What do fishermen’s wives, cornmeal and molasses have in common?

30th Oct 2018

In the spirit of changing seasons and warming spirits, I’d like to take a moment of appreciation for my current baking obsession:

Anadama Bread.

Anadama bread is a quintessential New England recipe: steeped in (sometimes conflicting) lore and relying on an unexpected combination of regionally important ingredients.

It is a sandwich loaf made with wheat flour, molasses and cornmeal. With a bit of toothiness from the corn and deep sweetness from the molasses, it is a fabulous toast slice with jam or bookend to a savory sandwich.

There are two main stories behind it’s inception somewhere round the 1850s:

  • Story A: A fisherman in Gloucester was married to a woman named Anna who served the same cornmeal and molasses pudding for lunch day in and day out. His pleas for variety fell on deaf ears and eventually, the fisherman had had enough. Taking matters into his own hands (the ‘lil rebel!), he added handfuls of flour and yeast to the pudding, then angrily shoved the mix into the hearth to bake, muttering: “Anna, damn her!” Lo and behold! The spiteful mix was delicious, and became a household staple.
  • Story B: A sea captain in Gloucester/Rockport area was married to a fabulously talented baker named Anna. Known for her culinary skill, Anna’s specialty was her cornmeal-molasses bread. After her untimely and early death, her surly and grieving husband had her tombstone inscribed with: “Anna was a lovely bride, but Anna, damn ’er, up and died."

In either story, the fiesty Massachusetts spirit shines through. Throw in our famed accent and you get the lovely portmanteau: Anadama Bread.

Either of these tales can be boiled down to the truth: Anadama bread has been around the fishing communities on Cape Ann (north of Boston) since at least the 1850s. In the 1950s, a fantastic small town bakery distributed their version throughout New England and it was cemented as a regional favorite. Today, local bakeries still make it, but it has not risen to the national arena in the way of the Parker House roll or Boston cream pie.

We have been eating test loaves at home for the past two months and I am proud to offer the Third Cliff take on Anadama bread at the trike at Egleston Square Farmers Market for the next three weeks. I hope that if you are in the area, you can come by to try it out.