Sunday, November 21, 2004

Give Thanks!

I suspect that the thing I'm most grateful for this year is the fact that we get a week off for Thanksgiving; I need the break! I'm looking forward to seeing Boston and New York and meeting family. Photographs will be forthcoming.

Oh, and I've always been curious about this: What's the origin of "the Bean and Cod"? I googled it, but was surprised to find no useful links except for a poem by William Corbett. I'm too lazy to look it up, so I'd be grateful for a reference.


Srinath said...

hey nitish,

what I found about boston the home of the bean and the this..

In the poem "Boston Toast" by John Collins Bossidy he summarises the nature of Boston Brahmins.

The American phrase was probably coined by writer Oliver Wendell Holmes. Sr., as part of a January 1860 article in the Atlantic Monthly called "The Professor's Story." They are often perceived as marked by their distinctive elocution, high level of education and wealth and generally progressive politics. The nature of the Brahmins is summarized in the doggerel poem, "Boston Toast," by John Collins Bossidy.

"So this is good old Boston,
The home of the bean and the cod,
Where the Lowells talk only to the Cabots,
And the Cabots talk only to God."

Do write sometime...


Srinath said...

little more to add

The snooty Brahmins were not only wealthier than anyone else in the city, but considered themselves to be of a stronger moral fiber than others. Indeed, the so-called First Families of Boston (the Adamses, Cabots, Codmans, Lowells, etc.) were so isolationist that a local wit penned: "This is good old Boston / The home of the beans and the cod / Where the Lowells speak only to Cabots / And the Cabots speak only to God."

Nitish said...

Hey Srinath,

Good to hear from you. I had heard the Boston toast before (in fact, that's where I first came across the phrase), but I don't think that's how it originated. IIRC, I first read the poem in Jeffrey Archer's 'Kane and Abel'; William Kane is born into a Brahmin family. In fact, his bank is Kane and Cabot's.

Srinath said...

Hey nitish,

I remember the Kane and Abel thing ..see Boston toast describes the nature of the brahmin community and Cabots were one of the very first brahmin families . well If you would like to know the roots of the thought wave of the poet as to why did he call boston as the home of the bean and the cod...well im not sure...but will try n find out by the end of the day

Srinath said...

This is for the home of the bean:

Boston is called beantown but the history of Boston Baked Beans is an interesting one and doesn’t start in Boston. Our nickname’s history seems to have started with the Narragansett, Penobscot and Iroquois people who created what history and the National Restaurant Association tells us is the first baked bean recipe.
The main ingredient in baked beans is maple syrup, not ketchup as some think. The Iroquois discovered maple syrup. Legend tells us that a tomahawk was thrown into a maple tree one night. The next morning sap came out of the hole. This sap tasted sweet. Meat was boiled in it and found to be delicious. Thus we have the beginnings of a baked bean recipe – maple syrup.

Native Americans later made recipes that included maple syrup and bear fat. Are you wondering yet where Boston comes in? You don’t have to wait any longer. It seems during colonial time, the Pilgrims learned how to make baked beans from the Native Americans but rather than maple syrup and bear fat they used molasses and pork fat. Molasses was used because Boston was one of the ports on the shipping route from England to the Caribbean to New England and back to England. The sugar cane grown in the Caribbean was shipped to Boston, turned into molasses and run and then shipped back to England. However there was more than enough molasses left over and molasses became a major ingredient rather than maple syrup.

Unfortunately there isn’t a company in Boston that makes baked beans today and they are not common on our restaurants’ menus. (The sugar-coated peanut called The Boston Baked Bean, although delicious doesn’t count!) Recipes abound, however, for the old time bean. I don’t eat pork so I thought I would give you a vegetarian recipe. Beans are an excellent source of protein. Our Boston ancestors knew a good thing when they tasted it!

This is for the home of the Cod:

THE First Comers, after they had established their farms, quickly turned to the sea for the profit there was in it: for since Cabot's voyages, and before, men had known of the riches that lay there, and the earliest history of the Atlantic coast is that of its rival fisheries. Cabot encouraged English fishermen by report of "soles above a yard in length and a great abundance of that kind which the savages call baccalos or codfish." France exploited the Newfoundland fisheries, and by 1600 fully ten thousand men were employed catching, curing, and transporting the fish : one old Frenchman boasted that he had made forty voyages to the Banks. Holland pushed into the trade to such effect that men said Amsterdam was built on herring bones and Dutchmen made of pickled herring. The law of the road, at sea, was a hard law, and fishermen fought out their quarrels there without benefit of clergy. In 1621, when the Fortune made her landfall and Nauset Indians warned Ply-mouth of a strange boat rounding the Cape, it was because of the suspicion that it might be a Frenchman bent upon mischief. The Old Colony was to bear no small part in England's game of edging out competitors on the sea. Plymouth was quick to estimate the value of those rich fishing-grounds in the lee of Cape Cod, where Gosnold's chronicler Brereton was "persuaded that in the months of March, April, and May there is better fishing and in as great plenty as in Newfoundland," and, as we have seen, used the revenue therefrom for the maintenance of a free school. Until well up to the middle of the next century the catching of mackerel, bass, cod, and herring, duly regulated, was conducted from shore by seines, weirs, pounds, and "fykes." And then men put to sea for voyages to the Banks, and prospered. And in 1850, when cod-fishing was at its height, more than half the capital invested in it by Massachusetts came from the Cape. The deep-sea voyaging of the clipper ship era has been dead these sixty years, but still fishermen from the Cape, though in smaller numbers now, join up for a cruise to the Banks

I guess this is why boston was called the home of the bean and the cod....


Anonymous said...

I found this blog quite interesting. The story about how the Indians (aka Native Americans) discovered maple syrup is what I had heard.

The families in "Boston Toast" are backwards, "the Cabots speak only to the Lowells, and the Lowells speak only to God" is the correct version. The Lowells are descendend from Percival Lowell, a distant descendant of Edward I, who arrived in Boston in 1639. One of his descendents set up a cotton mill up the river with a Cabot as a partner, and they became quite wealthy. The area was renamed as "Lowell, Massachusetts."

The reason that Boston is known as beantown is because that was the home of the Puritans. (The "Pilgrims" actually known as seperatists were based in Plymouth). The Puritans were not allowed to work on the sabbath. They could set up the beans to cook and they would keep throughout the sabbath without burning. This way they could have a hot meal without cooking. The stoves and ovens actually were made with a place to put the bean pots.

Beans not only could cook a long time without burning or getting too mushy, they also are easy to store throughout the winter, and they provide protein.

Our family recipe (no idea how many generations) calls for both molassis and maple syrup. The beans are delicious, but takes too long to make (4-5 days). I just doctor up a can of Bush baked beans.



nancy said...

Fabulous discussion! Boston born and bred, I heard this ( an Irish R.C. in a 'parish') all my life as a rationale as to why so much that might have happened did not! (Before Honey Fitz, that is...........when things began to transition.) Thanks for the memories.....and improving levels of awareness. Though some things never change, with knowledge of our histories, we can! Nan

nancy said...

Nancy again..........realizing that she (I) got off topic. Apologies to one and all. I was really looking for a full text of the "Boston,Massachusettes, the home of baked beans and cod.........." statement, and went off on a tangent.
We grew up in Boston,on brown bread, baked beans and cod, and now live in a fishing community in Nova Scotia. We are blessed!