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Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Water Ways: Mid-Atlantic Maritime Communities

Mid-Atlantic Maritime Cooking

The bountiful waters and fertile soil of the Mid-Atlantic have provided plentiful supplies of fish, fruits, and vegetables for centuries. Agriculture and fishing have always been linked here. Many women worked shucking oysters in the winter and canning tomatoes in the summer. In the off season, Chesapeake Bay oyster-dredging boats like skipjacks and schooners transported watermelons and other produce to market in Baltimore. Community celebrations like ham and oyster dinners often combine seafood with other regional products. Special vegetables like the Haymen Potato (a sweet potato grown on Virginia's Eastern Shore) flourish in the coastal sandy soil.

Communities like Smith Island, Maryland, are famous for their cuisine. Mrs. Frances Kitching was the most famous of all Smith Island cooks. Among her specialties, memorialized in Mrs. Kitching's Smith Island Cookbook, were "crab cakes plump, light, and golden without a trace of breadcrumbs...oyster stew, rich and creamy, swimming with gently poached oysters; great dumpling puffs, and crisp nips of sauteed onion...pie topped with meringue, homemade, hand-folded, and beaded like cotton candy." Mrs. Kitching's legacy lives on in Smith Island cook Janice Marshall, who won the 2003 Rock fish Cook-Off in Ocean City with her recipe for rockfish stuffed with Crab Imperial.

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