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Cooking (and Contemplating) New England

Recollections of B&M Brown Bread

B&M, the best in canned--yes, canned--brown bread!

 

 

If you grew up in or around Boston in the 1950s and '60s, as one of us did, then at one time or another you undoubtedly ate Brown Bread (aka Boston Brown Bread) from a can. Despite the word "brown" in its name, this was not some kind of before-its-time fresh-baked, super healthy bread. No, indeed. We're talking about a mass-produced, steamed, and highly sweetened loaf, sold—yup—in cans. True enough, even the canned variety was, and still is, made with whole grains—cornmeal, rye flour, and whole wheat flour—but its high molasses content will give you in just a single ½ inch slice almost a quarter of your daily recommended dose of sugar. The particular bread we're talking about is made by the B&M (Burnham and Morrill) company of Portland, Maine. There are few truly regional foods left in New England, but these cans of steamed Brown Bread certainly count as one of them, given their one-time ubiquity in the region and the vivid memories many people have of eating warm slices of B&M Brown Bread as children.
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It has become almost a cliche to say that the present period of American history, beginning around 1975, is similar in many important ways to the period beginning roughly a hundred years earlier. We are living now, it appears, in a second Gilded Age, with pronounced inequalities of wealth and income and with transformative changes in our technology, economy, and the demographic profile of our society.

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