Back in the 1960s — and for at least 20 years thereafter — Maine recipes compiled by three Rockland-area women appeared in soft-cover, plastic spiral-bound cookbooks published by Courier-Gazette and, later, by Down East Books.

The books were sold directly by the Rockland Courier-Gazette and in souvenir shops throughout coastal Maine. For summer tourists from away, recipes for cooking the little-known Homard à l’Américaine undoubtedly were a boon. In those days, lobsters were not widely distributed outside New England.

Cookbook editors Ruth Wiggin of Rockland and Gertrude Hupper of Martinsville for the first book, and subsequently  Wiggin and Loana Shibles of Rockland, were described as having had “long years of experience in Knox-Lincoln Extension in the homemaking and foods fields, and their work has also extended into the directing of 4-H Clubs in the coastal area.”

The first of the cookbooks, “Maine Coastal Cooking,” c. 1963 by Courier-Gazette Inc., sold for $1.50. The book included a dozen contemporary (to the ’60s) Down East lobster recipes in its main section. The final 24 pages of “Maine Coastal Cooking” take readers back to 1664 in what is now Massachusetts, and even back to England.

Part of “Maine Coastal Cooking,” recipes in this section date from colonial times.

The recipes published there in Old English type are photographed pages from “The Accomplisht Cook, or, The whole Art and Mystery of Cookery, fitted for all Degrees and Qualities,” first published in Leicestershire, England, Sept. 29, 1664. Recipes common to the New World are believed to have been added by a printer in Cornhill, Boston, sometime prior to 1712, including dishes and ingredients native to the area that was then Massachusetts and now Maine.

“The Accomplisht Cook” section included another 14 Colonial-era recipes for preparing lobsters, among them instructions for farcing, frying, boiling to eat cold the common way, roasting, marinating, baking, broiling on paper, and several “Otherwayes.” (Note that the original meaning of farce was forcemeat, or stuffing.)

Pages of Colonial-era lobster recipes from “The Accomplisht Cook,” c.1700.

Although not recommended today, there were also 18th-century instructions “To keep Lobsters a quarter of a year very good.” To do this, the recipe said, “Take them being boild as aforesaid wrap them in course rags having been steeped in brine, and bury them in a cellar in some sea-sand pretty deep.”

Possibly one of the first cookbooks to be printed, “The Accomplisht Cook” was loaned to the editors by Ralph W. Bartlett, then of Bremen, to whom it had been passed down by his forebears.

The book has a flyleaf inscribed to “Elis. A. Bull Her Book 1727.” Elizabeth Bull was the wife of the first minister to serve Kings Chapel in Boston. The book was subsequently owned by Fannie Weston, wife of Samuel Weston, one-time headmaster of the Roxbury Latin School in Boston. Eventually it came to Bartlett.

The first edition was published June 19, 1963; the 12th in February 1967. It is not known how many more editions followed.

The second Courier-Gazette book, “All-Maine Cooking,” was introduced in in 1967. Retailing for $2 a copy, the book contained hundreds of heritage recipes from “Maine’s best homemakers,” including eight recipes for lobster. The frontispiece noted that Maine’s two senators at the time, Margaret Chase Smith and Edmund S. Muskie, were represented by recipes they particularly liked. Many recipes had been used through generations of Maine families, including a number from Colonial times.

This volume was published as late as 1972 by Down East Books.

Although long out of print, both cookbooks can be found online in used condition. (We obtained ours on a vacation visit to Maine decades ago.)

‘Accomplisht Cook’ recipes

To boil Lobsters to eat cold the common way.

Take them alive or dead, lay them in cold water to make the claws ruff, and keep them from breaking off; then have a kettle over the fire with fair water, put in it as much bay salt as will make it a good strong brine, when it boils scum it, and put in the lobsters, let them boil leasurely the space of half an hour or more, according to the bigness of them, being well boild take them up, wash them, and then wipe them with beer and butter, and keep them for your use.

To farce a Lobster.

Take a lobster being half boild, take the meat out of the shells, and mince it small with a good fresh eel, season it with cloves and mace beaten, some sweet herbs minced small and mingled amongst the meat, yolks of eggs, gooseberries, grapes, or barberries, and sometimes boild artichocks cut into dice-work, or boild asparagus, and some almond paste mingled with the rest, fill the lobsters shells, claws, tail, and body, and bake it in a blote oven, make sauce with the gravy and white-wine, and beat up the sauce or lear with good sweet butter, a grated nutmeg, juyce of oranges, and an anchove, and run the dish with a clove of garlick.

To this farcing you may sometimes add almond paste, currants, sugar, gooseberries, and make balls to lay about the lobsters, or serve it with venison sauce.

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