Course Spotlight: Culture and Cuisine of New England, Spring 2018

 

Looking to add another course to your spring schedule? You might consider Netta Davis’s course, Culture and Cuisine of New England. Without fail, this course receives rave reviews from all who take it — from students who have lived in the region for years to those who moved here just for school.

This course explores the unique culinary culture of the New England region.  From history and anthropology, to archaeology, material culture, and folklore, this course employs an interdisciplinary approach to learning about regional dishes, their origins and meanings, the extraordinary people who developed New England cookery and food industries, and the intimate relationship between the land, (and sea!), the inhabitants and the foodways that evolved.

The encounters between Native peoples and Europeans brought forth succotash and “indian” pudding, (but maybe not Butterball Turkeys); Immigrant communities added linguica sausage to clambakes and Cranberry Chutney to the Thanksgiving table.  From Yankee Pot Roast and Eel Pie to Moxie, Maple Syrup and Sam Adams, New England culture and cuisine is a rich and tasty subject for study.

This class will include a weekend field trip, likely to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center in Connecticut. The last class visited there and feasted on Wampanoag chef Sherry Pocknett’s superb cuisine in the museum cafe.  (You can read Gastronomy alumnus Michael Floreak’s article about the food and beverage program at the museum here.) Weather permitting, we may try our hands at making sea salt from Maine seawater as well.

Culture and Cuisine of New England (MET ML 638) will meet on Thursday evenings from 6 to 8:45 PM, beginning on January 18. Registration information can be found on this page.

Images: Fisherman, Brewery labels, Cranberries, Boston Cooking School MagazineMoxie, Succotash

Conference Abstracts Workshop & Potluck

Interested in submitting a proposal for the 2018 ASFS conference? Not sure how to group papers into panel presentations? Curious about where you can submit your academic work? How does one write a proposal, anyway??

Join us for a potluck while we work on writing our conference abstracts on Wednesday, Dec. 13th from 6pm – 8pm in Fuller 109.

Please email Barbara at brotger@bu.edu if you plan on attending.

Congratulations to the Julia Child Award Recipients

The Julia Child Award goes to a matriculating student in the Master of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy program who has been nominated by their instructor for outstanding academic work. The following students were recently recognized for their work done in the Spring 2017 semester. Congratulations to everyone!

Ashlyn Frassinelli

My name is Ashlyn and I’m in my third semester of the Gastronomy program. Before coming to Boston, I studied journalism at George Washington University. When I’m not in class I work as a graduate assistant in event coordinating for the Food and Wine program and I bartend at Lamplighter Brewing in Cambridge.
My winning piece was my final project from last spring’s Food and Memoir class. Titled “Family,” the piece incorporated four standalone pieces of memoir writing I had written over the semester into a coherent longform piece. I wrote about a number of different relationships in my life, as well as my (ever-evolving) relationship with food. I am so honored to have won this award — I especially want to thank Professor Pepper for nominating me and for encouraging me to challenge myself.

Karl Koch

Karl is in his second year as a Gastronomy student after working as a school garden educator in Tucson, AZ, and is particularly interested in the intersection of food systems and social justice. He was cited for his essay for Dr. Messer’s U.S. Food Policy & Culture course on rights-based approaches to food policy and discussing sometimes-competing narratives of the “food movement.”

Cookbooks & History: Carrot Soup

Students in Cookbooks and History (MET ML 630), directed by Dr. Karen Metheny, researched and recreated a historical recipe to bring in to class. They were instructed to note the challenges they faced, as well as define why they selected their recipe and why it appealed to them. Here is the thirteenth essay in this series, written by Sami Vitale.

My name is Samantha Vitale and I am a second year Gastronomy student. For one of my classes this semester, Cookbooks and History with Karen Metheny, we were given the task to recreate a historical recipe. The recipe I choose was from American Cookery by Amelia Simmons. Amelia Simmons is deemed the American Orphan and helped to create the initial American cuisine. The version of American Cookery I chose was from 1798. As I was looking through the cookbook I found mostly meats, preserves, pies, and puddings. As I am a vegetarian, I chose to recreate a pudding recipe and because I am poor I tried to find a recipe with ingredients that I already had in my fridge. The recipe that I ended up choosing was “Carrot Pudding”. The recipe is as follows: A coffee cup full of boiled and strained carrots, 5 eggs, 2 ounces of sugar and butter each, cinnamon and rosewater to your taste, baked in a deep dish without paste. (1798: 28)

As you can see, there are no instructions regarding time or temperature which was the hardest part of recreating this recipe. I was not sure how long to boil the carrots for (until soft or until they were mush) or how long to keep the pudding in the oven. I also was unsure of the temperature that the oven was supposed to be or the temperature of the pudding when ready to eat. I ended up leaving the carrots to boil uncovered and about a half an hour in, decided to cover the pot with a lid because the water was hot but not boiling. I let this process happen for about an hour.

I then strained the carrots and added in the sugar, butter, cinnamon, eggs, and mixed them together. I put this pudding mixture (smelled rather good actually) into a Pyrex dish and stuck it in the oven.

The usual baking temperature for 75% of everything you bake is 350 degrees which is what I went with. Since the pudding has eggs in it, the pudding needed to fully cook in the oven which took about 30 minutes.

This pudding smelled so delicious and it was not the smell I was expecting. I let the pudding cool for about 15 minutes and tasted it. OMG was this carrot pudding good! Not at all what I was expecting it to taste like. I was imaging from just reading the recipe that it was going to be an interesting flavor, however, it was buttery and sweet, pretty eggy, and the carrots added a nice texture to the dish. It seems like this is a good dish for either breakfast, the season of fall, or Thanksgiving.

I then let it cool for another 30 minutes to see if the pudding would taste better at room temperature. Carrot pudding tastes much better hot or warm, room temperature was just chewy and I did not taste the undertones of cinnamon. Overall, the experience of recreating a recipe from over 200 years ago was easier than I thought, especially because the recipe was simple and had limited ingredients. I honestly did not think that I was going to enjoy carrot pudding as much as I did and I am happy that I tried something new.


Works Cited

Simmons, Amelia. 1798. American Cookery or the Art of Dressing Viand, Fish, Poultry, and Vegetables and the Best Modes of Baking Pastes Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards and Preserves and All Kinds of Cakes from the Imperial Plum to Plain Cake: Adapted to the Country and All Grades of Life. Hartford: Simeon Butler.

Cookbooks & History: Custard Pudding

Students in Cookbooks and History (MET ML 630), directed by Dr. Karen Metheny, researched and recreated a historical recipe to bring in to class. They were instructed to note the challenges they faced, as well as define why they selected their recipe and why it appealed to them. Here is the twelfth essay in this series, written by Danielle Tarpley.

I selected the Custard Pudding recipe from Lydia Maria Child’s The Frugal Housewife (1830: 65) because the nature of this book appealed to me. In my household, I am the modern, frugal housewife. Much like myself, Child came from a middle-class family with moderate income. Even after she was married, her family relied heavily her income. It was necessary for Child to be frugal. I would describe my role as financial manager and waste monitor. I despise food waste and The Frugal Housewife has many admirable time- and money-saving tips. The author writes, “Time is money” (Child 1830:3). Truer words I have never heard.

The book also appealed to my pastry passion. I love how full fat milk products give body and richness to desserts, especially custards. I was also curious to see how the difference in milk affected the outcome of the dessert. Child suggests using boiled skim milk in this recipe as a substitute for a heavier cream. In the 19th century, it is likely skim milk was similar the whole milk we use today. It is likely 1% milk had significantly less fat that the skim milk used two hundred years ago.

Before moving forward with the project I set up my criteria for picking the recipe:

  • Do not purchase anything for the assignment.
  • Modify recipe as little as possible.
  • Make partner (Aaron) a tasty dessert.

Once I set these parameters, choosing the custard recipe was easy. Not only did I have all of the ingredients in my kitchen, I really love custard. Below is the recipe as it is written in the book:

Custard Puddings.

Custard puddings sufficiently good for common use can be made with five eggs to a quart of milk, sweetened with brown sugar, and spiced with cinnamon or nutmeg, and very little salt. It is well to boil your milk, and set it away till it gets cold. Boiling milk enriches it so much that boiled skim-milk is about as good as new milk. A little cinnamon, or lemon peel or peach leaves, if you do not dislike the taste, boiled in the milk and afterwards strained from it, give a pleasant flavor. Bake fifteen or twenty minutes.

First, I modified the recipe for my home kitchen. I made a half batch because the dessert would only feed two people and I did not want waste. I also did not have brown sugar so I substituted white sugar with a little molasses. Because I used medium-sized eggs, I decided three eggs would be appropriate for the recipe. I then identified the challenges: 1) No oven temperature given; 2) No mix method given; 3) No quantity of sugar given. I bake quite a bit at home, custards included. With my cooking knowledge I created the recipe below.

 

Modified Custard Pudding (1/2x)

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs (medium)
  • ½ qt. milk (1%)
  • ½ c. white sugar
  • 2 tbls. molasses
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Procedure:

  1. Boil milk and cool
  2. Mix all ingredients
  3. Bake for 15-20 min at 325 F

After mixing, I noticed immediately that the batter was very thin, even after boiling the milk to “enrich” it.  Typically, baked custards are cooked in a water bath so they do not overcook. I choose a 325 F temperature because I thought it would be hot enough to cook the custard in 15-20 minutes. This did not happen. After 20 minutes, the batter was barely set. At this point, I raised the temperature of the oven to 375 and baked it for an additional 10-12 minutes. I had a feeling it would over cook and it did.

In the mid-19th century, people’s tastes were probably different then they are today. It is likely middle class families didn’t waste money to prepare well-seasoned dishes. Taste buds were accustomed to less seasoned dishes. Modern American cuisine is very high in sugar, fat and salt. Because our taste is accustomed to high fat, sugar and salt content, it is the reason why I gave this dish a C- grade on flavor, texture and body. The flavor wasn’t terrible. It resembled flan but lacked in sweetness and richness. I felt the custard needed more fat, sugar and perhaps a little more salt. It was also overcooked. Water was leaching out of it the moment it came out of the oven. The overcooked bits were a little chewy and eggy. Once the custard cooled, I served it with preserved strawberries in an attempted in improve the dish.

Because I have formal culinary training, I know what a custard base, cooked and uncooked, should look like. I conclude that this book was meant for an audience with knowledge developed through domestic experience, or perhaps some culinary education; this is suggested by the incomplete instructions, measurements, and quantities. However, on a personal note, had I been living during this time, I would have rather gone without dessert than serve this economical version.


Work Cited:

Child, Lydia Maria. 1830. The Frugal Housewife: Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy. Second ed. Boston: Carter and Hendee.