Holiday Seafood Traditions
Coastal Conversations show: December 25, 2015
WERU 89.9 in Blue Hill and 99.9 in Bangor
Host: Natalie Springuel, Maine Sea Grant
Humans have long incorporated food with celebration. Ancestors of the native Wabanaki people observed seasonal changes like the arrival of winter and the solstice, and celebrated in their own ways with seasonal harvest. In December, they could have fished for migratory rainbow smelt and tomcod in coastal rivers, and collected shellfish from the shorelines. These sea foods then were carried over into the celebratory meals of European colonists. Later in the 20th century, new immigrant groups brought their own seafood traditions to Maine.
To learn more about seafood customs of the past, correspondent and Maine Sea Grant science writer Catherine Schmitt headed out to Islesboro to talk with food historian Sandy Oliver, and then sat down with writer and cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins to learn more about the present. We also spoke with Peekytoe Provisions, a seafood market in Bar Harbor, about what sea foods are popular this time of year. Hugh French of the Tides Institute & Museum of Art in Eastport described another kind of “seafood holiday,” the New Year’s Eve Sardine Drop.
Sandy Oliver, food historian and writer, Islesboro
Nancy Harmon Jenkins, writer and author, Camden
Drew Smith and Cyndi Bridges, Peekytoe Provisions, Bar Harbor
Hugh French, Tides Institute & Museum of Art, Eastport
Sandy Oliver's Recipe for Oyster Stew
"Acquire enough oysters for as many people you are serving, a minimum of six per person, more if you are an avid oyster eater. Over a medium heat, melt butter sufficient to cover generously the bottom of a heavy bottom saute pan or stew pan. Add the oysters to the pan, reserving the liquor temporarily. Cook the oysters until the edges just begin to curl, then add the liquor plus cream or half and half to cover the oysters. Heat until you can see steam rise, but don't allow to boil. Add salt, pepper, and a grating or two of nutmeg to taste. Serve immediately, if you wish, over oyster crackers."