A Maryland Breakfast: Fried Red Tomatoes in Cream Gravy

I recently visited my great uncle, Uncle B, in Arizona. Having left our ancestral seat for a life of western adventure in 1947, we don’t have all that much in common. However, as conversations meander in and out of the present and past, interesting cultural gems emerge, such as foodways, stories of prize winnings at The Graw racetrack in Havre de Grace, and hard work.

While the 1991 film Fried Green Tomatoes brought that dish roaring back to the table, I have yet to see my family’s fried red tomatoes in cream gravy make any sort of resurgence. What I didn’t realize until this visit with Uncle B is that the dish was served for breakfast, and topped with smoked fish. While we mutally remembered a lot of things told by other family members since gone, we never did figure out what kind of smoked fish was used in Harford County, MD in the 1920s to top the tomatoes. Any guesses?

The Southern Railway offers Fried Tomatoes for breakfast on its 1905 Inspection trip. Boiled salt mackerel is available – could this have been the fish? From North Carolina. New York Public Library “What’s on the Menu?” project.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.