Mrs. Kitching’s Smith Island Cookbook
By Frances Kitching & Susan Stiles Dowell
This local book published in 1981 highlights the renowned cooking and hospitality of a Maryland icon. Frances Kitching started cooking professionally in the 1950’s for workers installing power lines on Smith Island and soon after opened an inn on the island serving the tourist trade on this Chesapeake Landmark.
Her cookbook contains a sort of microcosm of Mid-Atlantic cuisine. It differs slightly from the more traditional cookbooks of the region in that she is more reliant on processed foods since bringing food to an island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay with no bridge is an expensive proposition.
Produce is grown on the island and even cows and other animals once grazed the shores, but steady erosion and commercial development have now reduced the availability of land and most products are brought in by boat.
Of course, the one thing Smith Island is known for is its greatest natural resource, seafood. This book highlights the Chesapeake Bay coastal cooking and is a fantastic local resource for preparing the region’s most famous seafood dishes. The book also chronicles the life of not just Mrs. Kitching, but of life on Smith Island in general. It is one of the first great biographical sketches of a way of life which is disappearing in the region. Many books since have been written on the perils of the waterman’s way of life such as “An Island Out of Time” by Tom Horton and for an all inclusive history of the region, I would suggest “Tidewater Maryland” by Paul Wilstach.
This cookbook is more than just a collection of recipes; it is also a chronicle of a simpler way of life, a life which is connected to the seasons as well as to the land and water around it. It is a good read, even beyond the recipes which flow from its pages. This is also the first cookbook to highlight the famous Smith Island Cake, which is now the official dessert of the state of Maryland.
Locally, this book is a bestselling classic, but nationally it is not very well known. I strongly suggest you check it out and see for yourself what Maryland coastal cooking is all about.
- Interlude: The future meets the past (midatlanticcooking.wordpress.com)
- An Island Trapped In Time (stilllifeprojects.com)
- Watermen Use Tech To Count Crabs (baltimore.cbslocal.com)
- A New Food Quest! Maryland! (changeforbetterme.wordpress.com)
- Cakes Throughout U.S. History (Infographic) (friendseat.com)
- Deviled Crab (midatlanticcooking.wordpress.com)
- Favorite Mid – Atlantic Dish (midatlanticcooking.wordpress.com)
- Maryland Fried Chicken (midatlanticcooking.wordpress.com)
- Climate Change And Seafood Supply: Developing Countries Most Vulnerable To Ocean Acidification (thinkprogress.org)
- Rebecca T. Ruark Wins Chesapeake Skipjack Race (baltimore.cbslocal.com)