For your amusement, I’m excerpting a few paragraphs about New England food ways.
….New England’s food ways also owed much to the Christian asceticism of its founders, who were among the earliest Americans to associate plain cooking with piety, and vegetables with virtue. “Let no man make a jest at pumpkins,” wrote Edward Johnson, “for with this fruit the Lord was pleased to feed his people.”
The private diaries of the Puritans commonly expressed a settled hostility to sensual indulgence at table. John Winthrop, after a trip to London, scourged himself for overeating:
I grew drowsy and dull in every good duty; it made me
marvel at myself when I remembered my former alacrity;
I prayed and I wept, yet still I grew more discouraged.
God being merciful unto me, hereby to revive me, at
length I fell to prayer and fasting, pleased God that
hereby I recovered life and comfort, and then I found
plainly that not keeping a strict watch over my appetite,
but feeding more liberally than was meet…the flesh
waxed wanton, and would no longer wear the yoke, but
began to grow jolly and slothful….
…in aesthetic terms, New England’s cuisine was extraordinarily impoverished, particularly by contrast with the cornucopia of culinary riches in the region. The coastal waters of New England teemed with mussels, oysters, lobsters and clams. The rivers were choked with salmon and shad. Wild fowl flourished in abundance. Native delicacies such as glasswort sprouted along the seashore and fiddleheads carpeted the woodlands.
The Puritans showed little interest in these delights except when driven by hunger to consume them. Shellfish was regarded with grave suspicion. Shad roe, a gourmet’s delight, was used as fertilizer. In the first year, John Winthrop complained when he was compelled to eat oysters and wild duck instead of the staples of old England. “My dear wife,” he wrote, “we are here in a paradise, though we have not beef and mutton.”
The East Anglian taste for baking became an important part of culinary customs in New England, and leavened the general austerity of its regional diet. Harriet Beecher Stowe remembered that the “old brick oven was a true Puritan
institution, and backed up the devotional habits of good housewives, by the capital care which he took of whatever was committed to his capacious bosom.” These brick ovens were among the first structures built in Massachusetts. Housewives too poor to own them used baking kettles and primitive reflector ovens.
New England baking took many forms. The ritual Thanksgiving dinner came mainly from the oven — baked turkey, baked squash, baked beans, baked bread and baked pies in vast profusion. The pie, in particular, became a Yankee folk art…..
The austerity of New England’s food ways was softened by its abundance of baked goods. Even so, this culture made a virtue of sensual restraint. For a very long time it preserved a spirit of self denial which was appropriate to a region that Samuel Adams described as “Christian Sparta.” Even in the nineteenth century, the austerity of New England food ways appeared in the image of Brother
Jonathan who stares out at us from his earliest photographs with gaunt body, sallow skin, hollow cheeks, burning eyes and shrunken mouth. To his distrusting cousins, the stereotypical Yankee had a lean and hungry look.