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Monday, August 19, 2013


Connie Archer is the national bestselling author of A Spoonful of Murder and A Broth of Betrayal, the soup lover’s mystery series set in Vermont, from Berkley Prime Crime. The third book in the series, A Roux of Revenge, will be released in April 2014. Learn more about Connie and her books at her website.--AP 
Early American Food

The soup lover’s mystery series is set in New England, in the imaginary village of Snowflake, Vermont, where, at the By the Spoonful Soup Shop, the restaurant’s talented chef creates fantastic recipes. When I first started to choose recipes for this Vermont location, I couldn’t help but think about the history of food in New England and the struggle of the first settlers to survive. 

The original Puritans were people of modest means who endured months of a harsh crossing of the North Atlantic. They carried only the most basic foodstuffs: dried peas and beans, salted dried meats, oatmeal, salt, flour, and hard cheeses. Water on board ship was contaminated, so beer was the only drink, even for children. Atlantic storms made it impossible to stay dry and even more difficult to prepare hot meals. The only method of cooking was to fill boxes with sand in order to safely build a small fire. The size of the ship and lack of sanitation made it impossible to transport large animals, but the colonists were able to bring poultry, goats, and pigs. They carried seeds as well -- of corn, wheat, barley and pea to establish vegetable gardens in their new land. Herbs were available but needed to be saved for medicinal purposes.

Once on land, there was plentiful seafood and wild game: fish, lobster, duck, squirrel, rabbit, turkey, swans, geese and deer. Eventually, these early settlers were able to grow corn, turnips, onions, garlic, carrots, parsley, sage, and thyme.  Fruit and nuts were abundant in season -- strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, blueberries, wild grapes and chestnuts. An early record even recounts the eating of eagles, a sad commentary on our national bird. In fact, the Pilgrims ate just about anything that crossed their path.

One of my favorite recipes originally came from the present day Plimouth Plantation website. It’s called a Pye of Many Things and even though I’ve altered it quite a bit, it’s a very special recipe and a family favorite:

Pye of Many Things

2 pie shells (I admit to purchasing these ready made, but a basic recipe is included below)
1 lb. bacon, cooked and broken into 2” pieces (I like to use turkey bacon)
10 carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 stick of butter
1/3 cup of mustard (yellow or Dijon)
1-14 oz. bag of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 large onion, sliced and sautéed
1 bar of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Prepare all the ingredients above before beginning to layer them in the pie shell.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the mustard, mixing well. Combine this mixture with the shredded carrots for flavor. Place 1/3 of the cooked and sliced onions in the bottom of the pie shell, then add additional layers as follows: 1/3 of the spinach, 1/3 of the cooked bacon, 1/3 of the carrots, and 1/3 of the shredded cheese. Continue to add layers of onion, spinach, bacon, carrots and cheese until all the ingredients are used.  
Cover with the top pie shell. Coat with butter or egg white. Make slices in the top crust to let heat escape. Bake at 350˚ for 45 minutes.

Basic Pie Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup butter
6 to 7 tablespoons water

Stir together flour and salt, cut in butter until the mixture is the size of small peas. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of water into the ingredients and gently toss with a fork. Repeat until the dough is sufficiently moist. Divide the dough in half and roll out on a lightly floured surface until each piece forms a circle about 12” in diameter.

If you’re interested in the subject of early American food, you can visit the Plimouth Plantation and the Wampanoag Homesite here: http://www.plimoth.org/what-see-do/17th-century-english-village

And you can even join the Pilgrims for dinner.

If you would like to read more on this subject, follow this link to the Plymouth Colony Archive Project: http://www.histarch.illinois.edu/plymouth/mourt1.html. Written between November 1620 and November 1621, it describes in detail events from the first landing at Cape Cod, through the exploration and eventual settlement at Plymouth and relations with the surrounding native Americans.

A Broth of Betrayal
Snowflake, Vermont is an old town with roots as deep as the earliest days of the American colonies. And, like any other place on earth, it has its secrets, secrets that have lain buried for years, even centuries, until they erupt . . . in murder. Two men fall victim to a murderer and a woman disappears. Lucky Jamieson, the owner of the By the Spoonful Soup Shop is convinced the missing woman is the key to the mystery, but can Lucky find her before the town discovers another victim? 

Book Links


Alice Duncan said...

Loved your post, Connie! I enjoy fixing recipes from the old days, and will be trying your Pye of Many Things soon. Have you ever seen the "American Heritage Cookbook?" It was published in 1976, and gives the history of foods in the different colonies. Fun!

Edith Maxwell said...

That sounds really tasty, Connie! Thanks for sharing it.

Unknown said...

Love your book titles, Connie. Do you come up with them yourself or does your publisher change them? Best of luck with the new book!

Unknown said...

HiAlice ~ That sounds like a wonderful book. I'll have to find it ~ thanks for sharing that!

Unknown said...

Hi Edith ~ I knew you'd like a New England recipe!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Gemma ~ It's worked both ways, my publisher decided on A Spoonful of Murder, but okay'ed my choice of A Broth of Betrayal and A Roux of Revenge. I'm still working on the next one as we speak!

S. A. Stolinsky said...

This is a riot. Connie is a great actress as well as a great writer. The idea of her eating ANYTHING with sugar MUST MEAN it's pretty darn good!!!

Unknown said...

Hi Stephanie ~
Sorry to disappoint you -- no sugar! It's a vegetable pie (with some cheese too). Hope you try it!

Anonymous said...

Hey mom, I've finished my eagle pye. Can I have more ale, if ye please?

Marilyn said...

But how would the filling be as a soup, Connie? LOL - the pye sounds delicious and thanks for the history lesson. It's easy to forget what our founding fathers went through.

Unknown said...

One pint only! And please don't hassle the birds.

Unknown said...

Hi Marilyn ~ I've never tried it as a soup . . . let's see spinach and carrots topped with bacon and cheese? It might work quite well.

Angela Adams said...

I went to college in Montpelier, Vermont. It's such a beautiful state.

Unknown said...

Hi Angela ~ Vermont really is gorgeous. I was just in Montpelier a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed it! Hope you have chances to go back and visit your alma mater.

Miriam Hall said...

Hi Connie - Looking forward to reading your books. My husband thought they were great. Going on our vacation next week with both books in my carrying case on the airplane. Keep up the great writing!!!

Unknown said...

Oh, thank you Miriam! Really hope you enjoy them just as much ~ have a wonderful vacation!

Linda O. Johnston said...

How fun--a delicious-sounding, healthy pie with historical origins. Makes me wish that I was more of a cook, Connie!

Unknown said...

Hi Linda ~ It takes a bit of work to get all the ingredients together, but it's worth it. Then of course it disappears very quickly!

Other Lisa said...

That pye sounds delicious! Wonderful post, thank you!

Unknown said...

Hi Lisa, thanks for stopping by, This "pye" really is delicious! Hope you can give it a try.