Thursday, February 11, 2010

Marjorie Mosser and Good Maine Cooking

I can’t say I have ever seen a Queen Anne Revival recipe. Usually food doesn’t seem to adopt identifiable stylistic elements the way architecture, clothing, furnishings and art and music do. However, styles and ideas do affect food conservatively—that is, usually delayed and not very powerfully.

Down East Publishing Company, the same who do the magazine Down East, are reprinting Marjorie Mosser's Good Maine Cooking. Mosser was the secretary and niece of historical novelist Kenneth Roberts, who was actively writing in the mid-20th century. Mosser’s book was reprinted in 1974 with additions to (and no deletions from) the original 1939. I am writing the foreword to the new reprint of the 1974.

I looked over the contents of the earlier book, and the notion of Arts and Crafts kept floating into my mind.

Abby Carroll has identified the whiff of Colonial Revival in the New England food of the late 19th century during her research for her dissertation for Northeastern. When I think about it, I recall that tables in the late 18th century were set with the same symmetrical sensibility as the Georgian houses that housed them. It is not as if someone said, in the Martha Stewart Living of the 1700s, “Today we are going to set our table in the latest Georgian style.” Rather it is in the air, and drifts down gently, exerting the mildest but persistent influence.

So in Mosser’s book there are lots of good old Maine baked beans, handcrafted donuts, brown bread, salt codfish dinners and all kinds of solid home produced food by the craftswoman of the kitchen. Memories of Roberts’ boyhood a riddled with the smells of home cooking, and the pages of the books are full of the kinds of things he ate growing up. It seems all Arts and Craftsy to me.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sandy et al,
    I enjoyed this post. James Deetz's _In Small Things Forgotten_ fascinatingly relates the evolution of American meals from 1-pot to tripartite affairs to the evolution of Georgian architecture which often features tripartite facades (see p.170) In my Culture and Cuisine of the U.S. class at BU, I had my students analyze these facades to better understand what was taking place "on the plate." That was a lot of fun!
    By the way, I did my doctoral work at BU--my master's was from Northeastern.
    So happy for this blog!
    Abby Carroll