“I Cooked, I Wrote, I Cried”

By Katherine Blessis

If you’re like Azorean cookbook author Maria Lawton, you have experienced the wonderful feeling you get from reliving memories through old family recipes. You can recreate Sunday mornings in your grandmother’s kitchen and family barbecues in late July just from the smells and tastes of passed down family recipes.

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On Thursday, March 19, 2015, Maria Lawton presented her heartwarming story at the March South Shore Locavore meeting held at the Kingston Senior Center. She spoke about reliving memories while recreating family recipes for her new cookbook, Azorean Cooking, From My Family Table To Yours.

Maria Lawton was born on the semi-tropical island of Sao Miguel in the village of Rosario de Lagoa in the Portuguese region called the Azores. At the age of six, she and her parents moved to the United States and settled in New Bedford, Mass. As an adult, Lawton craved the dishes her mother and grandmother used to make when she was younger. She also wanted to teach her three daughters how to make traditional Azorean food. Unfortunately, her family’s recipes were never written down so she was unable to make the exact recipes her mother and grandmother used to make.

That is why Lawton made her cookbook Azorean Cooking, From My Family Table To Yours. She worked on each recipe until “the smell coming from the kitchen was just right.”

Lawton’s love of cooking and preserving family recipes was easy to see at the Locavore meeting. While speaking, she had a smile on her face the entire time and warned us that she might tear up while speaking about the cookbook writing process. While writing the book, Lawton said she cooked, she wrote and she cried. It was a very emotional, but rewarding process for her.

In the second half of the Locavore meeting, Lawton showed the audience a PowerPoint presentation about her most recent trip to her Azorean homeland. She revealed beautiful photos of her family’s vineyard, traditional cheese shops, cows grazing in the grass and breathtaking landscapes.  She told the audience about a boiled dinner she and her family made using underground volcanic steam. Her family put potatoes, meats, sausage, pork and chicken in a pot, covered it up and cooked it underground for six to eight hours. The end result was a scrumptious lunch for the whole family.

Baked Sweet Bread

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Toward the end of the Locavore meeting, guests were lucky enough to try homemade milk tarts (Queijadas de Leite), one of Maria Lawton’s cherished family favorites. The tarts were sweet and eggy, a bit crispy on the outside and perfectly chewy on the inside. The recipe for the tarts can be found in her cookbook.

Maria Lawton's Milk Tarts

Maria Lawton’s Milk Tarts

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Maria Lawton and Marion Jesse

One of the most memorable parts of the evening was when Maria Lawton spoke to an adorable Portuguese woman whose mother and father grew up on the Azores as well. The woman was Marion Jesse, from Plymouth, Mass. Her mother was from Ponta Delgada, and her father was a farmer from Ribeira Grande. She was so excited Maria was coming to the Locavore meeting, and that she got her cookbook autographed. Maria Lawton signed Marion Jesse’s book “Prima,” or cousin in Portuguese, because she said, “everyone on the Azores are cousins.” The smile on Jesse’s face was unforgettable and it was clear to see she was so proud of her Azorean heritage.

Maria Lawton is one hundred percent behind collecting and preserving family recipes. After all, that is why she spent four years writing and perfecting her cookbook. She “brought back certain family recipes that had been lost” in her family. She was also very excited about edible South Shore and South Coast’s recipe box idea.

Please send edible South Shore & South Coast your family recipes to put in our recipe box. Recipes are already rolling in; so don’t miss your chance to have your family recipe added to our collection! Email Laurie@ediblesouthshore.com to submit your family recipes, stories and photos illustrating your tastiest, funniest or most ancient family food tradition. Let’s work together to save our most treasured family recipes to pass down to future generations!

IMG_7402In closing, the South Shore Locavores would like to thank Maria Lawton once again for presenting her story at our March South Shore Locavore meeting. Lawton took the time to speak with each person who wanted his or her book signed. We wish Lawton the best of luck while she works on her second cookbook. To find out more information about Maria Lawton, or to purchase her cookbook, visit her website, Azoreangreenbean.com.
Photos By Maria Lawton and Katherine Blessis

About eSS&SC

The South Shore and South Coast has been home to hunting, gathering, fishing, farming––and great eating––for over 10,000 years. We are committed to identifying, devouring, and sharing all that Southeastern Massachusetts has to offer today and preserving local options for future generations.
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