Articles by: Merry Post

Merry Post

  • History under a crust

    History under a crust

    By Merry Post Special to The Ellsworth American Reformers in 19th-century New England tried to improve the lives of women through legislation: to obtain voting rights for women, to liberalize divorce and custody laws, to guarantee women control of their own property, and to improve the conditions of factory work. Early feminist Melusina Fay Peirce

  • Pilau talk

    Pilau talk

    By Merry Post Special to The Ellsworth American The anonymous woman from Salem, Mass., who wrote “The American Matron, or Practical and Scientific Cookery,” addressed young housekeepers in her preface. Writing in 1851, she sought not just to ennoble the mission of housekeepers and cooks but also to caution the reader about the seriousness of

  • In praise of cod

    In praise of cod

    One of the essential survival skills that the Pilgrims learned from Native Americans was how to fish by hand for the cod that abounded in New England waters. Cod was admirably suited for preserving by drying or salting. Preserved cod had been an important part of the European diet for hundreds of years. I learned

  • Out of the pot

    Out of the pot

    If we were rational in our food preferences, we would all be subsisting on beans, seaweed and preparations of cricket flour. But we are not entirely rational creatures. Habit, associations and cultural context are as important as flavor and aroma in determining our food choices. New England settlers brought their English food prejudices with them.

  • Down-home staple

    Down-home staple

    Nineteenth-century New England women managed their kitchens frugally, which meant that they had to be clever in the use of leftovers. Lacking refrigeration, they had to recycle cooked foods promptly.  Sometimes that meant cooking more than they knew they needed in order to have enough ingredients for tomorrow’s dinner. Leftover baked beans became bean soup,

  • Spoonful of comfort

    Spoonful of comfort

    The Colonial Revival was a nationalistic movement in architecture, interior design and garden design that looked back to 18th-century America, especially New England, for inspiration. Symmetrical design, many-paned windows, elaborate doorways and clapboard, shingle, or brick construction characterized Colonial Revival architecture; period textiles served as interior design models. Although the style is still an influence,

  • Warm up! On cold spring nights, take comfort in chowder

    Warm up! On cold spring nights, take comfort in chowder

    Chowder parties became popular in the mid-19th century. The following excerpt describes a family beach picnic in southern Maine in 1865. Hersina Fletcher Paul of Eliot was writing to her brother, Aaron Jones Fletcher, who was still serving in the Union Army. Although General Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia in April, the

  • Agents of change

    Agents of change

    The abundance of advertising in the pages of “The Green Mountain, White Ribbon Cook Book,” published in 1895 by the Vermont branch of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), shows how savvy New England women had become in raising funds for charitable causes. The ads document social history. For example, commercial powdered gelatin was an

  • Usher in season with asparagus soup

    Usher in season with asparagus soup

    Asparagus was brought to America by European settlers sometime in the 18th century. Abigail Adams, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson all learned to appreciate asparagus and grew it on their home farms. In the first American cookbook, published in 1796, Amelia Simmons calls asparagus “an excellent vegetable” and wisely cautions against overcooking it: “by over-boiling

  • New England boiled dinner harkens back to hearthside cooking

    New England boiled dinner harkens back to hearthside cooking

    “The September evening set in brisk and chill, and the cheerful fire that snapped and roared up the ample chimney of Captain Kittridge’s kitchen was a pleasing feature. “The days of our story were before the advent of those sullen gnomes, the ‘air-tights,’ or even those more sociable and cheery domestic genii, the cooking-stoves. They

  • Fresh maple syrup adds distinct note to custard

    Four years before Thoreau published “Walden,” Susan Fenimore Cooper (1813-1894) published her journal of observations and musings on the natural world around Cooperstown, N.Y. The daughter of James Fenimore Cooper, she was an acute observer, noting, for example, which flowers ruby-throated hummingbirds preferred and considering whether flower structure or fragrance were more important in attracting

  • Fresh, fluffy snow lightens pancakes

    Fresh, fluffy snow lightens pancakes

    Whether called griddle cakes, hotcakes, flapjacks, slapjacks or flannel cakes, pancakes were enjoyed by everyone in New England in the 19th century. Humble folk and gentry alike devoured them. Caroline Howard King, who grew up in a prosperous family in Salem, Mass., in the 1820s and 1830s, in recalling popular dishes, remembered that “pancakes …