Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Thanksgiving alternatives from old New England

Need a few vintage line drawings with single-color highlights to get you ready for the holiday season that's about to hit?

Don't say I never got you anything! I can't help it if you didn't specifically request a unibrowed caricature of a Native American standing over a Pilgrim kid (who strangely looks kind of like Blueberry Muffin from the '80s Strawberry Shortcake line), who appears to be bringing a pie to a blue turkey that just happens to be out for an afternoon stroll. Either that, or the kid is sizing the turkey up against a platter, in which case the turkey's stroll just got a whole lot less pleasant...

These guys all come from a little book by the staff home economists at the Culinary Arts Institute (1956):

The New England Cookbook has everything you'd stereotypically expect: baked beans, boiled dinners, clambakes, Boston cream pie. 

I'm going to ignore them in favor of a few recipes that I can shoehorn into the Thanksgiving theme.

First up: pot roast!

What is Thanksgiving-y about Yankee Pot Roast? Admittedly, nothing. Look at the variation, though.

Cranberry Pot Roast! That seems like something my grandma who hated turkey would have made. I'm pretty sure I would have balked at a big old slab of beef topped with cranberries and cloves, so we could have argued festively about how picky I was when people noticed I was filling up on mashed potatoes and dinner rolls. Family fun!

I'm not sure either of us would have been sold on Cape Cod turkey, though. If you don't know what it is, here is a bespectacled hint:

Cape Cod Turkeys are so fancy, I'm surprised this one stopped at the bow tie and didn't add a top hat as well. 

Okay, the official name is "Salt Fish Dinner," but I think we can all agree that "Cape Cod Turkey" is a much more fun name.

A Thanksgiving table with a centerpiece of boiled salt fish, boiled beets, and boiled potatoes topped with Egg Sauce (white sauce with a couple chopped hard-cooked eggs thrown in) and fried salt pork would be a surprise! It would be even more surprising if someone bit into the teeny fish spectacles....

Now we need a dessert to top off the beef-and-cranberry bash or the Cape Cod Turkey. I've picked the perfect finale. Since we've left real turkeys out so far, how about a bird's nest?

This is a rare case where the name sounds worse than the recipe. I'm imagining a mound of straw with shards of egg shell and a few liberal dollops of bird shit, but this is apples cooked in custard! Cape Cod Turkey might not be a great substitute holiday centerpiece, but this might be an admirable stand-in for pumpkin pie. At least one substitute recipe is a hit. Happy Wednesday!


  1. I'm surprised the Native Americans don't have tomahawks in their hands & the Puritan slumped over her kettle sans scalp

    1. The artists have to at least pretend all the interactions around food were friendly, so they can pretend the stereotypical representations are meant to show admiration (rather than racism)!

  2. I just passed this by at a library sale because the condition was poor, but your post is making me regret it! ��

    1. The series isn't too hard to find. You might well come across another copy!

      Sometimes I prefer books in poor condition-- if it's the right kind of poor condition. If they're splattered with cooking stains, I know which recipes the previous owner liked. If they have little notes about whether the recipes were good or how the cook altered the recipe, that's a lot of fun to read. If there are extra recipes scribbled in the margins, bonus! If a book is just falling apart or water-stained, though, then I pass it up.