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History of New England food will be on the table at special dinner in Center Harbor on Friday night

CENTER HARBOR — Though they walk in their footsteps, contemporary New Englanders enjoy a diet that is far different from that of the Europeans who colonized the region centuries ago. Foods served on local tables have been affected by changing religious views, trade, technology and politics. Even so, some dishes have managed to hold on to their place on the dinner table through the generations, giving today's diners a direct link to the Puritans who arrived nearly 400 years ago.

The question of what those early New Englanders ate was one that fascinated cookbook author and cooking instructor Barbara Lauterbach, who combined her twin passions of history and food to conduct enough research into the matter to give a presentation on the topic to the Center Harbor Historical Society. The idea also captured the imagination of Amy Elfline, owner of restaurants The Mug and The Bay, who mined Lauterbach's findings to compile a menu for one of her chef's night dinners.

On Friday night, from 5 to 9 p.m., diners at The Bay will be able to sample a selection of dishes that have nourished hungry New England residents for centuries.
Lauterbach, who was assisted in her research by her daughter, Elisabeth Laskin, associate dean at Harvard Summer School, found that the Puritans who arrived in Massachusetts in the 17th Century existed on a bland diet, one that was resulting as much from religious philosophy as it was from necessity.

"They were strongly conscientious, religion affected their diet greatly," said Lauterbach. When it came to their food, Puritans equated the bland with the pious, she said. They learned to grow corn from the American Indians they encountered, she said, and those who lived near the coast took advantage of lobsters and an abundance of cod, which was salted as a means of preservation.

Parsnips and carrots, brought from Europe, were mixed with native squashes and vegetables. Lauterbach found that a staple of the diet was a kind of legume referred to as "field pease." These had little in common to sweet green peas, instead they were small, white beans that could be dried for later use and the boiled until they disintegrated into a paste-like porridge. The dish would be consumed hot or cold, with little to no seasoning, for days at a time. Indeed, the saying "Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold, pease porridge in the pot, nine days old" was as much a menu plan as it was a nursery rhyme.
The porridge would often have been eaten with a piece of brown bread. Especially for the first several generations of New Englanders, white flour would have been reserved for only special occasions or for the wealthiest of residents. Instead, this bread would have been made from a dough of wheat flour mixed with the more readily-available corn meal.
It's fortunate for contemporary eaters that time marched onward from the bland pot of porridge. Lauterbach said that once cooks relaxed their Puritan ideals and trade routes made the ingredients accessible, they began adding saltpork, molasses and other spices to their beanpots, resulting in the much more palatable baked beans so closely associated with Boston.
New England clam chowder is another dish of the ages that underwent a similar evolution. Dairy products were a scarce commodity in New England prior to the widespread introduction of dairy herds in the 19th Century. Prior to this development, said Lauterbach, chowder would have been a much thinner soup, then became the rich, creamy concoction once milk and cream became one of the region's most affordable products.
Another food item closely associated with New England also came to the fore midway through the 1800s. When the 19th Century began, molasses was a common sweetener. However, it being a commodity imported from south of the Mason-Dixon line, northern cooks boycotted the product during the Civil War, and maple syrup usurped molasses's spot in New England's pantries.
Of all the long-lived dishes still served in the region, Lauterbach said the New England boiled dinner is likely the one that changed the least over time. Simply a chunk of meat, placed in a pot with vegetables and cooked for hours on the hearth, it would have been a great way for a 17th Century housewife to prepare a hearty dinner while attending to other chores while it bubbled away. The only difference between that meal and one served today would be that modern cooks would likely be more generous with seasonings.
Through her research, Lauterbach said, "I came to the conclusion that what goes around comes around." Today's culinarians prize locally-sourced, organic ingredients, which were all that the Pilgrims had access to. "However," added Lauterbach, "it's ever so much improved."
The menu for the Sept. 20 chef's night dinner, said Elfline, will feature chowder, boiled dinner, baked beans with brown bread and salmon with peas and an egg sauce, all served tapas-style. For dessert, a slice of apple pie and a piece of sharp cheddar.
"The idea is to take people through what they used to serve in New Hampshire 200 years ago," said Elfline. However, she added, her chef will be aiming to please the modern palate more so than Puritan ideals. "We will add a little more spice than what they did — we certainly want to make it flavorful, but we want to make it as authentic as possible so people can see how they used to eat."
The cost of the chef's night dinner is $30 per person, call 677-7141 to make a reservation.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 September 2013 02:57

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Worsman to ask Legislature to define relationship between Belknap County Convention & Board of Commissioners

CONCORD — Rep. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) is filing legislation intended to delineate the respective authority of the Beknap County Convention and the Belknap County Commission over the preparation and management of the county budget.

Worsman has requested a bill "relative to transfer of county appropriations in Belknap County" be drafted and introduced in the New Hampshire House of Representatives in January. She said yesterday that she is seeking "anything that will make the process smoother, clearer and define the roles of each branch of county government, the convention, as the legislative branch, and the commission as the executive branch."

Throughout the 2013 budget process the Republican majority of the convention has insisted that the convention can rewrite the budget proposed by the commission by adding or deleting, raising or lowering appropriations for particular line items. And, in the course of managing the budget, the commission may only reallocate funds from one line to another with the approval of the Executive Committee of the convention.
With equal resolve the commissioners claim that the authority of the convention is limited to itemizing appropriations in 13 categories accord with the "Statement of County Appropriations and Revenue as Voted," or MS-42 form, submitted to the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration. Within these categories, the commission contends it can distribute funds among different lines without the approval of the convention as long as expenditures do not exceed the total appropriations of the particular categories.
Last month, the convention, against Worsman's recommendation, voted not to file suit in Belknap County Superior Court against the commission in an effort to resolve the dispute.
Worsman said that the bill would apply specifically and exclusively to Belknap County, explained that "it has been made abundantly clear that among the 10 counties there are diverse opinions and approaches to this issue." She noted that a similar statute that prescribes a budget process for Hillsborough County was enacted in 1978 and serves as a precedent for legislation bearing on a single county. She anticipates that her bill to include elements of the law for Hillsborough County.
Worsman said that she has not yet consulted with other members of the county convention, but emphasized "I believe strongly that this is a bipartisan issue. I would welcome the support of anyone who is interested in clarifying the process."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 September 2013 02:47

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Northern Pass opposition gearing up for federal hearing in Plymouth on Tuesday

NEW HAMPTON — With a series of key federal hearings on Northern Pass a week or less away, about 100 people opposed to the major power line project were told Monday evening that opponents need to turn up in large numbers to let federal officials know the extent of the opposition.
The message was delivered during a two-hour forum organized and hosted by state Sen. Jeannie Forrester (R-Meredith), one of a number of state elected officials who are opposed to the proposed 186-mile electric transmission line through New Hampshire carrying hydropower from Quebec to New England.
The first of the hearings being held by the federal Department of Energy is scheduled for Monday at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord from 6 to 9 p.m., with the second taking place on Tuesday at Silver Center for the Arts at Plymouth State University from 5 to 8 p.m. Other hearings will be held Wednesday and Thursday in Whitefield and Colebrook respectively.
"We would not have sustained this for as long as we have if it was not for all your efforts to tell the Northern Pass people that this is not the right thing for New Hampshire," Forrester told the audience of gathered at New Hampton School's McEvoy Theater.
Will Abbott, vice president of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, said he hoped that the Department of Energy would take a close look at alternative ways to construct the power line, and in particular to possible ways the line could be placed underground. One of the biggest complaints about the $1.6 billion Northern Pass project is that the installation of more than 1,500 towers — some as tall as 165 feet — would spoil the scenery in much of New Hampshire's mountainous North Country, where the economy is heavily dependent on tourism.
Northern Pass supporters say the 1,200 megawatts of Canadian hydroelectric power would reduce the need for electricity from fossil fuel sources that produce carbon emissions and would provide tax revenue from Northern Pass facilities to the communities the line passes through and would provide jobs to New Hampshire.
But opponents counter the power line's towers along the route would rise above the trees and would damage New Hampshire's environment, lower property values and make the state less attractive to tourists.
"If money is the arbiter, they will win," Abbott said of Northern Pass. "If people (are) the ultimate arbiter, then we will win. We have the power to stop this from happening," he said, adding that the Forest Society was prepared to fight the project in court if necessary.
Other panelists at the forum were Susan Arnold of the Appalachian Mountain Club and real estate broker Andy Smith.
Smith, a partner in the firm of Smith and Peabody, said since the Northern Pass project was unveiled almost three years it has had a "chilling effect" on real estate values in areas that are within sight of where the line would run. He acknowledged that was not possible to say precisely how much values have been hurt, explaining: "It's hard to quantify a non-sale." But he said that people looking to buy immediately lose interest in a particular property when they hear the Northern Pass route is nearby. "People come up here because they love what we have, and they do not want to see it spoiled."
Arnold, who is the AMC's conservation director, said that revisions to the Northern Pass route, including burying eight miles of the line in the far-north Connecticut Lakes Region, do not go far enough to address the concerns being raised by the project's critics.
Arnold faulted Northern Pass for not putting forth more extensive alternative plans for the project, including the burying the power lines altogether. She said the fact similar projects being planned in Maine and New York included buried lines was proof that such an alternative was feasible for Northern Pass. Arnold further noted that Northern Pass requires permission from the U.S. Forest Service to run lines through parts of the White Mountain National Forest, and so it will need to present alternatives, regardless of their cost, for the Forest Service to consider in deciding whether to give the utility permission to cross federal land.
The purpose of the DOE hearings is to analyze the potential environmental impacts associated with the project in light of the proposed changes Northern Pass announced back in June. The environmental impact statement is intended to provide the analysis to support a Forest Service decision on whether to issue a special use permit within the White Mountain National Forest.
Forrester said opposition to Northern Pass has drawn bipartisan support and that lawmakers from the southern part of the state are now beginning to raise concerns about its long-term impact. "We're beginning to see we can't just turn our back on this," she said.
Forrester expressed confidence that critics would prevail, and she said that even if the project clears all the federal hurdles, she intends to use the state's newly created power project site evaluation process to block it from being built.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 September 2013 02:38

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Mother & daughter involved (on opposite sides) of brawl that results in first-degree assault charges against 1 man

LACONIA — A local man is being held on $15,000 cash-only bail for allegedly hitting a man in the head with a beer bottle and an expandable baton during a fight on September 13.

Kyle Violette, 27, of 76 Endicott St. North Apt. 4 is charged with two counts of first-degree assault — one for the beer bottle and one for the expandable baton.

Laconia Police said Violette was arrested Monday night by Farmington Police and turned over to Laconia Police, who held an outstanding warrant.

Violette appeared by video in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday and his public defender made no bail argument but reserved Violette's right to a probable cause and bail hearing at a future time.

According to police affidavits, officers were called to 1184 Weirs Boulevard for a disturbance involving four people, two men and two women. The two women are mother and daughter and are apparently the girlfriends of the two men. The older of the two women is involved with Violette.

When police arrived, they found a male victim with an open head wound and the beginnings of two black eyes. Police said he "had blood all over his body" and there was blood "all over the porch and stairs."

The man's girlfriend had what police said were red marks on her neck and ears. Her right eye was beginning to swell.

The victim told police his girlfriend's mother started punching her daughter in the face when the younger women mentioned a prior burglary allegedly committed by Violette. He said he tried to pull the women apart but Violette jumped in and hit him on the head with "beer bottles and a drinking glass."

The two men began wrestling and when they fell down the porch stairs, the victim's leg got caught in the railing and Violette allegedly began choking him.

The victim's girlfriend told police that at this point the two men separated but started fighting again when Violette ran upstairs to help her (fend off her mother). This time, said the girlfriend, the victim was getting the upper hand on Violette so the mother came running down the stairs and began punching the victim in the face until he and Violette separated again.

After separation, Violette allegedly ran to his car, grabbed an expandable baton and hit the victim over the head, splitting his scalp open.

The victim and his girlfriend both told police that Violette and his girlfriend (the mother) left in the car with their two children and drove away.

At some point, city police caught up with Violette, who is on parole, and charged him with the two first-degree assaults.

Violette, according to affidavits, has a lengthy and violent criminal record including theft, three convictions of resisting arrest, a conviction for possession of drugs, two violation of probation or parole convictions, three convictions for disobeying a police officer, one conviction for reckless conduct, and four convictions for simple assault.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 September 2013 02:33

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