My niece left New Hampshire for sunny California about the time she turned twenty. Although she lives on the other coast, Gillian has never forgotten her New England roots. We are more than delighted that she makes a pilgrimage East every summer.
Of course, she brings her two boys with her. Why they put up with us, I don’t know. Since we feel duty-bound to educate the boys on all things New England, it is a good thing they do. Yes, you can take the boys out of New England, heck these two weren’t even born here, but you can’t take New England out of the boys. Not if their grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles have anything to do about it.
A critical part of their education is learning to speak New England. And by New England, we really mean they need to develop an understanding of the melodious pronunciation and dulcet tones of their great grandmother.
My mother grew up in Massachusetts, on the south shore just outside of Boston. Within the family, her accent has always been the most pronounced. Dad also grew up on the south shore but learned to modify his accent when business took him to such far-flung places as New Haven and Chicago. It’s hard to make a sale if your customer doesn’t understand a word you’re saying.
First and most important, our Californians have learned that they are not boys but boh-eys. Or perhaps, I should say, “The Boh-eys”. As babies they were cunnin’. When they grew older, they learned that they were the best in the whole orchestra. In both cases, Mom was and is absolutely right.
Every summah we use their visit as just one more excuse to fill up on lobsta and foolish idears. As California natives, The Boh-eys don’t drop and add Rs willy-nilly like their New England family. Even if they don’t adopt this quirk, they should know this kind of thing.
Not just a language lesson, lobsta is a part of New England culcha and their great grandfatha’s love of all things nautical. A lobster feast gives Dad an excuse to share sailing stories with the boys and anyone else willing to listen.
Most years, Gillian times their arrival with the staht of the kohn season. You know, those things with the husks and yellow kernels. If they want tomahtoes, they have to go elsewhere but local tomatoes are abundant on my table.
For desseht, it’s anything with bluebrees. Blueberry pie is not just Dad’s favorite dessert; it is a wonderful excuse for him to share stories about his fatha. After he retired, my Grampa Nye helped make ends meet with a variety of odd jobs. Picking blueberries was among his favorites. A blueberry dessert invariably leads my brother to mutter something about a coupla yads a bluebree grunt.
Grampa Nye may have measured dessert by the yard but he knew the difference between pie, cake and grunt. I’m not sure if my brother even knows that grunt is an old New England dessert made with fruit and dumplings. However, he finds the word hysterically funny and uses it for pretty much anything with blueberries. You say crostata, he says grunt.
I hope that your summah is filled with fun and family from neah and fah. Bon appétit!
With primitive kitchens and new ingredients, New England’s earliest settlers improvised and invented new desserts like Indian Pudding and Blueberry Grunt. Enjoy!
6 cups blueberries, stemmed and washed
1 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup half & half or whole milk
Put the blueberries in a skillet, add the water, brown sugar, lemon juice, spices and a pinch of salt and stir to combine. Bring the fruit to a gentle boil over low heat.
While the blueberries are heating, put the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Transfer to a large bowl.
Put the sour cream in a bowl and whisk in the half & half until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the flour and butter mixture and stir to combine.
Drop spoonfuls of dough over the bubbling blueberry mixture. Cover and cook over low heat until the dumplings are cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Serve the dumplings with spoonfuls of blueberries. Grampa Nye would recommend adding a scoop of ice cream. That way if someone doesn’t like the grunt, he or she can enjoy the ice cream.
Alternatively, you might prefer a more modern, baked version:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 2-quart baking dish.
Put the blueberries, brown sugar, lemon zest and juice, spices and a pinch of salt in a bowl and toss to combine. Transfer to the baking dish.
Drop spoonfuls of dough over the blueberries and bake at 375 degrees until bubbling and golden, 45-60 minutes.
Again, serve with ice cream and no one, least of all my brother, will know the difference.
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Do you speak New England? Feel free to share. Let’s start a conversation.
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015