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The 20 Most New Englandy Dishes

Nov/Dec 2015


The 20 Most New Englandy Dishes
15 votes, 3.73 avg. rating (74% score)
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boston baked beansImogene Woolcott was Yankee‘s first food editor and the first mass-media authority on New England cooking. Consider her the Martha Stewart of her day: She anchored daily radio broadcasts over the Yankee Network for First National Stores, wrote her monthly Yankee column, and gave lectures on home economics to women’s groups around the region. If she were alive today, I’m sure she’d have a cooking show on PBS and a blog to go with it.imogene

Her 1939 book, The Yankee Cook Book (Amereon Ltd.), a compilation of 377  recipes collected from the Yankee archives and from cooks around the six states, was in print for decades and is still a primary source for anyone wanting to learn about our regional foodways. That same year, in a Yankee article about the book, she praised its contents as a celebration of “the finest plain cooking in the world” listed the 20 “most typical” New England dishes.

She writes, “I am conscious of the dangers attendant on such a selection. But I am basing the popularity of these dishes on the number of recipes sent in as a result of my daily radio broadcasts over the Yankee Network in Boston. For example, I received 377 recipes for baked Indian pudding—more than for any other one dish. So, naturally, it heads the list.”

And here it is:

  1. Baked Indian pudding
  2. Boston baked beans
  3. Boston brown bread
  4. Parker House rolls
  5. Clam chowder
  6. Johnnycake
  7. Codfish balls
  8. Yankee pot roast
  9. New England salt fish dinner (aka Cape Cod Turkey)
  10. Split-pea soup
  11. Red flannel hash
  12. Fish chowder
  13. Apple pandowdy
  14. Green tomato pickle
  15. Vermont turkey
  16. Cranberry sauce
  17. Pumpkin pie
  18. Coleslaw
  19. Scalloped oysters
  20. Broiled lobster

So what do you think, readers? Does her list stand the test of time? I can think of many dishes I’d like to add, including (Grape-nut pudding, common crackers, quahog fritters, apple pie with cheddar...). Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Amy Traverso


Amy Traverso


Senior lifestyle editor Amy Traverso oversees Yankee's Food and Home & Garden departments and contributes articles to the magazine. Amy book, The Apple Lover's Cookbook (W.W. Norton), won an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) cookbook award for the category American. Follow !

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45 Responses to The 20 Most New Englandy Dishes

  1. Kasey Bielecki April 22, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

    I’m pretty excited about this list. It makes sense to me. I am also super excited about the “Yankee Cookbook” I just picked up an original 1939 copy for 50 cents at a book sale in Gainesville, Florida. It was an amazing find :-)

  2. Roz April 22, 2014 at 5:28 pm #

    Now living in Atlanta after a whole lifetime (60 yrs) in New England and almost all on the list are my favorites .. Yes we could probably add a few more…. And that is why I try to make an annual trip North to munch out on as much of the New England goodies as I can…. And visit as many beaches as I can while visiting friends and relatives.
    I do get Yankee…. as a gift from my nephew and I do not throw them away…. I even have an oldie I came across from July/Aug 2004.
    I remember digging up Quahaugs at low tide so Mom could make Chowda and Stuffies…
    Looking forward to the cookbook…. it will make great gifts for the holiday !!!!

  3. Karl Wolf April 22, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

    I know growing up every Saturday night we had baked beans and hot dogs….but..lobster and clams are right up there with me in regard to a typical NE dinner…however… :-) Indian Pudding at Durgan Park can’t be beat nor strawberry shortcake there….and mother’s rhubarb pie…too hard to decide and I am salivating just thinking of choices….

    • Paul in South Portland April 29, 2015 at 11:49 pm #

      I will have to say we had ‘brown bread’ on our Saturday night dinner of baked beans and hot dogs.

  4. Patricia Bondor April 22, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

    MOST typical? Not by a long shot! Where is Shepherd’s Pie? Where are Whoopie Pies? And lobster is much more commonly boiled than broiled. You got a collection of specialized recipes, but they are not “typical” New England fare. What about deep fried haddock? To be sure, you included some – baked beans, brown bread, Indian pudding, clam chowder, Johnnycake, red flannel hash (what about New England boiled dinner – the precursor to that hash?), Apple pandowdy…you got several, so I’ll give you a “C” for not too bad. BTW, why isn’t Moxie anywhere – or does it have to be a recipe? Moxie float…

    • Amy Traverso April 23, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

      Thanks for your feedback, Patricia! Remember that this list was generated in 1939. There are many dishes that I would add to it if I were making my own list today. But I think it’s interesting to see how our ideas about New England cooking—and what defines it—have evolved since then.

    • Anne Hebert April 23, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

      I could not agree more, Patricia! I have never heard of baked beans being boiled first. You need about 6 to 8 hours of baking in a 300 oven to make a good baked bean. My family uses either pea beans or kidney beans, depending on what is on hand. Also the clam chowder recipe should be soft shell clams, not the hard cherry stones.

      There is a Vermont Turkey, but it only shows how to dry cure. Where is the directions on how to make the turkey with the fixin’s. What about the stuffing?

      I have never had cole slaw the way it is described here. What about the red cabbage and the carrots? Sour cream dressing, um no! Little Mayo, red wine vinegar and a bit of sugar…..yum!

      Where is the old fashioned clam bake?

      The fish chowder without haddock or cod? Pollock, come on, any fisherman and/or lobsterman round these parts knows we used to use it as bait fish. Good lord. I always likes Yankee Magazine and Imogene has long been one of my faves, I have lots of her recipes, but she would never have approved of half of these. I have her recipe for baking beans in a wood stove in the side chimney, now those are some tasty beans!

      • Nancy May 9, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

        I grew up in RI, and we most often used Quahogs steamed and ground to make chowder. OF course , my dad was a shell fisher for many years and the good stuff went to market, Quahogs were cheap and easy and tasty option.

      • Jayne Irish April 29, 2015 at 7:01 pm #

        On the contrary, boiling the beans before baking is a New England tradition. I learned it from my grandmother, and I did it today, although today, I finish them in the slow cooker rather than a slow oven.

        The codfish cakes (instead of the codfish balls) were also authentic. I believe the salt cod was soaked longer than an hour, though. We also had creamed salt cod with hard boiled eggs chopped and added to the sauce. But I never heard of the term Cape Cod Turkey.

    • Kit April 23, 2014 at 7:24 pm #

      Patricia, I thought I was missing New England when I read the 1939 list – but you had to go and mention MOXIE?!?

      #Western Mass

  5. Janet Wilton April 22, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    I would vote for #9. I am hoping it is referring to “Salt Codfish Gravy”. My father was born and raised in Maine and we’d have this delicious dish often for breakfast with boiled potatoes! Talk about a meal to stick to your ribs! I don’t know a single soul who knows what this dish is. They don’t know what they’re missing!

    • Alyssa November 7, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

      I’ve heard of it, and I love it! My grandmother used to use quite a few Depression-era recipes in her everyday cooking, and at least half of those included putting meat or fish in milk gravy–including hot dogs. Codfish (salted or unsalted) in milk gravy over mashed potatoes was always my favorite! Which reminds me that I haven’t had it for awhile…I should make it.

      And don’t worry, I get the exact same blank stares and questioning looks when I mention salmon loaf, another weeknight dinner staple at my house growing up.

  6. Margery Peterson April 22, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

    Lobster, lobster, lobster!!!

  7. Anthony Burelle April 22, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

    yeah I didn’t see the clam fritters, or fried clams

  8. Cathy Borges April 22, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

    Everything on this list I can make for myself now that I live in Tenn. But I sure can’t make Fried Clams here, if you leave New England all you can get are those nasty clam strips.

    • leo g.king April 17, 2015 at 11:36 am #

      @kathy borges,here in west virginia you can’t even get the strips.i used to fill up on fishermans platter at bob’s clam hut in kittery,maine on old rte 1,they could not be beat.

  9. Sheila April 22, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

    Need to add Boiled Dinner and Clam pie.

  10. cheryl April 22, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    clam chowder for one, american chop suey and lobster roll

  11. Jaimefaye April 23, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    Delicious list but seems a little more typical for the coastal communities—-growing up in the landlocked Northeast Kingdom of Vermont the Pot roast–hash–chicken pot pie–etc. were more typical dinners…

    • Amy Traverso April 23, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

      Good point! Thanks for weighing in….

  12. Margaret Breeden April 23, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    Boiled dinner, fried clams and ginger bread are staples missing from your list.

  13. Susan Brooks May 9, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    Your Cape Cod Turkey sounds a lot like my mothers Cream Fin and Haddie. The salted Cod was simmered in the white sauce and that was served over mashed potatoes. A very common Friday supper. Peas were often served on the side.

    • Susan May 13, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

      I was curious about your mother’s recipe. Tried looking it up in Google. Found a slight spelling variation. Creamed Finnan Haddie. Sounds just as delicious!

  14. Sam May 22, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

    What about clam cakes (RI), maple walnut ice cream, and steamers?

  15. Cheryl May 26, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    Wonderful, traditional, always found on our tables for over 60yrs; have to add New England Boiled dinner, Corn Chowda, and Salmon Pea Wiggle… :)

  16. john June 4, 2014 at 3:21 am #

    blueberry slump!

  17. June September 11, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    My English born grandmother and native born mother lived in Maine until grandfather died. They moved to Massachusetts, but brought Maine with them in the form of food in addition to the above mentioned dishes. For instance, baked bean sandwiches, Whoopie Pies, creamed salmon with peas over mashed potatoes, pickled beets, gingerbread, New England boiled dinner, grapenut custard, bread pudding, turnip and carrots mashed together, boiled lobstah, deep dish apple pie and the best turkey stuffing ever!

    • Laurie Connolly April 29, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

      Mine too….now my family hets to eat the oldies…..never mind these gourmet looking dishes…we are New Englanders, best food evah.

  18. J.R. Chase Bruce April 29, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

    I would surely trade out the Oysters for fried clams!!!!

  19. Sue April 29, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

    Not a single blueberry muffin or pie or anything blueberry. I’m really surprised at that.

  20. David Levesque April 29, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    I guess I must be pretty lucky I can get great Fried Whole Belly Clams here in Las Vegas at a little place called “Lazy Joe’s” Google it, its just a little place in a strip mall…

  21. Joseph Ferreira April 29, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

    Lobster rolls would be one of the additions, not to mention a New England clambake, just to cover the prep time spectrum! Jordan Marsh’s blueberry muffins? Boston Cream Pie? Broiled or Baked Stuffed Schrod?

  22. Sonya Campbell April 29, 2015 at 8:42 pm #

    Salmon Pea Wiggle over Saltine crackers, Dried Beef Gravy over baked potato-ALWAYS served with home canned stewed tomatoes, and not that awful gravy made with cornstarch either, the good white sauce, made with real buuter and flour roux, then add raw milk, yum! My Grandmother King’s Macaroni and Cheese, made with sharp cheddar, and cooked like you would a custard in the oven, non of that melted cheese on top of the stove junk! Also ALWAYS served with the home canned stewed tomatoes and Johnny Cake. Lastly, Tansy Cake-don’t find many people who know it, but it’s a one egg cake with chopped Tansy stirred in, then a warm pour over sauce made with Maple Syrup, Heaven!!

    • Kit Clark April 30, 2015 at 6:47 am #

      Sonya has the right list! Your list looks like one from Maine. I grew up in Vermont where we didn’t have such expensive tastes! The Indian Pudding and Baked beans for sure. I remember my mom making everything on Sonya’s list! Sheppard’s Pie and Scalloped potatoes were common meals. Maple Syrup pie,homemade applesauce and mayonnaise cake have been around for centuries but I get what you are saying about the time period.

  23. Richard April 30, 2015 at 5:33 am #

    Sounded like a copy of our eating schedule. However, we also had grilled cheese sandwiches with Maple Syrup on them, and home made ice cream – I especially liked the grapenut one. Also, homemade donuts and the donut holes fried in fat in a shallow pan on the stove, then sprinkled with granulated sugar on some of them!
    Thank you printing this list and the fond memories of those days.

  24. Diane Carol Pinkham April 30, 2015 at 10:00 am #

    I see several others have mentioned things that I would have, except Chinese Pie. Google it, there is quite a history lesson there in Wikipedia.

  25. LtTawnyMadison April 30, 2015 at 11:21 am #

    I’m a Southern native who moved to NH 10 years ago. Is this a list of dishes which originated in New England rather than things that are only generally served in New England? Some of these are common around the country (coleslaw, pumpkin pie, split pea soup and several others), but maybe they originated in New England.

    There are some things that are commonly served here that are nowhere in the South, such as steak tips, which we had never heard of before moving here! Whoopie Pies are also a big deal here unlike the South.

    • Brenda Darroch April 30, 2015 at 11:47 am #

      The author — who created this list in 1939 — gave a brief explanation or the list: “I am basing the popularity of these dishes on the number of recipes sent in as a result of my daily radio broadcasts over the Yankee Network in Boston. For example, I received 377 recipes for baked Indian pudding—more than for any other one dish. So, naturally, it heads the list.”

  26. Martha April 30, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    This is awesome! I grew up on most of these and a few recipes have been lost with the loss of grandparents. Although quite a few of these dishes are still regulars in our family. So fun and I will look forward to seeing if I can re-create Nana’s Baked Beans.

  27. Laocoon April 30, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

    Apple pie rocks with coffee ice cream on it!

  28. Barbara Kruse April 30, 2015 at 1:51 pm #

    You opened a whole can of memories….great selection but I also concur with many of the additions. Part of me never left N H.

  29. diane conti May 3, 2015 at 6:45 pm #

    Hey Guys….you forgot WHOOPIE PIES !!!!!

  30. diane conti May 3, 2015 at 6:48 pm #

    Oh yes ….and Fried Clams – WITH THE BELLIES !

  31. Nancy Macklem May 5, 2015 at 12:55 am #

    Fried dough with maple syrup.

  32. Mary reynolds September 10, 2015 at 11:12 am #

    Great list! But let’s not forget the venerable lobster roll or fried clams!

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