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New England Cuisine | Only in New England

New England Cuisine | Only in New England
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Welcome to New England, home of culinary creativity … and more than a few oddities.

Seafood We never met a seafood we didn’t like—or weren’t willing to batter-dip, fry, and serve with a gallon of tartar sauce. We also like to serve our seafood in rolls—or “buns,” as they call them in the Midwest, where they think the idea is more than a little wacky. Let them laugh—at least we don’t put our food on sticks. DON'T MISS: The Ten Best Lobster Rolls in New England!
Photo/Art by Mark Brewer
Seafood
We never met a seafood we didn’t like—or weren’t willing to batter-dip, fry, and serve with a gallon of tartar sauce. We also like to serve our seafood in rolls—or “buns,” as they call them in the Midwest, where they think the idea is more than a little wacky. Let them laugh—at least we don’t put our food on sticks.

DON’T MISS: The Ten Best Lobster Rolls in New England!

Baked Beans The hallmark of New England cuisine is the baked bean—what does that tell you? At one time, eating beans every Saturday night was practically a religious obligation, despite their tendency to produce “windiness,” as the old-timers called it. There were, of course, denominational differences: kidney beans versus navy beans, ham versus hot dogs, and debates over whether to sweeten with molasses or maple syrup. Needless to say, these aren’t the discussions they’re having at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. DON'T MISS: Our Favorite Recipes for Baked Beans!
Photo/Art by Mark Brewer
Baked Beans

The hallmark of New England cuisine is the baked bean—what does that tell you? At one time, eating beans every Saturday night was practically a religious obligation, despite their tendency to produce “windiness,” as the old-timers called it. There were, of course, denominational differences: kidney beans versus navy beans, ham versus hot dogs, and debates over whether to sweeten with molasses or maple syrup. Needless to say, these aren’t the discussions they’re having at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

DON’T MISS: Our Favorite Recipes for Baked Beans!

LobsterIn times past, New Englanders used lobster as fertilizer or fed it to servants and prisoners because, let’s face it, the average lobster could win a “Least Edible-Looking Food on the Planet” contest. These days, high-brow Boston restaurants serve lobster out of the shell, generally with a reduction of Tasmanian raspberry glaze. But real Yankees expect to work at their lobster, extracting every single morsel down to the last leg. And we prefer to buy our lobster at fine-dining establishments with the word “shack” or “hut” in the name. DON'T MISS: The Best Lobster Shacks in New England!
Photo/Art by Mark Brewer
Lobster
In times past, New Englanders used lobster as fertilizer or fed it to servants and prisoners because, let’s face it, the average lobster could win a “Least Edible-Looking Food on the Planet” contest. These days, high-brow Boston restaurants serve lobster out of the shell, generally with a reduction of Tasmanian raspberry glaze. But real Yankees expect to work at their lobster, extracting every single morsel down to the last leg. And we prefer to buy our lobster at fine-dining establishments with the word “shack” or “hut” in the name.

DON’T MISS: The Best Lobster Shacks in New England!

Brown EggsOur parents were told that “brown eggs are local eggs, and local eggs are fresh.” Some of us still believe that, to the chagrin of California White and Dutch Bantam hens, habitual white-layers. Brown eggs, on the other hand, come from Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire, and Plymouth Rock hens. We rest our case. DON'T MISS: Are Brown Eggs Local?
Photo/Art by Mark Brewer
Brown Eggs
Our parents were told that “brown eggs are local eggs, and local eggs are fresh.” Some of us still believe that, to the chagrin of California White and Dutch Bantam hens, habitual white-layers. Brown eggs, on the other hand, come from Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire, and Plymouth Rock hens. We rest our case.

DON’T MISS: Are Brown Eggs Local?

Brown Bread in a CanHow to explain bread that comes in a can, gets cooked in a can, has the texture of a sponge soaked in molasses, and is served with beans? We can’t. If you don’t get it, you don’t. And you’re probably not from around here. DON'T MISS: Brown Bread in a Can
Photo/Art by Mark Brewer
Brown Bread in a Can
How to explain bread that comes in a can, gets cooked in a can, has the texture of a sponge soaked in molasses, and is served with beans? We can’t. If you don’t get it, you don’t. And you’re probably not from around here.

DON’T MISS: Brown Bread in a Can!

MoxieThere’s no explaining our passion for Moxie to folks from away. New England’s own soda (or “tonic,” for those just north of Boston), Moxie is Coca-Cola for grownups—less sweet and a little more bitter than its Southern cousin, just like us. (Bear in mind, at one time the most popular drink in New England was “switchel,” a concoction of water, vinegar, ginger, and honey, which tastes about as good as you’d expect.)
Photo/Art by Mark Brewer
Moxie
There’s no explaining our passion for Moxie to folks from away. New England’s own soda (or “tonic,” for those just north of Boston), Moxie is Coca-Cola for grownups—less sweet and a little more bitter than its Southern cousin, just like us. (Bear in mind, at one time the most popular drink in New England was “switchel,” a concoction of water, vinegar, ginger, and honey, which tastes about as good as you’d expect.)
Maple SyrupIf you want to give a Yankee apoplexy, smother his or her pancakes with generic “table” syrup, which generally has the consistency of 40-weight motor oil and tastes about the same. We abide only 100% maple syrup and scoff at concoctions that boast a walloping “2% genuine maple syrup.” We’ll put maple syrup in just about anything that calls for sweetening—and a few things that don’t.
Photo/Art by Mark Brewer
Maple Syrup
If you want to give a Yankee apoplexy, smother his or her pancakes with generic “table” syrup, which generally has the consistency of 40-weight motor oil and tastes about the same. We abide only 100% maple syrup and scoff at concoctions that boast a walloping “2% genuine maple syrup.” We’ll put maple syrup in just about anything that calls for sweetening—and a few things that don’t.
ChowderWhat do you do if you have a lot of dairy and seafood? Make chowder, which comes from the Latin for “here’s what we caught today.” That generally means clams, fish, and assorted seafood, though we might use lobster for fancy, or corn if it’s the end of the month. The one thing you can’t put in chowder is tomatoes. So-called Manhattan clam chowder is an aberration, not really chowder at all. People who think it is also commit other transgressions, such as pronouncing the “r” at the end of the word.
Photo/Art by Mark Brewer
Chowder
What do you do if you have a lot of dairy and seafood? Make chowder, which comes from the Latin for “here’s what we caught today.” That generally means clams, fish, and assorted seafood, though we might use lobster for fancy, or corn if it’s the end of the month. The one thing you can’t put in chowder is tomatoes. So-called Manhattan clam chowder is an aberration, not really chowder at all. People who think it is also commit other transgressions, such as pronouncing the “r” at the end of the word.
Spice AvoidersBasically, real Yankees don’t do spices. Our Puritan ancestors had two guiding principles when it came to food: nothing with strong flavors or spices. That explains why our mothers boiled vegetables long enough to remove any harmful nutrients. It also explains why the average spice rack in New England contains herbs so ancient that they’re indistinguishable from dried grass clippings. The strongest spice we use is a little pepper, and ketchup is our primary sauce. Spice Avoiders
Basically, real Yankees don’t do spices. Our Puritan ancestors had two guiding principles when it came to food: nothing with strong flavors or spices. That explains why our mothers boiled vegetables long enough to remove any harmful nutrients. It also explains why the average spice rack in New England contains herbs so ancient that they’re indistinguishable from dried grass clippings. The strongest spice we use is a little pepper, and ketchup is our primary sauce.
Ice CreamIce cream is at the top of the Yankee food pyramid. We eat ice cream year-round, even in the dead of winter—mostly chocolate and vanilla, although a few fans will venture into more exotic flavors, like strawberry. And we mean ice cream, not some misbegotten substitute made of organic non-GMO verified vegan soy extract that never got close enough to a cow to be stepped on by it. Don’t get us started on frozen yogurt.
Photo/Art by Mark Brewer
Ice Cream
Ice cream is at the top of the Yankee food pyramid. We eat ice cream year-round, even in the dead of winter—mostly chocolate and vanilla, although a few fans will venture into more exotic flavors, like strawberry. And we mean ice cream, not some misbegotten substitute made of organic non-GMO verified vegan soy extract that never got close enough to a cow to be stepped on by it. Don’t get us started on frozen yogurt.
Boiled DinnerHere’s a mystery: The classic New England dinner consists of highly salted meat, cabbage, and root vegetables, prepared in a way that removes any trace of flavor. So why do we love it? Because it’s cheap and easy. And the next day, you can grind it up, fry it, and serve it for breakfast with a couple of eggs. Even the leftovers work hard in New England. Boiled Dinner
Here’s a mystery: The classic New England dinner consists of highly salted meat, cabbage, and root vegetables, prepared in a way that removes any trace of flavor. So why do we love it? Because it’s cheap and easy. And the next day, you can grind it up, fry it, and serve it for breakfast with a couple of eggs. Even the leftovers work hard in New England.
Ken Sheldon

Author:

Ken Sheldon

Biography:

Ken Sheldon was a pre-med art major at the University of New Hampshire. The medical schools of America were not amused. After college, he worked in a clinic for migrant farmworkers in California, where he learned to speak Spanish poorly, sang old union songs, and once gave César Chavez a cholera shot. He went on to become a writer, editor, cartoonist, actor, novelist, singer/songwriter, playwright, and humorist. His humor column “Only in New England” appears in every issue of Yankee Magazine. He performs as Fred Marple from the town of Frost Heaves, NH, and writes suspense fiction as Michael Manley.

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11 Responses to New England Cuisine | Only in New England

  1. Jnet July 10, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    Where are the fluffernutters?????

  2. rick parker July 10, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

    now you have gone and done it ! eggs lets start here , fresh eggs at the store yummy the ones labeled egglands best come from chickens , 3 to a cage and are fed food that is labeled no chemicals added , i bet there is some in there . store eggs are most likely over a month old buy the time you see them . all eggs are washed before they are sold to you after washing they get a squirt of disinfectant to eliminate any germs from the chickens . if you want fresh eggs go see a farmer , i bet the eggs will taste and look different . seafood , lobsters come in any price range on the atlantic coast most lobsters (lubsta’s ) you can buy from $5 -$10 a pound , now in south dakota you can pay around $20 a pound for a small one -$30 a pound for a large one over 5 lbs .. steamah’s and budda , steamed clams around $9 a pound , but all you’re buying is shells . so i like mine fried .crabs are a waste of time . scallops i get mine from a fishmonger $22 a pound

  3. Norman Paul July 10, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

    A properly prepared New England Boiled Dinner is very flavorful. Especially the broth, which is full of vitamins etc.. Best meat to use, daisy roll ham.

    • Richard Le Maire July 11, 2014 at 10:37 am #

      Yah! Well try getting a Daisy Ham in Palm Springs. I sent for a couple once. More expensive to ship than lobsta from a fish monga. corned beef, bottom round roast for pot roast, minced meat, etc. Are “seasonal”. We used to have NEBD in August if we wanted it. The price of beautiful weather.
      My subscription to Yankee keeps my feet on the ground. NewEnglandas ROCK!

  4. Donna Gray July 11, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    My favorite: New England clam chowder, Corn on the cob, 1-steamed lobster, Fried Chicken leg & thigh, and Steamed Clams, plus all the fixings and beer Do they still have those shindigs? As I remember, they were beginning to be too expensive to be sponsored by different organizations and still be profitable.
    .

  5. Richard Le Maire July 11, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    My NEBB are in demand for parties. Same old recipe –molasses, brown sugar and definitely salt pork and a small onion in the middle baked for years in a 100 + year old brown and white. I really believe the age of the pot over years of flavors seeping in brings the best. Rarely have enough for beans and eggs or a bean sandwich.

    During the Great Depression when the school nurse asked, “What did you have for breakfast boys and girls?”
    “A bean sangwiitch” beat out Quiche!!

    Oh don’t forget dried mustard–“helps with digestion”

  6. Richard Le Maire July 11, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    Shouldn’t that be B and M on the label?

  7. Abigail's Mommy January 18, 2015 at 4:04 pm #

    You forgot beef stew. Without tomatoes of course.

  8. Patricia A. Murphy February 10, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

    Ok. Now you’ve gone and done it. You’ve facilitated my discovery of Ken Sheldon. Yes, I’m late to the party, but my mother always said I was born late. I’ve obviously put off my renewal subscription to Yankee for too long. What a terrific diversion from watching the grandchildren that was. Thank you, Ken! You brought me home.

  9. Martha Durfee July 14, 2015 at 6:36 pm #

    In western Mass we have ” frosts” not frappe so?

  10. Keith July 14, 2015 at 10:53 pm #

    Here in New Hampshire you can find baked beans offered at breakfast. I thought it odd when I first moved here from Connecticut, but now I order them in place of home fries (it’s healthier). Outside of here and Maine, I’ve not seen them offered for that meal.

    And, oh yeah, you left out that they need to be thick enough to walk on, none of that runny stuff.

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