January 24, 2022

Consider the potato the pillow of comfort food

by Felicia Cheney

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By the time Nathaniel Hawthorne dropped by The House of the Seven Gables to chat with his erudite cousin, Susanna Ingersoll, in the 1830s and ‘40s, potatoes had made their way into New England kitchens. And very possibly, a dish like potato omelet was served in The Gable’s dining room. 

According to Kaylee Redard, assistant visitor services manager at The Gables, the first permanent potato patches in colonial America were planted by Scotch-Irish settlers in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Like lobster, early colonists may not have appreciated the deliciousness of potatoes that were, according to some historians, first planted alongside pig sties to more easily get the crop to the animals. 

Redard will once again host a Colonial Classics food demonstration in The Gables kitchen. The potato omelet she will make in her live cooking demonstration involves a few tasty twists on what we may expect. First, there are no onions in this recipe, says Redard. And second, the potatoes are not sliced but mashed for extra creamy goodness. Beaten egg whites are folded in to make a dish that, by today’s standards, seems a hybrid of a frittata and a shepherd’s pie.

On Wednesday, February 2, from 6 to 7 p.m., all are invited to sign on to a live, virtual cooking demonstration hosted by Redard and The House of the Seven Gables. To register for the event, use this link. It’s free, but The Gables greatly appreciates donations of $10, when possible, to help cover costs and to support the Settlement programs. Those who attend may chat with Redard and the staff, and they will receive the potato omelet recipe that has been updated for contemporary cooks.

“I find potatoes to be a great comfort food,” says Redard, who decided that this winter’s Colonial Classics series would focus on comfort. “This omelet reminds me of the tortillas de patatas that were a staple for me while I was in Spain and walking the Camino de Santiago. 

According to “Gathered at The Gables,” a cookbook produced by The Gables in 1995, food was an integral part of The Gables’ settlement programs. The settlement house offered young immigrant girls lessons in food preparation, nutrition and domestic skills. Visitors who paid for house tours could pause at the tea house and enjoy refreshing drinks such as tea punch accompanied by tea cakes.

Colonial Classics has been a special treat during the pandemic, says Redard. Those viewing from the safety of their homes have shared their family’s favorite recipes and joined in the live broadcasted series to talk about how these dishes can be modified or paired with other favorites.

“Cooking together like this enhances the enjoyment,” says Redard. “People love to connect over food and food is an amazing way to share cultures.”

The last Colonial Classic cooking demonstration is scheduled for Wednesday, March 2, from 6 to 7 p.m.

About The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association 

The mission of The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association is to be a welcoming, thriving, historic site and community resource that engages people of all backgrounds in our inclusive American story. For more information visit www.7gables.org

Stories are at the core of what we do at The House of the Seven Gables. They are not just a part of our past, but also our present and future. In 2021, we look forward to exploring the lore of our historic site and surrounding community with a special series of lectures, programs and events.