The History of Connecticut Food: Eric Lehman and Amy Nawrocki

Amy Nawrocki and Eric D. Lehman

Eric D. Lehman and Amy Nawrocki are possibly the busiest writers in the state–certainly the busiest writers over here at Books New Haven. Here they both are, for the second time, with a brand new book, A History of Connecticut Food.  This is a book they wrote for the rest of us, sampling the different cuisines of Connecticut, so that we wouldn’t have to. They risked weight gain as well as endured the tedium of slaving over a hot stove, trying out new old recipes, all for us, the reading public.

A History of Connecticut Food

This kind of personal sacrifice is nothing new for them: they did just this same kind of research when they wrote A History of Connecticut Wine: Vineyard in Your Backyard.That time they had to visit and sample many types of wine.

When they’re not eating and drinking and exploring Connecticut’s fine history, they do other writing, too. Eric’s essays, reviews and stories have appeared in dozens of journals and magazines. His books include Bridgeport: Tales from the Park City; Hamden: Tales from the Sleeping Giant; and The Insider’s Guide to Connecticut. Amy is an award-winning poet whose three collections, Potato Eaters, Nomad’s End and Lune de Miel, are available from Finishing Line Press. They teach English and creative writing at the University of Bridgeport and live in Hamden with their two cats.

Presumably, they find time sometime to sleep–but not until they appear at R. J. Julia Booksellers to talk about food and for a wine reception on Thursday, Aug. 9, at 7 p.m.  Call (203) 245-3959 for reservations.

Meanwhile, here is Eric talking about their new book and the fun of food:

A History of Connecticut Food was a challenging book to write, but the
research was certainly fun. We spent six months in background study and
then six months cooking, baking, and eating. Let’s just say that we put on
a bit of weight. But the result is a tasty exploration of the crops,
livestock and seafood that have shaped our complex cuisines or more than
four centuries.

Our main purpose is to show how many local traditions we have here, and
how much history has been lost over the years. For example, Connecticut
used to be second to Georgia in growing peaches (wordsmith Noah Webster
had a peach orchard in the backyard of his New Haven home). We also found
that there are many food traditions like the hot lobster roll or
clear-broth clam chowder that were invented here, but for some reason we
don’t take credit for. So, part of our project was to set those records
straight.

We wrote the book as a combination of history and recipes, because we
believe that you really can’t have one without the other; there are too
many histories of food without recipes and too many historical cook books
without narrative. There are colonial specialties like Indian pudding,
19th century favorites like fried oysters, and 20th century inventions
like steamed cheeseburgers.  We pored over many old cookbooks for recipes,
including American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, published in Hartford in
1796, the first known cookbook written by an American, as well as local
books like The Lymes Heritage Cookbook. We also were privileged to have
some of the state’s best chefs contribute modern interpretations of old
recipes and contemporary dishes that use classic ingredients.

Not being chefs ourselves, we wanted to make sure that all these recipes
were accessible to home cooks, and of course had many challenges when
adapting measurements like a “hen’s egg of butter” to modern proportions.
Colonial cooks especially cooked and baked huge quantities, so reducing
these to manageable size was also a challenge.

What we realized while writing this book, and what we hope comes across to
the reader, is that until very recently food was always local. There was a
sense of self deeply rooted in your home, your cow, your garden. This
meant a stronger connection to food. Hopefully we’re doing our part to
help recapture that connection, and make you hungry to investigate your
own local traditions. And of course, we hope that you’ll also be hungry
for some of this fantastic Connecticut food.

A History of Connecticut Food was a challenging book to write, but the
research was certainly fun. We spent six months in background study and
then six months cooking, baking, and eating. Let’s just say that we put on
a bit of weight. But the result is a tasty exploration of the crops,
livestock and seafood that have shaped our complex cuisines for more than
four centuries.

Our main purpose is to show how many local traditions we have here, and
how much history has been lost over the years. For example, Connecticut
used to be second to Georgia in growing peaches (wordsmith Noah Webster
had a peach orchard in the backyard of his New Haven home). We also found
that there are many food traditions like the hot lobster roll or
clear-broth clam chowder that were invented here, but for some reason we
don’t take credit for. So, part of our project was to set those records
straight.

We wrote the book as a combination of history and recipes, because we
believe that you really can’t have one without the other; there are too
many histories of food without recipes and too many historical cook books
without narrative. There are colonial specialties like Indian pudding,
19th century favorites like fried oysters, and 20th century inventions
like steamed cheeseburgers.  We pored over many old cookbooks for recipes,
including American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, published in Hartford in
1796, the first known cookbook written by an American, as well as local
books like The Lymes Heritage Cookbook. We also were privileged to have
some of the state’s best chefs contribute modern interpretations of old
recipes and contemporary dishes that use classic ingredients.

Not being chefs ourselves, we wanted to make sure that all these recipes
were accessible to home cooks, and of course had many challenges when
adapting measurements like a “hen’s egg of butter” to modern proportions.
Colonial cooks especially cooked and baked huge quantities, so reducing
these to manageable size was also a challenge.

What we realized while writing this book, and what we hope comes across to
the reader, is that until very recently food was always local. There was a
sense of self deeply rooted in your home, your cow, your garden. This
meant a stronger connection to food. Hopefully we’re doing our part to
help recapture that connection, and make you hungry to investigate your
own local traditions. And of course, we hope that you’ll also be hungry
for some of this fantastic Connecticut food.

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One thought on “The History of Connecticut Food: Eric Lehman and Amy Nawrocki

  1. Pingback: Savoring Connecticut at the Naugatuck Historical Society Feb. 9 | Litchfield Hills and Fairfield County CT Travel

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