Two weekends ago Frank and I took a little day trip to Salem Mass. You know, the place where all the witch trials took place? Where so many innocent women (and men) were accused, tried and executed for supposedly being involved in “witchery?” Yeah, that’s the place.
Salem’s only 30 minutes from Boston. Because of the close proximity and rich history, I’ve been wantin to make the trip since we moved up here. So off we went. I’m still not quite sure if I totally dragged Frank along on the journey, or if he was somewhat interested and intrigued by the adventure, and came willingly….
Once we arrived, we drove around for a little bit looking at the beautiful old homes and looking for a parking spot. Although it was cooool, it was a bright and sunny afternoon. Great for roaming around and exploring a new little town.
It was around lunchtime so we set out to find a “locals” place to eat. I’d looked up a few restaurants before we went, but we ended up bypassing those and finding a little rotisserie catering joint: The Customs House Rotisserie. I’m usually skeptical of caterers who serve lunch/dinner, and when we walked in, my skepticism wasn’t relieved. The restaurant was set up kindof like a tiny cafeteria, with the pot pies and sides in buffet-style cases, there wasn’t much goin on with the decor, and there were no other customers. That being said, I’m really glad we stuck with our gut and stayed! Their menu looked like this:
I ordered The Thanksgiving, which, if you can’t see in the picture, comes with hand cured, slow roast turkey breast, homemade apple sausage stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy. mmmmm.Thanksgiving on a sandwich in February, what more could I want!? I LOVE sweet and salty favors together, so I was excited. While the man behind the counter was constructing my sandwich, I questioned his liberal gravy coverage, but kept my mouth shut. Again, glad I stuck with it because the gravy was awesome. In fact, the ‘wich mighta been too dry without it. No complaints! I went with the corn as my side: huge kernels of fresh, simple corn. yum. I thought I’d have some leftovers, but as usual, I ate the whole sandwich (minus some of the thick bread that I picked off and set aside). *Frank says I inherited this eating habit from my mom.
Frank decided on the pot pie. He loves that crispy, flaky pasty dough, ie crescents. The pie looked really rich and hearty and delicious, perfect for the crisp, cool winter day. But I’m not a big fan of the pot pie (I like my pies sweet) so I only tried a little nibble. He seemed to like it well enough, but mentioned that the chicken chunks were a little big for his liking. As his sides, he ordered the baked beans, green beans and cornbread. Being from the South, we know our cornbread, and while I can appreciate the vastly different varieties (sweet, salty, corny, with jalapeños, etc), this was not very tasty cornbread. It was more like cornbread cake. But we’ll let’em slide since they’re Yankees, afterall. The beans, both green and baked, were pretty good, but nothing terribly special.
Overall, we were pleased with our luck at stumbling on this little place. Local, not touristy. Before leaving, the dudes behind the counter, who said they’d lived there all their lives, told us a little about the city: that the cemetery across the street, The Burying Point, is the second oldest in the country, with graves dating back to 1637, and where a Mayflower pilgrim and John Hawthorn (a witch trial judge) are both buried; that there was a memorial to all those who were executed during the witch trials right outside the cemetery; and that the Chinese-style building nearby, the ancestral home of the Huang family had actually been erected in China in 1644 and stood strong for over 2 hundred years before the Peabody Essex Museum deconstructed it and brought it piece by piece to Salem in the 1980’s.
If you can’t make out the words, it says “I do plead not guilty.” Pretty powerful stuff!
Our time was limited by the fast approaching UNC basketbal game, so we made our way to the next stop: The House of the 7 Gables. If the name sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking of Nathaniel Hawthorn’s novel by the same name, which was inspired by the house. This is one of the oldest remaining homes in America, built in 1668 by a wealthy sea merchant. I can’t tell you how excited I get over really old stuff! I love the furniture and the architecture and the decorating and the simplicity and the smell… I love seeing how people used to live and what they used to do for fun, etc etc. Salem is heaven for history lovers.
A “gable,” by the way, is a peak on a house where two sides of the roof meet. It’s hard to tell by the picture, but maybe you can guess how many gables this house has…?
We joined a tour of the house, which I thought was really cool. It would have been a lot cooler if the Brit who showed us around had tried brushing his teeth once in awhile. We quickly learned to stay towards the rear of the group. Despite his breath, he was very knowledgable about the house and the families who had owned it, and obviously very proud to be affiliated with the historic property. The rooms were small, the ceilings were low and it smelled like my grandparents attic at their old house in Nicholasville. It was nice : )
Also on the property was the house in which Nathaniel Hawthorn was born. The second owner of the home was Nathaniel’s cousin, with whom he had a fairly close friendship. The organization and trustees of the House of the Seven Gables got wind that the Hawthorn house was in danger of being torn down, so they jumped on the opportunity to add to their property and preserve history. The house, which was originally located a few miles away, was cut in half and transported across town on semi-trucks. I hadn’t read the book before our visit, but I’ve been inspired. It’ll be my next leisurely read.
And for our final stop before heading back to Boston, we walked across the street from the 7 Gables to a little candy shop, “Ye Old Pepper Candy Company.” This candy company is, you guessed it, the oldest candy company in the US, dating back to 1806. We left with two dark chocolate peanut butter cups and a package of their signature Black Jack’s, a black molasses stick candy said to be one of the first candies made and sold commercially in America.
Isn’t the wrapper cool? Simple. Classic. “Healthful & delicious.”
The sticks are actually quite tasty, if you don’t break your teeth trying to bite ’em. I managed to make myself sick from all the sugar, a somewhat regular occurrence.
And off we went, back to Boston. Overall, we were only in Salem for about 3 hours, and although there was a lot more I wanted to explore, there are more important things (to some people) than rooting around in old homes and looking for the earliest date on gravestones: Carolina sports. We made it back in plenty of time for the game.
I finally got a little taste of Salem. And I liked it. Frank seemed a little disappointed. Thanks for obliging me though, love.