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Survival bread

There are foods that derive from a rich culinary tradition, and there are foods that people make to survive. Boston brown bread is the latter; it dates back to the earliest European settlers in New England. It’s made with staple ingredients that could be grown and/or obtained locally: rye flour, wheat flour, cornmeal, molasses, sour milk. It’s rich, dense, and provides a ton of calories for working people. It was cooked by steaming it — not because anyone thought that was the “proper” way to do it, but because most people didn’t have ovens in their home and all the home-cooking occurred in a pot over the fire in the fireplace. People made brown bread because they could, and because it provided basic nourishment for their family.

Needless to say, Boston brown bread is not fancy food. Today we probably wouldn’t even call it healthy food, given all the sugar it contains. But it is amazing when served warm on a cold day with a pot of baked beans, either at the beginning or end of a hard day’s work. It’s also a great reminder that food doesn’t have to be fancy to be enjoyed.

Peace, love, and biscuits,


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