One of the most famous places in the world to experience autumn, or the Fall, as they know it in the USA, is New England. As well as spectacular scenery and autumn colours, it also has its own distinctive food styles that offer some familiarity to us.

One of the first parts of America to be colonised, the North East area of the US known as New England, offered the predominantly English settlers a wide range of new foods to try and incorporate into their own familiar foods. Over the past 200 years, Irish, Portuguese and Italian settlers have also influenced New England cuisine. The native American tribes from that area introduced the settlers to new dishes such as clam chowder, cornmeal flatbreads and clambakes and ingredients like maple syrup, cranberries and turkey. Lobsters from the Maine coast were bountiful too.

The English settlers influenced New England cuisine, which has a comfort food feel, by the merging of their baking styles, pies, bean dishes and stews with new ingredients and dishes. The triangular trade route of America/Caribbean, Europe and Africa also brought ingredients like molasses and rum to New England, and these made their way into regional dishes. Prior to Prohibition, the rums made in New England were seen as some of the best in the world.

Today, New England is blessed with bountiful seafood from the coastal areas and huge amounts of dairy produce from its inland farms. Some characteristic dishes from the area include:

  • Clam chowder – a milk or cream based ‘one bowl meal’ type soup made with potatoes, onions and clams. Portuguese influence used a clear broth with tomatoes to make red chowder. Vegetarian versions can be made with sweetcorn.
  • Clambake – a myriad of seafood with corn cobs, potatoes, onions, carrots and even sausages slowly steamed with seaweed over hot rocks. You can also steam it in a pan!
  • Boston baked beans – haricot beans with pork and molasses making a darker dish than the UK equivalent.
  • Boston subs, grinders or spukkies are names for long ‘submarine’ sandwiches.
  • Succotash – a vegetable mix of corn, beans, tomatoes and peppers.
  • Hasty pudding – a cross between porridge and polenta usually made with corn meal and water or milk.
  • Whoopie pies – 2 small round mounds of chocolate cake or ginger bread with a sweet filling or frosting.
  • Apple cider – non-alcoholic spiced pressed apple juice.

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My earliest food memories are of my mum’s baking; coconut pyramid cakes were my favourite.

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