Every state and every region has its own signature foods. Everyone has a favorite, stop-by-on-the-way-home diner, because they just serve the best Clam Chowder or Apple Pie. History reveals much about a country and its mosaic of characters and traditions; food is the sensory expression of each region. It is seasoned by history, necessity, resourcefulness and creativity. In a sense, food is a map.
Food is an extraordinary topic for conversation, also. Want to steer the conversation away from politics? Begin talking about mom’s beef stew. The very evocation of food and flavor sparks the imagination into such a delightful realm.
Here are 10 foods (in no particular order) you will find in nearly every list of Best New England Foods, and for good reason. Do you have a favorite?
Clam Chowder – The original chowder was not a fish soup. Early settlers made a salt pork and biscuits chowder, a tradition common among ship crews.
Cheddar – Vermont Cheddar, thank you very much!
Lobster rolls – Maine comes to mind, but nearly all coastal regions where lobster is found have their own version, from Connecticut to the Canadian Maritimes. No arguing now. Variations on a theme can be so delicious.
Baked Beans – The oldest known written reference is found in an 1832 publication titled, “American Frugal Housewife.”
Fish & Chips – Yes, this one crossed the Atlantic from the British Isles, but New England truly made it its own. It is not nearly as ancient as we imagine. The first Fish & Chips was served in the 1870’s. Pictured above: Rock Art Beer Battered Haddock, or Fish & Chips à la 158 Main.
Apple Pie – Early apple pies did not contain sugar, as this commodity was far to expensive for most households.
Pot Roast – We owe this one to early settlers. Nothing like a good pot roast to salvage rough cuts of meat and feed a large family.
Apple Cider Doughnuts – Early settlers only found unpalatable crabapples growing wild in New England. Apple seeds were brought from England to begin planting orchards. Cider doughnuts, it seems, are the inevitable celebratory creation.
Pumpkin pie – The first known published recipe was titled, “Pompkin Pudding.” It appeared in 1796, in the cookbook, “American Cookery.”
Maple Candy – Even better placed on a spoon and slowly lowered into a warm cup of coffee.