In many Massachusetts cities and towns, the pubs and bars close around midnight. On Sunday mornings, around 12:15 a.m., a line forms outside the door of many of the state’s popular roast beef sandwich shops serving, sliced beef sandwich drenched in barbecue sauce--a Massachusetts tradition. Tables also fill up at Chinese restaurants that serve deep-fried finger foods and sugary spare ribs completely unknown in Asia. Massachusetts residents are huge fans of these foods but the state’s cuisine also includes many traditional dishes tied to local resources.
Cape Cod took its name from the thick schools of cod fish that lived in the waters just off the coast. Although the fish aren’t nearly as plentiful as they once were, Massachusetts’ appetite for seafood is as strong as ever. Cod, haddock, clams, shrimp, scallops and lobster are among the most popular catches. Cooks bake, broil, and grill fin fish, but clams, mussels and lobsters are often served steamed with a cup of melted butter for dipping. Clam chowder, a cream-based soup with chopped clams and potatoes is ubiquitous. Clams dipped in cornmeal batter and fried became popular in the early 20th century. Shortly after, Massachusetts residents discovered nearly all of their favorite seafood could be deep fried to a crisp.
Fruits and Berries
Cranberries grow in bogs on Cape Cod, apples are harvested in orchards in the northern and central parts of the state and blueberries grow wild in the woods that run throughout Massachusetts. Native crops have found their way into foods that have crossed state borders and become traditional American foods such as cranberry sauce, apple pie and blueberry muffins. Cranberry juice is popular, particularly when it’s mixed with vodka for one of the state’s signature cocktails, the Cape Codder. Cider, hot and cold, is popular in the fall. Apple pandowdy and apple brown Betty, apples baked with sugar and spices and topped with a biscuit, were popular colonial dishes that are still served in many of Massachusetts restaurants.
Baked Beans and Brown Bread
During the 19th century, Boston sent ship loads of dried cod and lumber to Barbados in exchange molasses, which Massachusetts companies distilled into rum. Some of the sweet brown syrup also made it into a few of the state’s favorite foods. Baked beans, or navy beans slow-cooked with molasses and pork fat ; and brown bread, a moist and heavy mix of flours, sugars and spices that’s steamed rather than baked, have long been known as a traditional Saturday-night dinner. Boston baked beans are so entrenched in the state’s culinary history they even spawned a sugar-coated peanut candy called Boston Baked Beans.
Boston Cream Pie
Some dispute the origin of Boston Cream Pie, suggesting that the pie may have actually originated in Pennsylvania. In Massachusetts, all such historical evidence is irrelevant. Residents of the Bay State believe Boston Cream Pie, a vanilla cake stuffed with a layer of vanilla pudding and covered with chocolate glaze, was invented at the famous Parker House restaurant just off of Boston Common during the mid 19th century. Massachusetts not only claims the recipe, they have adapted it to make Boston Cream donuts, ice cream, candy, cup cakes and martinis.
Different immigrant groups that settled in Massachusetts during the 18th and 19th centuries have also shaped the state’s cuisine. Every small town in Massachusetts has a post office, town hall and at least one pizza shop that also serves hero-style sandwiches. Corned beef and cabbage, commonly called boiled dinner, is a popular Irish dish served in many Massachusetts homes. The state's many Greek restaurants have popularized spanakopita, a flaky spinach pie, gyros, a roast meat often served with dill sauce, and lamb shish kebabs.
- Gastro Traveling: Roast Beef Sandwiches on the North Shore
- Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services: Summer is Seafood Time in Massachusetts
- Woodmans: The Story of the Fied Clam
- Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association: The History of the Cranberry
- New England Apple Growers Association: New England Apples
- State Symbols USA: Baked Navy Bean
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