stewed, sweetened berries topped with spoonfuls of biscuit dough and simmered until dough becomes a dumpling
Harvard Beets: Sliced beets with vinegar in sweetened cornstarch-thickened sauce.
Hasty Pudding: Porridge-like mixture of cornmeal and boiling water, often served with maple syrup or molasses
Cornmeal, organic, stone-ground flour
Chowder – a stew of fish or seafood, salt pork, onions and potatoes in a tomato, milk or clear broth.
Cranberry Compote: Cranberries, juice and brown sugar, simmered and used as a sauce.
Johnycake: Also jonnycake, Journet Cake, a thin pancake of cornmeal, salt and boiling water
Pandowdy: Baked dessert of berries or apples topped with sugar, spices, butter and biscuit crust, baked
Pumpkin Sauce: Pumpkin stewed with fat, spices, sugar and vinegar
Quahogs: Large, flavorful hardshell clams
Red Flannel Hash: Chopped and fried corned beef, potatoes and beets, sometimes topped with a fried egg
Succotash: Mixture of beans and corn
As one travels more northward in the region, these dishes came more into play, partly due to the French influence:
Wild chanterelle and porcini mushrooms
Dried fish, – cod, haddock or halibut salted and dried for preservation
Rappie pie – a dish made from raw, grated potatoes pressed to remove liquid and meat.
Salted onions: green onions are preserved in salted and used in cooking during the winters
Malpeque oysters – recognized as one of the world’s finest oysters, cultivated off of Prince Edward Island
Fish cakes made from salt cod and potatoes
Cipaille – a pie with meat and vegetables
Poutine – French Fries with cheese curds and gravy
Pot-en-Pot – a dish with seafood and potatoes
Maple pie – a crumb-topped maple-flavored pie
Maple curry sauce – with chicken