Saltwater Foodways
Home About Us . . . FHN editor, regular contributors . . . Museum Directory Calendar of Events . . . future events in the field of food history. Editor's Notebook
Historic Recipes The Debunk House N.A.C.H.O. Yellow Pages
  Back Issues Books by Sandy Oliver  

Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Food
at Sea and Ashore in the Nineteenth Century

Written by the editor of Food History News, Sandy Oliver

The winner of the 1996 Jane Grigson Award for Scholarship in the Julia Child Cookbook Awards, Saltwater Foodways is an exceptional work of regional food history.

Saltwater Foodways

Published by Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic, Connecticut, 1995, ISBN 0-913372-72-2. Hardcover, 442 pp. $39.95; illustrated with 119 photographs and many drawings.

Click here to order 

Readers comment on Saltwater Foodways ...

"Highly recommended. There is nothing else like it—and how rare it is to come across a book of matchless scope and merit." —Alan E. Davidson, Petits Propos Culinaire
"Saltwater Foodways looks like a coffee-table book after steroid treatments...this book should be read by anyone who loves food or history—or both." —Pamela Rollins, Maine Times
"I've never seen a book that more originally combines the functions of a picture gallery, historical survey, and recipe anthology than Sandra Oliver's large beautifully produced Saltwater Foodways..." —Anne Mendleson, Gourmet
"Every now and then a book comes along that is so exceptional that you can't wait to tell our friends to run out and buy it." —Joe Carlin, Food Heritage Press
"All this makes a riveting tale, and no other writer has explored it in such depth. In the fashion of food historians, Oliver is a cautious writer, but she is also a sharp-eyed one, able to coax illuminating insights from the most unpromising source material....this book, which overflows with sprightly New England voices—from the tart to the rambunctious...and the author's own sly Yankee wit) see her asides on the electric bread knife and the current hauteur regarding molded gelatin salads.)" —John Thorne, Simple Cooking

Try a recipe from Saltwater Foodways

Contents by Chapter


The Buckinghams: Saltwater Farming
How one saltwater farm family provided for their sustenance and cooked it on the open hearth at the start of the 19th century.

The Greenmans: Prosperity and Plenty
The prosperous ship builders, merchants, and captain's families of New England's seaport towns cooked on stoves and established the standards for the three squares a day familiar today. Commerce and industry change seasonality, food distribution, and New England's metabolism.

The Burrows Household: Risk and Uncertainty
Who were the Temperance and health food reformers trying to change? Tippler, gambler, and storekeeper Wint Burrows gives us a chance to explore the 19th century roots of our modern concerns with drug abuse and healthy eating.

Eating Forward and Dining Aft
Aboard the deep water merchant and whaling ships of the 19th century were two strikingly different menus and eating habits. This chapter explores the foodways of the fo'cs'le and cabin.

Fishermen's Fare
The fishermen of the New England fleet were famous for their hearty appetites, well-laid mess-tables, and hard-working cooks.

The Life-Saving Service: Messroom Meals
Though, in the late 19th century, few men cooked for themselves, the life-savers patrolling New England's coast did. How did men more accustomed to wind, waves, and daring rescues cope with housekeeping and cooking chores?

Fresh and Exotic Provisions
Seafarers encountered new and strange foods at sea and in foreign ports, described as a great adventure by some sailors, by others a frustrating search for the familiar.

Meals Ashore for All Hands
From the oyster saloons of New England to a feast with a Chinese host, seafarers looked for a good place to eat the world around; their reactions to meals ashore tell us a lot about their eating habits at home.


Fourth of July: America's Day of Days
How sailors and seafaring families marked the day at sea, while the folks at home observed the national holiday with family and friends on picnics and excursions.

Thanksgiving: New England's Premier Holiday
At the start of the 19th century Thanksgiving was the great annual holiday of New Englanders; by the end of the century, Christmas was catching up in importance. This chapter explores the main elements of the day—turkey, pies, family reunions, and thoughts of those at sea.

Christmas at Sea and Ashore
New Englanders gradually accepted the December holiday and seafaring families far from home recreated holiday excitement with stockings and presents, sweets and treats.

Clambakes and Shore Dinners
Clams and lobsters steaming in a bed of hot rock-heated seaweed is the very depiction of summer fun in New England, and this chapter traces the history of this shoreside meal.

Chowders and Chowder Parties
Chowder in New England was both a centuries old dish and a common seaside recreation. Here we explore both fish and clam chowders.

Refreshments Were Served
Weddings, ship launchings, and church suppers gave coastal people an opportunity to gather and eat socially. Gallons of ice cream was churned and thousands of cakes baked to provide refreshment at church festivals and support the work of charitable societies.

Not as Nutritious as Flesh: Fish-Eating in New England
Fishing and seafood are important to New England's image, but like other North Americans even coastal Yankees resisted eating it more than once a week. This chapter tells why.

Cooking and Eating Seafood
What were New England's favorite fish in the 1800s and how were they prepared? Trace the changes from halibut napes and cod shoulders to haddock fillets.

Top of Page

OrderSaltwater Foodways

Saltwater Foodways Companion Cookbook

Written by Sandy Oliver

Introduction to Saltwater Foodways Companion Cookbook.

"The past is a terrific source of good ideas for dinner and great tasting recipes. When Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and their Food at Sea and Ashore in the Nineteenth Century first appeared over ten years ago, so many people commented on how good some of the old recipes tasted. With the great influx of interesting ethnic dishes and ingredients, we have become accustomed to eating Mexican on Monday, Thai on Tuesday, and anything you can imagine on Wednesday. Now we can put good old fashioned New England coastal cooking back in the schedule with this collection of primarily nineteenth-century recipes.

Most people will describe these dishes as classic comfort food. A few have been inserted because they are interesting to read, and only the most courageous cooks may wish to give them a try. They were originally incorporated in Saltwater Foodways to illustrate life in the 1800s at sea and ashore. When a historic story mentioned a particular dish, I found a recipe to match and wrote them in such a way that the reader could prepare the dish as closely as possible to the original so that a taste of the past would clearly come through. In this book, less emphasis is on strict historic authenticity and more on pleasing the modern palate. Many recipes are hardly altered, but a few contain ideas for enlivening the dish, or modifying it to please anyone in the family.

Because so many people cook recreationally in their fireplaces, certain recipes particularly suited for fireplace preparation have specific instructions for hearthside cookery attached, and a chapter with fireplace cookery basics is included now, too. Bear in mind that you can fix almost anything in a fireplace, from canned soup to grilled pizza, and historic recipes are not required to do it." S.L.O.

The Companion was created to take into the kitchen where you could splatter it all over with batter and flour, and no harm done.

Contents by Chapter

Chapter 1. Cooking in a Fireplace.
A few basic how-to's with advice on equipment, firewood, and techniques.

Chapter 2. Soups and Stews.
Several classic New England chowders, lobster stew, homemade tomato soup and others.

Chapter 3. Breads, Yeasted and Quick.
How to make yeast, brown bread, rolls, New England cornbread, plus.

Chapter 4. Main Dishes.
Pot roast, veal pie, chicken salad, and a couple of lovely sauces like caper sauce.

Chapter 5. Seafood.
How to cook salt cod, Yankee and Portuguese style, poach salmon, make egg sauce and kedgeree.

Chapter 6. Vegetables.
Baked beans, succotash, corn oysters, and more.

Chapter 7. Desserts.
Queen of Pudding, Indian Pudding, Apple Dumplings, Plum Bread pudding, ice cream, and other delectables.

Chapter 8. Cakes and Cookies.
Coconut cake, gingersnaps, Election Cake, Orange Cake, jumbles, seed cakes, and others.

Chapter 9. Pie and Pastry.
The Thanksgiving classics plus Banbury Tarts, lemon pies, and fried apple pie.

Chapter 10. Preserves and Pickles.
Mincemeat, pickled cabbage and beets, candied orange peel.

Chapter 11. Sailor's Dishes.
Lobscouse, Spotted Dick, Plum Duff, Fishermen's Brewis, Dandyfunk.

Chapter 12. Confections.
Popcorn balls, nut brittles, made at sea and ashore.

Chapter 13. Beverages.
Whiskey Punch, Fish House punch, raspberry shrub, switchel.

Published by Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic, Connecticut, 2008, ISBN 978-0-939511-24-2. paper, 224 pp. $19.95; bw drawings and photos.

Click here to order.

Top of Page

Giving Thanks: Thanskgiving Recipes and History from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie

Written by Kathleen Curtin and Sandra L. Oliver with Plimoth Plantation

"Giving Thanks, published in October of 2005 by Clarkson Potter, a Random House imprint, is a treasure trove of holiday lore, images and recipes that will be cherished year after year when Thanksgiving rolls around. Subtitled "Thanksgiving Recipes and History, from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie," this book by Plimoth Plantation food historian Kathleen Curtin and Food History News publisher Sandra L. Oliver is not only the definitive Thanksgiving cookbook, it is a detailed and fascinating account of the origins and meaning of the quintessential American holiday.

The first third of the book is devoted to telling the tale of Thanksgiving, from the Pilgrims' first three-day harvest celebration in 1621 to modern interpretations of the traditional feast of thanks. Trivia lovers will discover myriad tidbits with which to regale fellow dinner guests."

Kim Knox Beckius,

Giving Thanks is a lively social and culinary history of the famous and sentimental favorite American holiday of Thanksgiving, about which more fakelore abounds than any other comparable event. It is a result of Plimoth Plantation's exhibit of the same name, tracing the holiday from the event of 1621 through to the modern holiday complete with turkey and football. Every food writer and school teacher in the country ought to own this book.

Kathleen authored the 17th and 20th century parts, and Sandy covered the 18th and 19th centuries. The book is filled with solid holiday information and 80 recipes for all elements of the Thanksgiving Dinner. You will find recipes here for "the Ancient New England Standing Dish" (stewed pumpkin) to Golden Glow Salad. The famous Green Bean casserole appears in its classic canned beans and canned onions rings original and in an updated, from scratch version. You can find out how to make a Victorian holiday with oyster stew, roast turkey and three kinds of pies or add modern ethnic twists to the menu with Portuguese Linguica stuffing or use an Indian Spiced Yogurt marinade for the turkey.

Contents by Chapter

Part One: Thanksgiving Then and Now

1621: The First Thanksgiving?
Not quite, and here is why.

From New England Tradition to National Holiday
How a regularly observed Yankee Thanksgiving spread across the country.

Thanksgiving and the American Century
Technological and social change affect our view of the holiday.

The Melting Pot: Food Traditions from America and beyond
Thanksgiving as a tool for Americanizing immigrants, and a meal that absorbed ethnic dishes.

Part Two: The Recipes

Starters: Appetizers, Salads, and Soups
Kathleen's brother Mike's stuffed mushrooms and a curried pumpkin bisque that will knock your socks off.

The Main Event: The Turkey and More.
But mostly turkey.

A World of Stuffings.
Plus we explain the difference between stuffings and dressings...

Side Dishes.
Sweet potatoes, turnip and mashed potatoes, corn pudding, and green bean casserole!

Sauces and Condiments.
Including Sandy's favorite cranberry congealed salad.

Mincemeat, apple, pumpkin, pecan, buttermilk and other pies and other good things.

Bibliography and index and all that good stuff.

Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2005, ISBN 1400080576, 9781400080571, 192 pages.

Click here to order or contact Plimoth Plantation directly.

Food in Colonial and Federal America

by Sandra L. Oliver

"Cuisine and history go hand in hand here. Bountiful food led, in part, to the successful beginning and growth of a new nation. As Oliver so deftly shows, America grew up as a fast-food nation. Indeed, by the early 1800s, Americans had a desire, for convenience and speed in food preparation, and an inclination to eat hastily. A beginning chronology takes readers from 1567 with the settlement by the Spanish in Florida, to 1825 when wheat from the West was available, through the Erie Canal, to the East. An extensive introduction follows, explaining the different trials and tribulations of Spanish, English, and Dutch settlers, as well as those of Native Americans of the period....Extensive notes follow each chapter, and the book concludes with a brief glossary and ample bibliography....This offering is perfect for students who need information on this aspect of our history." -School Library Journal April 2006

Food in Colonial and Federal America published in October of 2005 by Greenwood Press is one a series of five books about food in American history.

The book begins with the earliest European settlers in what would become the United States. Unlike most books about American colonial history, this one describes the foodways of Spanish settlers it the Southeast and Southwest, and then moves on to what is called the Original Thirteen.

Greenwood supplies basic references for libraries and schools. Written to the formula set by Greenwood for all the series books, this volume covers all the basic of food supply, regional patterns, everyday and celebration foods, and food beliefs.

Sandy Oliver has established with this book a new standard for writing about food history in early America. You will learn about how economic status trumps regional preferences with food choices. Seasonality, the slow and uneven adoption of new technology, and the deep desire for the familiar and reliable formed the food practices of early America. This book is an excellent introduction to food history both in content and methodology for newcomers to the field and for students.

Contents by Chapter

Chapter 1. Introduction
Food and initial settlement by the Spanish, English, and Dutch; the slight influence of Native Americans on settlers diet, the persistence of market effect v.s self-sufficiency, vernacular dishes and universal ones; the roles of desire for speed and efficiency and refinement ad gentility.

Chapter 2. Foodstuffs
A catalog of the foods settlers and colonists endeavored to have on and hand use including grains, vegetables, wild and domesticated meats, fish, fruits, seasonings, beverages, sweetenings, dairy products.

Chapter 3. Food Preparation and Cooks
An overview of nearly 250 years of technological change with an examination of all the basic food reparation processes---baking, boiling, roasting, etc., together with who did the work.

Chapter 4. Eating Habits
A description of food habits contributed by various ethnic groups including Native American, French, Dutch, German, English, Spanish, and African, and how they were practiced in all the regions of early America from New England to the Southwest, Chesapeake to Lowland South.

Chapter 5. Concepts of Diet and Health
The Doctrine of Humors, digestibility, invalid cookery, food related illnesses and mortality, temperance, vegetarianism, and observing kashrut, and fasting and feasting.

Each chapter has endnotes; there is a timeline, bibliography and index. Illustrations.

Published by Greenwood Press, 2005,
ISBN: 0-313-32988-5
ISBN-13: 978-0-313-32988-3
248 pages

To order in hardcover, used, or on Kindle click here.

Copyright ©1999–2015 Food History News

Website by Cutter Blue Design