What could we eat today? Hypothetically … we could have bacon and eggs for breakfast, soup and a sandwich for lunch, and a steak and baked potato for dinner. For dessert there's cake and ice cream, and before we go to bed, we could have a soothing glass of warm milk and cookies.
In case you haven't noticed, the operative word here is "and," and when we're considering what to eat, it's more often the "and item" that gets our attention and sets our taste buds tingling. Which would you rather have, a grilled cheese sandwich or a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of steaming tomato soup?
This momentous insight came to me recently as I addressed the topic of New England Cookery in a class on Regional American Cooking at The School of Culinary Arts at Kendall College. This was an important day and a fun day for the students who came to appreciate a somewhat commonplace dish through its traditional, yet unusual, accompaniment. How about a nice plate of Boston Baked Beans and a slice of Boston Brown Bread?
Boston Brown Bread is a dark, sweet, steamed bread made from rye and wheat flour, cornmeal and molasses that dates back to Colonial New England. The use of cornmeal and rye enabled early settlers to stretch their supply of wheat flour, which was in short supply during that period. Most meals were cooked in fireplaces, so the bread was steamed, usually in some sort of cylindrical container. Somewhere along the line it became a tradition to steam the bread in a coffee can, and that's just how we're going to do it. You will need two 1-pound coffee cans. Here's the recipe: