Regional cookbooks have become very popular in recent years—so popular that some may ask whether there are any regions left for American culinary artists to rediscover. THE PLIMOTH PLANTATION NEW ENGLAND COOKERY BOOK presents a new method for rediscovering American foodways by bringing New England’s colonial cooking into the 1990’s.
Malabar Hornblower, a food writer and former columnist for the Boston GLOBE, has collaborated with the staff of the Plimoth Plantation to illustrate how colonial ideas of good eating have affected New England’s regional cuisine. Plimoth Plantation is an outdoor museum where costumed staff members re-create all of the activities of a 1627 Massachusetts village. One of the daily activities in the exhibition houses is maintaining a cooking fire, and staff members actually prepare their own meals throughout the day. Some of the recipes presented here are the result of the museum’s efforts to show how villagers at Plimoth Plantation survived on foodstuffs they raised themselves.
An introductory essay by James W. Baker, the director of museum operations, presents readers with the historical background for understanding how the people of Plimoth adapted their seventeenth century tastes to the food supplies available in New England. Staff members have translated seventeenth century cooking instructions into twentieth century terminology, providing examples of colonial and Native American dishes. The balance of the book is divided into types of foods (breads, soups, seafood, meat and poultry, vegetables, desserts), and includes recipes introduced by Italian, Portuguese, and other ethnic immigrants to New England. The bibliography provides an excellent resource for investigating the history of New England foodways and the index will assist those who are looking for specific recipes.
As Hornblower states in her introduction, recipes and tastes have changed, but “in some ways, we’ve come full circle.” Today’s health-conscious cooks will find wholesome and tasty legacies in the recipes of the Pilgrims and their Wampanoag neighbors.