I have a soft spot for cookbooks from America’s glorious post-war period when we may all have been drifting into suburban anomie, but the backyard grills were fired up and the parties were well-oiled with cocktails. Recipes were spiced up with fun fonts, jolly sketches, and accessible ethnic dishes.
Peter Hunt was a long time resident of Provincetown, a fishing village dramatically located at the very tip of Cape Cod that evolved into an artists’ colony and then into a tourist town. He charmed wealthy visitors with his cheery personality and folk art-painted furniture and was in turn charmed with the local Portuguese fishing community.
His cookbook feels like an American version of Scott and Zelda on the French Riviera–artists and fishermen. In the introduction he writes, “The food that interests me perhaps the most on Cape Cod is that which the Portuguese prepare,” and he imagined an ideal inn with casual hours decorated with pine, driftwood, and white-washed walls, serving cabbage soup with mint and vinha d’alhoes.
After his first chapter, “The Portuguese Are Wonderful Cooks” with recipes like a chick pea and linguica Grao de Bico and Trutas, a sweet potato pastry, he continues with a chapter called “Tradition on Cape Cod.” Here you’ll find clams–fried, frittered, in chowder and pies, in omelets and soup. Oysters, lobsters, baked beans, brown bread (a steamed loaf made with corn meal and molasses), and blueberries in jam, wine, sauce, baked with cornflakes or blended with whipped cream.
“Off-Capers Food” includes Italian spaghetti, and recipes picked up from local inns and personalities–Beef Stroganoff and something called Chicken Noel (not surprisingly it involves heavy cream and sherry).
It is a charming collection and though it may not inspire you into the kitchen it will recall the particular feel of lazy beach days–crisp mornings and long sunny afternoons drifting into sunsetted evenings.
If you feel like cooking, try Lora Brody’s The Cape Cod Table. She picks up recipes from Falmouth to Provincetown, mining the same territory as Hunt–Portuguese Muffins for breakfast, and Bacalhau as a main dish. Local produce gets cooked up into Cranberry-Pear Linzertorte and Irma’s Clam Fritters and drinks to accompany sunset on the porch–Sea Breeze, Red Snapper or Red Tide.