A Voyage


As the New Year yawns open this morning I sit at my desk surrounded with stacks of cookbooks, each pile stamped with a yellow sticky: “New Bedford.”  “South Coast.”  “Martha’s Vineyard.”  “Nantucket.” –

Nine piles in all, each pile representing the way a community on the craggy-toothed Massachusetts coastline has been feeding its families, its hard-working people, and celebrating itself for as long as anyone has been writing it down.  My job in the next six months is to assemble the best recipes from these communities, and write their story for a full-color, hard-copy book to be released by Globe Pequot Press in spring of 2015.  From the Wampanoags on Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod to the privateer and yachting stories of Marblehead, the treasure here is as varied as it is rich.

In the past month I’ve walked New Bedford’s gritty streets and driven along Chilmark’s lanes lined in stonewalls, stood on the cliffs of Aquinnah.  I’ve revisited Rockport’s “boom” moment – the granite industry and I’ve come to understand how whaling was the winning lottery ticket for just about everyone – English and Native Americans together – for about a hundred years.


Wampanoags, Cape Verdeans, Portuguese, Azoreans, Sicilians, Finns, Swedes, and the English; these are the people who have been making their version of a chowder – with quahogs, with scallops, with linquica, with kale, with cream and crackers – along the Massachusetts coast; the soups and stews are as varied as the names of the people stirring the pots:  “Fast Turtle.”  “Almeida.”  “Madeiros.”  “Dovale.”  “Tarantino.”  “Kaihlenen.”  “Johnson.”  “Cabot.”

At first I thought the common piece here was whaling.  No, I decided, it’s just fishing.  And, no, I decided later, the true element bonding them all is water.  The way each group goes down to the sea, they way they arrived here from foreign lands to go down to this particular patch of Atlantic Ocean, that is the one story from which each of their recipes arise.

Really, what a book this can be; it’s a great honor to have been asked to write it.

Melville’s Ishmael talks about his epic voyage like this; in my own little way, I sort of feel as if he’s describing the start of my own voyage in this new year.

I should now take it into my head to go on a whaling voyage; this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who has the constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way- he can better answer than any one else. And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. 

Happy New Year to my friends; thanks for reading, commenting and sharing, in every sense of that word!


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16 Responses to “A Voyage”

  1. How exciting! There are a few oddball old Plymouth recipes that I have been meaning to get to (the Forefathers Day Succotash, Clam Muddle) or have already posted (Sea Clam Pie). Before spring I’ll try to fill out the lesser-known old Plymouth recipes with what I can learn from the locals.

    • Heather Atwood says:

      John, thanks so much! I would love to talk and share some recipes – Clam Muddle? – I had no idea. It would be great to have your insights.

  2. Charlotte Gordon says:

    This is beautiful, Heather. Totally inspiring. It is an honor to watch this voyage of yours as it unfolds. Bravo!

    • Heather Atwood says:

      Thanks as ever, you. I’m just doing my best to keep in stride with you. So nice to see you in the last minutes of 2013.

  3. Heather, how exciting! You will write a wonderful book. Best to you in 2014!

  4. Janis says:

    I am so excited for you. What an amazing new adventure!

  5. Caroline says:

    Looking forward to reading this book. What a great book idea, and interesting adventure.

  6. Cathy says:

    Heather, I’ve been waiting to see what book would spring from your amazing mind and this is just wonderful. I cannot wait to read it all. Best best best luck, xoCathy PS I am a huge fan of the book-writing, uber-organizing tool SCRIVENER, available online for a reasonable price. Do the tutorial. If you need help, let me know. It saved my bacon.

  7. Heather Atwood says:

    Cathy, Thanks for the kindness! – and even more thanks for that P.S. This is the day – blizzard raging – for me to get organized; I’m going right to Scrivener.

  8. Ann Kennedy says:

    I am certain that you will create a marvelous culinary journey for all of us to take! What an awesome project! I hope you come across the Saga of Skully Joe–one of my all time favorite descriptions of ordinary dried schrod in an old Provincetown cookbook. Happy New Year and best wishes for you and your book!

  9. Heather Atwood says:

    Happy New Year, Ann! I’m chasing down the Saga of Skully Joe! I’ve actually been looking for an old Provincetown cookbook – can you recommend one?

    • Ann says:

      The Skully Joe info is in Howard Mitcham’s Provincetown Seafood Cookbook (Addison-Wesley, 1975–not old in the historic sense.) This is however, a delightful book of great narratives and local lore and I’m happy to loan to you anytime.

  10. Rene Pickering says:

    I will reserve a copy of your book now please!

  11. Mary Lou says:

    If your writing for the book is anything like your blog, we’re in for a treat. May they fly off the shelves!!

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