LITTLE SILVER: COASTAL CHOW OF THE PAST

Author Karen Schnitzspahn with her latest book, and some of her earlier works, below. (Photos by Rebecca Desfosse. Click to enlarge)

By REBECCA DESFOSSE

For Karen Schnitzspahn, food isn’t just about textures, tastes and smells – it also has deep cultural and historical aspects to it.

The Little Silver writer explores these facets of food in her latest book, Jersey Shore Food History: Victorian Feasts to Boardwalk Treats.

Complete with recipes such as “Mrs. Mulford’s Clam Fritters” and “Jesse Eigenrauch’s Butterscotch Pudding,” and chock full of photographs, the book dishes on food from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, all along the coast from Sandy Hook to Cape May.

“It’s not just about the pizza, the hot dogs, and the saltwater taffy,” says Schnitzspahn. “It’s the whole cultural thing – the cultural influence and how certain foods became popular.”

In the Victorian area, people would stay at hotels and have elaborate meals. Gradually, more daytrippers started coming to the shore, and things became more casual into the 1920s and 30s. During Prohibition and the Great Depression, fast-food restaurants started appearing, along with those iconic shore treats, pizza and pork roll.

To gather her research, Schnitzspahn and her husband, Leon, went on a food tour up and down the coastline, interviewing restaurant owners and talking to people as they went. During her journey, Schnitzspahn realized the great diversity of food at the shore.

Jersey Shore Food History was released shortly before Hurricane Sandy tore its path of destruction along the coastline. Schnitzpahn is pleased to report that most of the historical restaurants in her book are already up and running.

“They’ve worked hard to do that,” she says.

With eleven other titles under her belt, Schnitzspahn isn’t new to the publishing business. She co-authored her first two books with her mentor, the late George Moss, Jr. of Rumson, after she met the well-known Jersey Shore historian while interviewing him for an article in the late 1980s. The two became friends and worked closely for 20 years.

Over the years, she has also established herself as a New Jersey historical expert – focusing most of her work right here in Monmouth County.

Originally from New Brunswick, Schnitzspahn has lived in Little Silver since the 1970s, and has a background in art, theater, and professional puppetry. She likes to write about New Jersey history because she can perform “hands-on research,” she says, as well as visit the places she writes about and explore the area.

What does Schnitzspahn have in store for us next? A children’s novel about a Jersey shore farm family in the 1800s. She is also considering penning a book one of her passions – theatrical history. She would love to write something outside the scope of the Garden State, but as she says she’s “a Jersey girl at heart”.

Jersey Shore Food History is sold at River Road Books in Fair Haven, Sickles Market in Little Silver, the Woman’s Exchange in Little Silver and at all major booksellers. It also has its own Facebook page.

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