The Pudding Hollow Cookbook:
A Metaphor for New England Life
By Marcia Passos Duffy
Before we moved to New Hampshire we seriously considered relocating to an
equally charming area in the northwestern corner of Massachusetts.
Known to residents as “West County” – this relatively isolated part of the state
is comprised of an irresistible combination of tiny towns, charming hollows,
softly sloping hills, and a New England flavor that is more akin to its Vermont
neighbor in the north than the rest of the state to the east.
It is this backdrop that The Pudding Hollow Cookbook, written by Tinky
“Dakota” Weisblat and illustrated by folk artist Judith Russell – was created.
Pudding Hollow – while not on the map – is a real dip between the hills in the
hamlet of Hawley, MA (population: 375). Pudding Hollow is also a place of
“imagination and of the heart” to the Weisblat and illustrator Russell – the
author’s friend and collaborator who died of leukemia before the book was
completed. Pudding Hollow as a place – and as a cookbook -- serves as a
metaphor for the best in New England and country life, says author Weisblat.
While most of the recipes are from area residents (who, Weisblat notes, would
much rather give up a secret recipe for donuts than to talk over the fence)
Pudding Hollow is far from being a staid “regional” cookbook. While there
are the favorites you would expect from a New England cookbook – Shepherds
Pie, Blueberry Crisp, Corn Casserole, Pot Roast – Weisblat devotes entire
chapters to exploring creative ways of using ingredients from New England’s
culinary heritage: rhubarb, maple syrup, berries, and gourds. There are
surprises thrown in that reflect the region’s changing cosmopolitan flavor: Tex-
Mex Turnovers, Esty’s Secret Smoked Lox, Sate (Satay) from Indonesia, Peanut
Sauce and Indian Chicken Curry.
But this is more than a collection of eclectic recipes
– it’s the kind of book to curl up with a cup of tea
and savor as each chapter takes you through the
rhythms and festivals of a traditional New England
year – from winter comfort foods to maple sugaring
season, from summer singing parties to the
legendary pudding contest from which the area
“While the cookbook is regional, it transcends the
region. Food is telling a story,” Weisblat says.
The introduction to the chapters reveals Weisblat’s
skill as a story teller (she is a journalist and historian
-- and moonlights as a cabaret singer), and the sketches and colorful paintings
throughout the book created by her friend is clearly a tribute to her love of not
only this hill town, but all rural communities.
“This book is very dear to my heart,” Weisblat says.
Weisblat tested all the recipes at least once, “…I’ll never make dandelion wine
again – it was fun to do, but you have to use only the little petals!” There was
one recipe she did not test until recently, a joke recipe called “The Dreaded
Lime Jell-O Marshmallow Cottage Cheese SURPRISE!’ “Just a few months ago
I thought, what the heck, I’ll make it. I changed a few things – like adding
maraschino cherries instead of pimentos. It was actually prettier than I thought
– but no, not edible!”
Weisblat’s favorite chapters are “Learning From Rhubarb” and “Judy & the
Peaceable Kingdom,” a chapter on comfort foods devoted to the artist. “My
favorite chapters are also whatever is in season at the moment…right now I’m
happy about corn and apples and tomatoes, but next month will be squash.”
Weisblat has self-published her book, which is available through local
bookstores and Amazon.com. So far sales have been brisk, “…It’s been flying
out of my garage…at this rate I’ll be able to park my car in there before winter.”
RECIPES from The Pudding Hollow Cookbook:
Colcannon from the Coleraine Village Fair
Every fall, the town of Colrain holds what it calls the Coleraine Village Far, in which it
celebrates the season and pays tribute to its sister town of Coleraine in Northern Ireland.
Michael Collins, chef at the Green Emporium Café and Gallery, has served this tasty
traditional Irish dish at the festival. He adapted it from his mother’s recipe.
5 pounds potatoes (older potatoes are best because they’re a bit more starchy,
says Mike, do not use thin-skinned or white).
3 to 4 quarts of water (enough to cover the spuds)
5 to 6 leeks
1 medium head cabbage
1 teaspoon salt (about)
black pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ pound (1 stick) sweet butter
½ pint heavy cream.
Skin the potatoes and cut them into quarters. Place them in the water. Slice the
leeks on the bias, wash them, and discard all but the light green and white
parts. Cut them into strips about 2 inches long, and add them to the potatoes.
Wash, de-core, and slice the cabbage into small wedges; add these as well.
Add the salt. Boil slowly for about 45 minutes, uncovered. “Everything
should be kind of mushy,” says Mike. After ½ hour, preheat the oven to 450
degrees. When the boiling is complete, drain most of the water out. Add the
pepper and nutmeg, and mash with a potato masher. Do not mash until
nothing islet; you’ll want the dish a bit chunky. Do NOT use a food processor!
Add the butter and cream. Place the mixture in a baking dish and bake for
about 20 minutes or until brown on top.
Serves 8 to 12
Colcannon may also be served unbaked; it makes a useful side dish with just a
bit of butter. Michael serves his Colcannon with ham on the side. I suggest
crumbling some bacon on top.
Apple Pound Cake from Conway’s Festival of the Hills
Each fall the town of Conway hosts what it calls the Festival of the Hills. This rich cake
with a caramel glaze celebrates the mature flavors of that event. It comes from Conway’s
Martha Harrington, who serves it to guests at her homey Nestle Inn. She recommends
dishing it up with a dollop of whipped cream.
½ cup apple slices, (peeled) plus 2 cups pared and shredded apples
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 – ½ cups oil (Martha uses corn oil)
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup finely chopped pecans
½ cup (1 stick) sweet butter
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons milk
Grease and four a 10-inch tube pan. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Arrange
the apple slices in an overlapping pattern on the bottom of the pan.
Combine the four, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside. In a large bowl,
beat together the oil, white sugar, eggs and vanilla. Gradually beat the flour
mixture into the oil mixture until the combination is smooth.
Fold in the shredded apple pieces and the pecans and turn the batter into the
prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Cool the cake for 20 minutes,
and remove it from the pan.
To prepare the topping, bring the butter, brown sugar and milk to a boil,
stirring constantly. Spoon the hot mixture over the cooled cake, allowing it to
run down the sides (It gets absorbed better if you stick holes in the cake with a
fork before spooning.) This cake tastes even better the next day, says Martha.
Serves 10 to 12.
Linda Comstock of Charlemont provided this recipe for a traditional New England dish
that get its flavor from lemon sauce.
For the pudding:
1/3 cup (2/3 stick) sweet butter
½ cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ cups four
1 ½ teaspoons baking power
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the sauce
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 cup cold water
2 tablespoons sweet butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
nutmeg to taste (optional)
½ cup raisins (optional)
For the pudding: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter
and sugar and add the egg. Combine the dry ingredients and add them to the
butter mixture alternately with the combined milk and vanilla. Pour into a
buttered 9-inch square cake pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with hot lemon
For the hot lemon sauce: Combine the first 4 ingredients in a saucepan. Cook
for 5 minutes, stirring until thickened. Remove the sauce from the heat and
add the butter and lemon juice, plus the nutmeg and/or raisins if you choose.
Pour over slices of pudding. You may want to make a double batch of sauce;
More New England Books
About the author:
Marcia Passos Duffy is the publisher and editor of The Heart of New England,
an online monthly magazine celebrating the unique character of northern New