One such person is Heather Atwood www.heatheratwood.com, and I met her when she began her column "Food for Thought" at the Gloucester Times in Gloucester, Massachusetts and she was also doing some marvelous online cooking videos several years ago.
I had recently written a cookbook called "The Legacy of Three Melissas" a historic Cape Ann memoir and cookbook about my families businesses spanning a 70 year span of time in Gloucester and Rockport.
At that time, of our meeting a few years ago, Heather was really game to write her book and she was in the beginning stages of pulling together her Coastal Massachusetts opus, "In Cod We Trust". She regaled us at our Glitterati meetings with her journeys to Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and New Bedford searching out the celebrated and oft cooked local food.
Inwardly, I believe that Heather is a human catalyst for change in our community. She loves to bring people together, where there is that search for an ignition of all, that is tasty, practical, and knowledgeable.
So that brings me to the Octopus Dinner. It all started earlier in the year when Jennifer Amero www.90secondsandvelvet.com had befriended Manny Lapa the executive chef at the Azorean Restaurant www.azoreanrestaurant.com and they had the idea with Heather Atwood to cook an Azorean Octopus Dinner. For months we talked about this mythic Octopus Dinner and finally the Glitterati met for an Octopus lunch at the Azorean Restaurant in Gloucester, MA to discuss it all. We discussed the upcoming idea of an Octopus Dinner over an Azorean Restaurant Octopus Salad, which by the way was out of this world, and when Manny Lapa, executive chef came out of the kitchen to discuss further, we decided to meet at Heather's beautiful Granite home in Rockport in her generous and convivial kitchen to learn how to cook Octopus with Manny on a recent Monday Night.
I have to backtrack here and mention that I had once visited the Azorean island of Faial in 1976 on a wooden yacht that I was a crew of out of Gloucester, MA (It took 20 days to sail there).
I had a wonderful Octopus Dinner on my first night there which was cooked in red wine and is an island specialty. I had done some sightseeing on the island and actually went to the top of a volcano there and looked down. I was fascinated by the customs and architecture there because in my hometown of Gloucester, MA and in many Massachusetts communities there is a great confluence of Azorean and Portuguese people. I had met many of them over the years and knew some of the customs such as Sopa (special soups on saints days), Portuguese Kale Soup which is cooked with sausage and kale, and a beautiful procession once a year called "The Crowning". There is a church in Gloucester called "Our Lady of Good Voyage" and between the two spires (filled with amazing carillon bells) is a huge stature of Mary holding a fishing boat and she looks out over the harbor. When I sailed into the port of Faial there were several similar looking churches in that small city just like the Gloucester church and in a very ephemeral way and a way I have never quite had, I got that instant connection of the Azore Islands and Gloucester, MA. It's like an electrical current, they are connected on some unseen realm made noticeable by the food and generous hardworking spirit of those two places. I understood things I was seeing my entire life on a whole new level. That is the beauty of meeting new people, traveling, and cooking. It is always likely that you remember the food and quirky customs more than anything else, at least thats the way it is for me so a new connection that continues to this day was born. Because of this I was game to learn how to cook Octopus. It's the type of thing you really have to see someone do to get the full measure. It was such a boon for us that Manny was game to show us how to do it.
So we met and it was decided everyone would bring a bottle of wine and a dish to the event. Manny was bringing the Octopus to cook! My husband Charlie wanted to check out this cooking extravaganza and he fished that day for lobsters, cooked, shucked, and arranged a beautiful lobster cocktail on a plate with simple spicy cocktail sauce and a few lemon wedges. Elegant, simple, and extremely sweet and tasty.
|The Sunset was Amazing!|
Charlie and I arrived early to see the sunset at Heather's house which sits high on a hill and on her front porch you almost feel like you are high in the sky overlooking the Atlantic. While we waited for the arrival of everyone else we talked about great places to watch the sunset on Cape Ann, locations, history, and the local people. It's a never ending story, the story of Cape Ann, I know, I have lived it. It's an island connected by bridges with an oceanic population that gets it physical and spiritual nourishment from the sea. There is something about this quality of the food on Cape Ann, most of it coming from the sea and the myriad local gardens in the area that sparks a great conversation, especially with Heather. There is a special spark and glow to the subject that spring forth automatically and comfortably.
Heather's contribution to the dinner was a wonderful recipe from her book, "In Cod We Trust" called "Old Boyfriend Pie" which has a very interesting back story about the title but is also a well known dish from the island of Nantucket, MA.
Manny arrived with the Octopus while we drank wine and ate Lobster cocktail. He showed us how to cook the Octopus in water with Onion Skins and no salt because the Octopus is naturally salty. Manny showed us two different Octopus dishes made with the cooked Octopus.
The first was an Octopus Salad which they serve at the Azorean Restaurant in Gloucester, MA and you can go there and try it yourself. The Octopus is dressed lightly with dressing and served as a salad. It is tender and delicious. The second Dish Manny demonstrated for us was a dinner dish called "Lagareiro" which is a combination of Octopus and Red Potatoes. It was fascinating watching Manny prepare everything and I will leave it to Heather to talk about his recipes because she faithfully wrote everything down and I just watched.
Manny Lapa and Heather Atwood cooking
Octopus in her Kitchen
|The beginnings of the Lagareiro|