Tag Archives: Nana

A Fishy Tale for the Fourth

Now is the time for Salmon.

Salmo salar - Atlantic Salmon

Salmo salar – Atlantic Salmon

Tradition has Abigail Adams making a lovely meal of poached salmon, new pease and potatoes for her darling John back in 1776.

On July 4th.

The Adams, Abigail and John

The Adams, Abigail and John

Or maybe not.

They weren’t in the same city that day….darn those letter writing people of the past so we know where they were on particular days!

Or maybe this whole tradition is a New Nostalgia thing.

At the World’s Fair in 1964 in New York City they were serving  authentic oldie timey food and this meal was one of them. …

but I think it goes back a little further then that, because my Nana made or craved this very same same meal a lot earlier in the 20th century then 1964.

To help make my case:

However, I happen to own a copy of the American Heritage Cookbook published in 1964 and I don’t see a reference to Abigail Adams at all. In my edition it simply says: “From the earliest days it has been a tradition all through New England to serve Poached Salmon with Egg Sauce, along with the first new potatoes and early peas, on the Fourth of July. The eastern salmon began to ‘run’ about this time, and the new vegetables were just coming in.”

– Kendra Nordin, Kitchen Report July 2, 2013 Christian Science Monitor

green peaeAnd this – poached salmon with Egg sauce, new potatoes and early peas – are exactly the meal I helped my Nana cook on a Fourth when she had moved down near us. Or maybe it was when she was in Senior Housing in Mattapan….it was a teeny tiny very modern gallery kitchen with hardly enough room to swing a cat in, which was definitely NOT like any house she had lived in before. Now this Mid-Century kitchen layout is called


but it’s like Starksy & Hutch vintage, and not vintage vintageTVGuide June 1978So I went over and we poached a piece of salmon, not a whole fish, and made egg sauce (she had this down, but I believe Fannie Farmer was her source) and quickly cooked the peas and potatoes….we might have been drinking TAB…


Was it the saccharin or the cyclamates that forced this off the market?

But poaching a salmon is a feed a crowd type of meal, and if you’re not feeding a crowd,you’ll want something smaller  and kinder to your purse AND since so much Atlantic salmon is now farmed, so is a source of moral and culinary concern, I started using  canned Pacific salmon and  went to a complete and total  B-plan several years ago.

My inspiration was :

I admit - I bought the book for the title.

I admit – I bought the book for the title.

One of the salads in Lettuce In Your Kitchen is with salmon and new potatoes…I added a few fresh peas and topped it with a hard boiled egg and Green Goddess dressing…

And thus a new tradition is born, based on layers of old ones.

So I eat the traditional foods, in a newer way. And think about  Nana and Abigail Adams and Fannie Farmer and wouldn’t it be one terrific table if they were all around it, eating Poached Salmon, Early Peas and New Potatoes.

Egg Sauce I

To Drawn Butter Sauce add two “hard-boiled” eggs cut in one-fourth inch slices.

p. 14

Drawn Butter Sauce

1/3 cup butter 11/2 cups hot water
3 tablespoons flour 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Melt one-half the butter, add flour with seasonings, and pour on gradually hot water. Boil five minutes, and add remaining butter in small pieces. To be served with boiled or baked fish.


Farmer, Fannie Merritt. The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. Boston: Little, Brown, 1918; Bartleby.com, 2000.

Fannie Merritt Farmer

Fannie Merritt Farmer


Filed under Fish, Holiday, Influencers, Recipe, Summer

Cooked, food for thought

I’ve been reading Cooked, which has me thinking…..

Cooked...the book

Cooked…the book

Or the question the book dodges….

Why don’t we cook anymore?

Which seems to imply there is a basemark/benchmark for a common good old days that is eluded to but never really defined or examined. There are some scary statistics gathered by agencies that have agendas, but are they really data? Even last week another study was released – that looked at 12 families. Twelve. Who said they didn’t have time, didn’t have money, didn’t have the kitchen…… How do twelve families represent what is going on in the whole country today? I can get a better – and bigger – cross section at my next family gathering. Or at lunch at work.

Anyhow, beyond questionable samples, Pollen and his ilk talk about how our Grandmas did things. But do we really  have that common Grandma? Is common the same as average?  Nobody is average, Grandma’s included.

I don’t even have that common Grandma among my grandmothers.Both of my Grandmas were uncommon and above average.

One, Nonna, came from the old country (one of the old countries my family is from, that is), and was famous for her bread that was baked in a wood-fired oven. Back in the old country. She never used a recipe, she just cooked things. Wonderfully. But she only cooked Nonna food. She wasn’t interested in trying new tastes or flavors, she was interested in making the new things taste familiar.

The other, Nana, loved going out to eat, and take out,and when she did cook, she double checked the Fannie Farmer on her shelf to help her memory. She worked in a grocery store. She loved food in boxes. Good FOB (Friend of Betty…. Crocker).

Betty Crocker, Nana's kitchen friend.

Betty Crocker, Nana’s kitchen friend.

BUT both Nana and Nonna assumed that a kitchen would have a hot place and a cold place, a wet place and a dry place. You would need a knife and a spoon and a pot and a pan, a dish and a bowl. And a table, to work on, to clear and to sit around to eat at. Nothing in the room was designed or coordinated or needed updating, it was functional and familiar and just fine just the way it was.

They assumed that everyone contributed to the meal, whether it was stirring the pot or earning the money to pay for the groceries or running down to the store to pick something up or reaching up on a high shelf to get something down or setting the table or sweeping the floor. Something. No free lunches. That sitting down was part of the meal, as was a prayer. That there was always enough, and if  someone should show up at meal time, then there was plenty.

Waste was a sin, and an unnecessary one.

Besides the elusive common Grandma, and benchmark for how much have we lost when, there are a few other unanswered questions/broad assumptions that need a little more attention:

1. How to define cooking…

When I asked my son about summer cooking he said we didn’t cook, we just ate.

Back to salads, sandwiches and smoothies…

But according to SOME measures, putting bottled dressing on salad mix is cooking. Not in my house.

I’m with Alton Brown on this: Food + Heat + Cooking


Are salad based cookbooks really cookbooks or does there need to be another name for that genre, this category of food prep? But I digress…imagine that.
Sometimes I buy things for a salad and then eat them one component at a time…those little new potatoes I boiled up for One Potato Salad? Just as good, one potato at a time, either hot or cold. Is that cooking?
But we ate nonetheless. At home.Mostly.

2.Is the microwave cooking? Is it different if I’m ‘nuking’ something frozen by a corporation versus something I cooked and froze myself? Is re-heating/re purposing cooking? Broad categories don’t always hold up to close questioning.

3. The 800 pound Gorilla in the room seems to be the rise of dining out, that eating OUT became incredibly popular and as a family activity. Once upon a time dining out was for grownups, children stayed home with the babysitter – or Grandma – but in the late 60’s and early 70s that world changed. Just last week my brother asked me if I remembered the FIRST time we went to McDonald’s.

Darn tooting I do.

We had to get plain hamburgers, my mother wasn’t paying extra for overpriced cheese, BUT she could take us all out for under $10 and the place was child appropriate. So we went. BTW, there were no Happy Meals when I was young, but I can assure you, we were plenty happy.

MacDonaldsAnd do you remember their mottos?

  • Lets eat out! (1960–1965)

  • Look for the Golden Arches! (1960–1967)

  • Go for the Goodness at McDonald’s (1962–1969)

  • The closest thing to home (1966–1969)

  • McDonald’s is your kind of place (1967 – January 22, 1971)

  • You deserve a break today (January 23, 1971 – April 23, 1975) (click the link, you know you want to sing along)

 The sad old, and frankly, I just don’t buy it meme, that Cooked brings up  is that more women in the workplace led to more people dining out, but I think he doesn’t look far enough back to see women  entering the workplace in record numbers. Like the Mill Girls era back in the 1840’s. Or the Rosie the Riveter’s in the 1940’s . Woman just didn’t count in the workplace until the 1970’s. What was different in the 1960’s and ’70’s was

the advertising :

  • that you work hard for your money and
  • you deserve a break;
  • that you just don’t have time;
  • let us do the hard work for you,
  • and that cooking is hard work and
  • we’re the professionals, so let us do it for you.


  • Overlapping, self serving advertising messages. In a time when more people see/hear more advertising then ever.



Which leaves us with..
4. Meals that  people are left to prepare – since they don’t have time for the daily  – are for the holidays and special occasions, which are already  FRAUGHT and frightening, because they are occasional and special. Which therefore proves that cooking is hard and not something you would want to do everyday.

and so the cycle continues.


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Filed under Books, Eating, Perception ways