In Cod We Trust

, by Cape Ann food columnist Heather Atwood, is both a comprehensive practical record of Massachusetts coastal cuisine and an affectionate, humorous, thoroughly enjoyable coastwise journey from the Rhode Island border to the border of New Hampshire.

Atwood maintains the Food for Thought foodie blog, and does much more than that online, in print, and on video. Here's a bit that I stole from her website; I'll add more about the book below the quote:


Heather Atwood is author of the blog "Food for Thought" and the weekly column by the same name syndicated in a number of Massachusetts newspapers. For the online cooking site Cook123 Ms. Atwood hosts cooking videos featuring regional Massachusetts chefs and cooks. This combined work has created a web of connections in the New England food community, allowing Atwood a prized familiarity with Finns in W. Barnstable who still make fruit soup, the Gloucester Sicilians who bake their own zeppole, and day boat fishermen who sell pearly scallops from coolers out of the back of their cars. She reveres the people who preserve and energize the New England food landscape.


Her cookbook, "In Cod We Trust, the Celebrated Cuisine of Coastal Massachusetts," explores the cultures that have made this ragged coastline home, and the meals they prepare.


Back to my review:

In Cod We Trust is a beautiful and useful book. It's set up geographically, from south to north along commonly known areas: South Coast, Cape Cod, each of the islands, South Shore in two parts, etc. Each section opens with a full-page photo and a couple of pages about the region's unique foodways, then a mini-table of contents to the recipes in that section. I've bookmarked those.

The recipes are a great mix of old colonial and 19th-century forgotten classics and today's best ideas for today's ingredients. Many of them come from old handwritten "receipts" that Atwood has unearthed in family cookbooks used by many generations of Bay Staters. She has many classic Portuguese-American recipes that we see on the South Coast, Italian-American recipes from Gloucester, Finnish recipes, Wampanoag recipes, Pilgrim recipes...

Atwood cares about local and heirloom ingredients. She knows about Eastham vs Macomber turnips. There's a close-up an salt cod, another on dogfish, there's even a section on rhubarb! I find these especially valuable as gateways into oft-overlooked ingredients that can lead to new favorites.

The photography by Allan Penn reflects the geographical orientation of the book, mostly wonderfully evocative shore scenes with food photos where needed. 

The writing is an excellent balance of recipes, background about the foods and, and a sort of anthropological travelogue. This is the kind of book that you can explore all winter long, section by section, enjoying virtual day-trips when there's snow on the ground. 

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