Tag Archives: Melissa Smith Abbott

Melissa Smith Abbott Interview Part II

As promised here is part II of my conversation with Melissa Smith Abbott

I’m pretty sure we could have easily done parts III IV and V as Melissa has so much to say.

You can visit her website here-http://www.anadamabreadbook.com/

The Mrs read through it on the beach yesterday and said it was very cool and noted that for someone who grew up around here it would be extremely interesting.

Melissa Smith Abbott Interview Part I

You can visit her website here-http://www.anadamabreadbook.com/

The Legacy of Three Melissas: Authentic & Original Cape Ann Recipes
is now available in Rockport at Toad Hall Bookstore, in Gloucester at The Bookstore on Main Street,
The Cape Ann Museum Bookstore, Harbor Loop Gifts at The Building Center

Tons of rich local history here

Here is part I of our two part interview-

Part II comes tomorrow at 6PM

GMG Q&A- Melissa Smith Abbott Part VII (the final installment)

What are your thoughts on The Block Parties last year?

I love the way the Gloucester Downtown is pulling together and making themselves interesting and relevant to the community. It is a real chance to get a sense of community and bond with the local businesses and your neighbors. I have made a decision in the last year to shop locally and keep my money in town rather than driving to a mall and giving it to a corporation. I would much rather support local businesses. I hope Gloucester Downtown continues to band together on the same grassroots level and organize more events for both the locals and the tourists. I had a blast at one of the block parties and went into stores and talked to people I normally would not have had a chance to get to know. I actually won a raffle at the Black Swan and now have one of thier beautiful purses. In days gone by, Gloucester Downtown was a real meeting place. Everyone congregated in front of the waiting station which is where Passports, Sugar Magnolias, The Franklin, and
Deborah Coull Salon is now. We had Connors drug store with thier soda fountain, Nick’s Pool Room (not that any girls ever went in there), Sam Ann’s which was a coffee shop after school hangout for the High school kids. Everyone waited for late buses there to get home and it was a social network. In the 1960′s there were actual cliques of kids. Two of them were The West End Kids and The East Gloucester Kids AKA The Clique. Sometimes there would even be rumbles between the boys in the halls at school or at house parties. It seems kind of silly now, but it was a big deal back then. Grays Hardware Store was across the Street and Dr Wonson the dentist was upstairs. You could walk up the hill to Sterlings Drug Store or Woolworth’s and then there was Brown’s Department Store, Goldman’s and The Empire. All of these sold the sweater sets we yearned for which we wore with little peter pan colored blouses and circle pins. We bought our shoes and purses at Mark
Adrians (was known as something else but I can’t remember).  We took dance Lessons from Ina Hahn upstairs from the waiting station. So for me, Downtown Gloucester was a place where I came of age and learned about the world. Now that I work for The Gloucester Times, my territory is downtown Gloucester and it is very interesting to me to meet and know everyone there now. Some of the names and faces are the same but most are new.

What is your favorite Local band.

I have been a fan of Fly Amero since High School when he was the only musician we knew who could play the whole of the song by Arlo Gutherie, Alices Restaurant, all the way through (which took about 45 minutes). For some reason I was very impressed by this. I also knew his older brother JB when he played in a rocking 60′s band called JB and Water. They played all the Yacht Club and High School Dances at the time and they were a cross between The Kingsmen of Louis Louis fame and The Kinks and he was definitely one of the coolest guys around musically. His sister Linda was one of the most lovely girls around in the 60′s and boy could she sing then and can she sing now! A few years ago I went to Fly’s 50th birthday party and reconnected with everyone and it was very cool.

Thank you Melissa for taking the time to write all this down and share with us.  It is much appreciated!

GMG Q&A- Melissa Smith Abbott Part VI

Who has the best Chowder in town?

I really don’t like anyone’s Chowder all that much. I don’t think people know how to make it anymore. They don’t put in the fish broth or clam broth which is what makes it really tasty. Here is my grandmother, Melissa C. Smith’s recipe for Fish Chowder from the Blacksmith Shop Cookbook 1947.

Blacksmith Shop Restaurant Fish Chowder 1947

4 lbs. haddock or cod
4 potatoes peeled cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1 sliced onion
1 1/2 inch fat salt pork
1 T. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
3 T. butter
4 c. scalded milk

Preparation

A New Englander orders her fish from the market with the fish skinned, but the head and tail left on. Remove fish from backbone and cut off head and tail. Cut fish into 2 inch pieces and set aside. Put head, tail, and backbone pieces into a stew pan, add 2 cups of cold water and bring slowly to boiling point; cook 5 minutes. Cut salt pork into small pieces and fry out, add onion and fry 5 minutes. Strain fat into a large pan, add potatoes to fat, then add 2 cups boiling water and cook 5 minutes. Add liquor drained from the bones, add fish, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Add milk, salt, pepper, and butter. Melissa C Smithʼs comment: Although it is not traditional, I find most people prefer fish chowder which is slightly thickened. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and add 4 tablespoons flour, blending well. Gradually add 4 cups scalded milk. A little cream is good too. Serve with pilot crackers.

Note: source: Blacksmith Shop Specialties – How to Prepare and Serve Our Famous Dishes – Melissa C. Smith 1947

Now, I am  not sure if you are aware then you can not get Crown Pilot Crackers anymore. Nabisco decided not to make them. I did a bit of research on them. Crown Pilot was actually Nabisco’s oldest recipe, purchased when they bought out a small baker in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where the cracker was made as early as 1792 for seafarers.

I have a Pilot Cracker Recipe which I will share with you. It’s easy and they come out pretty good. So if you like things authentic, you really can’t get them in too many places commercially and chowder just isn’t chowder without Pilot Crackers.

Pilot Crackers

1 1/2 Cups milk
4 Cups flour
4 Tablespoons butter
3 Teaspoons brown sugar
1 1/2 Teaspoons salt

Mix the ingredients into a dough and roll out to a thickness of
about 1/2 inch. Cut into rectancles. Prick the squares with a fork
or knife. Place them on a lightly greased baking pan and bake
at 400 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.
Yield: 24 2 x 2-inch bars.

I prefer a Haddock Chowder but if I dug the clams myself, then I like Clam Chowder too.

GMG Q&A- Melissa Smith Abbott Part V

What is your favorite local event in Gloucester?

I love the Schooner Festival. It’s a day where the sails are alive in the harbor just like in the old days. It’s like a convention old Victorian ladies still all decked out in their lace and velvets. If you squint your eyes you can imagine what it looked like over 100 years ago. I like going out with the schooners and sailing with them and taking loads of photos. It is always a great weekend in Gloucester when lots of visiting boats come to town. I always wonder why Gloucester doesn’t have more moorings and marinas for boats to attract that kind of business to the city. Lot’s of people come to Gloucester by boat and there is no where to land and it is very unfriendly towards them. We have such a huge beautiful harbor and we could manage a few more moorings and a public marina with showers, groceries, and a laundromat. It would definitely bring in a different sort of tourist during the summer. You can charge big money for it too. Everyone loves Fiesta and
I like the blessing of the fleet and the greasy pole with all the costumes. The best place to watch is right beside it and to go there by dingy. The 4th of July in Laneville is off the hook but scary because of the noise and fire. I also like the Boat Parade at the end of the summer with the fireworks afterwards. It is a fun night.

In the summer do you prefer beach or Boat.

I prefer going to the beach by boat! I love Lighthouse, Wingersheek, Jones Creek, back side of Cranes, Niles, and Braces. If I have to drive to a beach, I definitely like Cape Hedge or Pebble because of the sound of the rocks. But I am on our boats everyday in the summer and wouldn’t be anywhere else.

Who is your favorite local artist.

Well…. you didn’t ask, dead or alive….so I will tell you both. I love Czerepak, Armand Sindoni, Edna Hibel, Maurice Comprise, Harrison Cady, Strisik,Thieme, Hibbard, Otis Cook, and early Gruppes to name a few Cape Ann Artists who have passed on. I always think of Armand’s “schooners at night” paintings that used to hang in Capt Bills Restaurant (now known as Elliots) in the 1960′s. Capt Bill used to buy his clams from this digger named Floyd and you would always see Floyd hanging around the west end of town. Gloucester used to be filled with characters like Floyd who wore rags, boots, and carried a bag and clam fork around town. If you were eating in Capt Bill’s in the 1960′s you might have seen Charles Olsen who was a huge hulk of a man walking by with his big overcoat and shock of gray hair.

Currently, I love Jeff Weaver, Tom Nichols, and Robert Gruppe. I am also a fan of Robert Hawkins who lives in Europe now but was originally from Gloucester and I was lucky enough to buy one of paintings last year.

What is your favoritie local beach?

I think I have already talked about the beaches but I really don’t have a favorite, they are all great in their own way and what is so cool is that we have such a variety of beaches here so whatever your mood, you are all set.

GMG Q&A- Melissa Smith Abbott Part IV

What is place you would go for a romantic dinner in Gloucester?

As far as restaurants go, in the summer, its definately The Rudder on the porch or at the bar and in the winter it is a draw between Duckworth and Passports. The porch at the Rudder is sexy and fun and there are always lots of locals there to say hello to and greet. You can walk around Rocky Neck afterwards or if you went to the Rudder by boat go for a little dingy ride afterwards in the sunset. Duckworth’s has great Lobster Risotto and fun things you might not have tried before and everything is delicious. Passports has very high quality food. The vegtables are definately the freshest and biggest portions and you can’t argue with the popover they give you.  Mostly though, I have to say that the most romantic place to have dinner in Gloucester for me is aboard my husbands 35 ft sailboat “Sealord” moored in Smith’s Cove. We pretty much eat there as much as we can during the summer and we always joke as we cook a couple of lobsters or fish we caught
ourselves that day with a bottle wine from the Liquor Locker (they have the best wine selection on Cape Ann) that our meal cost under $20 and all those people over at The Studio, The Rudder, and the Madfish are paying way more for thier dinner and we even have a better view. I also like to cook dinner at sunset anchored off Niles Beach.

What is your favorite local bar in Gloucester?

I would have to say Latitude 43 because they have Stella Artois on draft. A couple of years ago my husband and I went to England on a vacation and we kind of got hooked on Stella’s there. They are great in the bottle but if you can find it on draft, it is great.

What is your favorite Breakfast joint in Gloucester?

I would have to say that I love and have always adored Sailor Stans on Rocky Neck. It is a social experience in an East Gloucester sort of way. I like that it hasn’t changed very much and it is still the same counter and bar as when it was called The “Drift In” years ago.

GMG Q&A- Melissa Smith Abbott Part III

What is your favorite Pizza Joint in Gloucester?

First of all I have to say that we are very lucky here in Gloucester. There are so many good pizza places that there is something to suit any mood. You know one night you might be in the mood for Delaneys or Marias thin crust and on another night you might be yearning for Sebastians or Valentinos. So we have it really good here as far as the variety and quality of  all the Pizza places. Years ago there was a place in Gloucester called Ra-Joes on Main Street. It was exactly to the left of where the Halibut Point Restaurant is now. Ra-joes had 2 sides to it. One the right was a bar with booths and on the left was a dark restaurant with high tin ceilings and booths. about half way up the walls was a shelf with wine bottles spray painted black for decoration. There was a Chianti bottle with a candle on every table. The pizza was amazing and practically the same as Delaneys Pizza is now. I think a small pizza was like $1.50.and a large pizza was like $2.75.
Everyone used to go to the Strand Movie Theater which was located where the Liquor Locker’s walk in cooler is now and then for pizza at Ra-joes. In the early 70′s Earle Foote owned Ra-joes and that was at the time the 18 year old drinking age got ratified. You have to remember that this was during the Vietnam War and the big call of exasperation from a lot of young people was, “that they are old enough to get drafted and killed but they couldn’t have a drink”. All the kids started going to the bar next door and it got to be kind of a hang out. Unfortunately, the building ended up burning down and was rebuilt into a disco alled “Lil Earles” and later bought by Gorton’s.
But to get back to your question about the favorite Pizza Joint in Gloucester? I would have to say my own kitchen. I make the best thin crust Pizza I know of besides Delaneys. There is a trick to getting really crisp thin crust at home and I will share it with you. You must use a pizza stone or cast iron pizza pans that are heated in a 425 degree oven first. I will share my recipe with you because in this economy cooking at home is where it is at for many of us.

Melissa Smith Abbott’s Thin Crust Pizza
Pizza Dough
1/3 cup white wine – 2/3 cup warm water – 1 1/2 oz yeast – 1 Tbsp honey or maple syrup – 1 tsp sea salt – 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil – 3 cups King Arthur Flour
Combine the wine, water, and yeast in a large bowl and stir until dissolved. Add sweetner, salt and oil oil – stir. Add 1 cup flour and stir to make a wet paste. Add remaining flour and knead for several minutes. I use a Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook but you can use a food processor or do it by hand with very good results. Place dough in an oiled bowl and let rise for 45 minutes in a warm place. Divide Dough into 2 balls. Meanwhile heat up the oven and place your stone or cast iron pizza pans in the oven to heat up first. You can use a couple of cast iron frying pan in a pinch.

Using a little flour, a rolling pin, and your hands to create a thin crust the size of your pan. Use the rolling pin to get it nice and thin. Take out the hot pans from the oven and place the dough right on top and then quickly coat with sauce of your choice either homemade or canned in a thin layer. I use Prego (it doesn’t seem to have a lot of chemicals or fillers in it) with very good results if I have not made my own sauce from scratch. Then quickly sprinkled grated mozzarella and grated Parmesan on top of the sauce. I usually do one cheese pizza and then one with toppings. My favorite toppings are mushroom, red and green peppers, thinly sliced onion, sliced chicken or shrimp. I use whatever I have around. Quickly get first in oven and then repeat on 2nd pan or stone. Rotate the pizzas on the racks while cooking . They will only take about 10-12 minutes in this type of hot oven with preheated pans. If you have a very hot oven then you can turn down the
oven to 375 or 400 if the heat is making you nervous it will cook too fast. Experiment.

What is your favorite sub shop in Gloucester?

You can not beat Destinos. They serve the soup and salads with the sub and that is pretty amazing. I remember when Destino first opened up around 1960 or a little later. it was the cool hang out for the high school kids and believe it or not submarine sandwiches were a bit of a new thing. The place was originally across the street to the left of Our lady of Good Voyage Church where their parking lot is now. It was a little hole in the wall with a counter.  I know a lot of people like the sandwiches at Virgilios too.

GMG Q&A- Melissa Smith Abbott Part II

What is your favorite season in Gloucester?

My favorite season in Gloucester is Fall. The reason being is that it is still wonderful weather and lots of the tourists go home so you can enjoy some of the places here with a little more privacy. Many people have the mentality that Cape Ann is a place to come to and “party” during the summer. I like a party as much as the next person but I actually get tired of it in the summer. I am always relieved to take the locality back from the revelers.You can go to the back side of Wingaersheek by boat in the Fall and its all but deserted. The heat is lessened and so its nicer to take walks around the back shore or Braces Cove. The air is brisk and there is a certain freshened energy of the easterly wind in fall which brings heightened sense of aliveness and creativity. The summer is wonderful for sure but the fall is Exquisite. During the summer the sunsets sitting on the boat are the best and swimming is fantastic (I don’t mind the cold water). I enjoy a
good sail and get to do plenty of it.
I also like the Christmas season on Cape Ann. I love the decorated trees and houses, the Santa Parades, the Nativity Pagent in Rockport, and all the events and parties of the Christmas Season great and small. I like reconnecting with old friends and family at that time of year. It is the threshold of the introspection of the winter season and I find it very contemplative.

Do you have any secret outdoor spots in Gloucester to “get away”.

Yes, Most of them accessable only by boat. I love to anchor or pick up a mooring behind Ten Pound Island or off of Niles Beach or anywhere else in the harbor off of Eastern Point. I love to go “up the river” and hang out at Jones Creek of take a ride up into Lobster Cove. My most favorite spot is by the lighthouse off of Lighthouse beach in Annisquam. I love to dive off of the rocks there at high tide.

Look for part three tomorrow.  Thanks Melissa.  Anyone else who would like to fill out a questionnaire leave a comment and I’ll send you the form.