10 Things Boston is Famous For

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A Brief History

On October 23, 2019, our nation (the United States) celebrates another National Boston Cream Pie Day.  The delicious concoction with its own “holiday” is just one of several eating or drinking items named for the city of Boston, Massachusetts, and we use this opportunity to explore some of the things Boston is famous for.  What other things can you think of that are either named for Bean Town or famously associated with Boston?  (Yeah, we know, they talk funny there…)

(Honorable mention: The rock group, Boston, and the dog breed, Boston Terrier.)

Digging Deeper

1. Boston Cream Pie

A soft, buttery yellow cake made in 2 layers, with cream or custard in the middle and topped all over with chocolate.  Sweet and easy to eat (no bones!), this sinful delight finds some of its allure in the mystery of why it is called a pie and not a cake.  When this dessert was allegedly invented by Armenian-French chef named Sanzian in 1856, the use of chocolate was normally only as a drink, so the chocolate covering of the “pie” was quite the sensation.  The original variety included being coated with a rum based syrup and slivered almonds before getting its chocolate topping.  Today, Boston Cream Pie is the official dessert of the state of Massachusetts, and deservedly so!

2. Boston Cooler

Hooray for Boston! This time for the eponymous non-alcoholic ice cream drink, a wonderful blend of Vernors Ginger Ale and Vanilla Ice Cream.  This variation on the ice cream soda is particularly innovative as it uses a soda pop outside of the generic cola and root beer genres.  While not the first ginger ale sold in the United States, Vernors is the oldest of the existing brands.  Introduced in 1866 and described as “Deliciously Different,” it is this difference that makes the Boston Cooler the superior type of ice cream soda.  Please take note that the apostrophe is not missing in the name, “Vernors,” as the company removed it years ago.  Speaking of years, Vernors used to brag on its bottles that it was “Aged 4 years in wood,” though this claim has been changed to “Barrel aged 3 years.”

3. Boston Baked Beans

So very, very much better than plain old pork ‘n’ beans, Boston Baked Beans give us that sweet, smoky flavor we love when downing hot dogs and hamburgers, whether eating at home or at a picnic.  Or with barbecue meats such as ribs.  You can make them yourself with lots of varieties of recipes, or buy them in cans and jars, which brings us to the question, “How many beans are in a can of baked beans?  239. (If there was one more, it would be “too farty!”)”  We particularly like the varieties that include bits of meat in with the beans.

4. Boston Tea Party

(Also see Paul Revere)  One of the famous days of American History took place on the evening of December 16, 1773, an act of civil unrest in response to the Tea Act of 1773, a tax on the people of the American Colonies of Great Britain without the courtesy of the Americans having representation in Parliament.  The American Nationalist group, The Sons of Liberty, which included Paul Revere and Samuel Adams, after a raucous and contentious meeting to discuss the “taxation without representation” issue donned Native American Mohawk disguises and stormed British ships in Boston Harbor, dumping 342 chests of valuable tea into the harbor.  Between 30 and perhaps over 100 men took part in the protest.  Sam Adams, who had originally opposed the act of violence, may or may not have participated himself, but in any case staunchly defended the actions of the protesters afterwards, describing their actions as legitimate protest and not lawlessness.  The event is celebrated as one of the milestones on the path to Independence for America.

5. The Big Dig

Does your town or city have a construction project that goes on and on and seemingly will never end?  Boston’s version was “The Big Dig,” or more formally the Central Artery/Tunnel Project (CA/T), a tunnel for cars and trucks through the center of the city, including other tunnels and bridges and supposedly tying together important destinations in a most efficient manner.  Unfortunately, the project itself was not too efficient, with all sorts of problems, delays, cost overruns and colossal headaches for the population and the folks that run the city.  A main contractor was forced to pay over $400 million in restitution to Boston and other contractors had to cough up another $51 million, but of course, the inconvenience and nightmare traffic during the 1881-2007 project could not really be effectively compensated.  Portions of the project were opened in 2002, and the official dedication took place in 2004, but work continued until 2007.

6. Boston Red Sox/Celtics/Patriots/Bruins

Boston has had some pretty good professional sports teams, and in recent years the Red Sox rival the Yankees and Dodgers as having the highest payroll in major league baseball (currently the highest in Major League Baseball in 2019).  After many years of frustration possibly due to the “Curse of the Bambino,” the blunder of selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees, the Sox have won the World Series in 2004, 2007, 2013 and 2018, making them the reigning Champions.  The Celtics are a charter member of the NBA (est. 1946), and have won a record 17 NBA Championships.  The Patriots have enjoyed a dynasty unparalleled in National Football League history, even if they are now called “The New England Patriots” because they technically play outside the corporate limits of Boston (Bostoners know better…).  The Pats have won a record 6 Super Bowls (tied with the Steelers) and have played in a record 11 NFL Championship games.  In the 2019 season so far, they boast an undefeated 7-0 record.  The Bruins hockey team has existed since 1924, and is the oldest American team in the NHL.  They have won 6 Stanley Cups as NHL champs, the most recent being in  2011.

7. Boston Marathon

Another big time sporting aspect of Boston is their annual Marathon, the grueling 26.2 mile race held on Patriots’ Day each year, since 1897.  The advent of the Modern Olympics in 1896 gave the inspiration for the Boston Marathon, and it is one of 6 of the World Marathon Majors.  The course has hills, the statement marathon runners dread hearing!  Combining those hills with unpredictable Spring weather in Boston makes for a daunting task for the runners and the fans, but over 500,000 of those fans turn out to watch the epic race each year.  In 1996, the Centennial running of the Boston Marathon set the record for the largest such event, boasting nearly 37,000 runner, of which an incredible 35,868 finished!  Sadly, the event was marred in 2013 by a terrorist bombing that killed 3 people and injured another 264, many severely.

8. Sam Adams “Boston Lager” Beer

Yes, much like the recent addition to the Supreme Court of the United States, Brett Kavanaugh, this author is a great admirer of beer.  Among the best of American made brews are those produced by the Boston Beer Company using the brand “Samuel Adams,” notably their Boston Lager, a formerly small scale craft brew that has taken the US by storm and has largely been responsible for the tremendous upsurge in craft breweries.  Now available across the country, Boston Lager is not just mass produced like “factory” brews but made using a 4 vat process and a secondary fermentation process called “krausening.”  The beer is dry hopped with top notch hops and is much more flavorful and substantial than most traditional American beers.  Boston Lager is a beer best suited for times when you are paying attention to your beer and not merely slugging liquid for fluid replenishment.

9. Clam Chowdah!

If you like soup, you have to love this creamy seafood and potato concoction, especially with some fresh black pepper ground on top, either with saltines, club crackers, oyster crackers, or bread and butter as an accompaniment.  Unlike the Manhattan or “red” variety of clam chowder, the “real” kind is that found in New England, specifically Boston, with its creamy broth, diced potatoes, little bits of onion and carrot, some celery, and perhaps a garnish of parsley on top.  Bacon bits and some other goodies may be acceptable as well.  Be sure to insist your soup is thick and hearty (flour can be added) as it should be, and made with real butter, too.  The terms “New England Clam Chowder” and “Boston Clam Chowder” are interchangeable.  You can use cream or condensed milk as your base and be sure to use enough clams!  If you are not brave enough to make your Boston Clam Chowder from scratch, you can do what this author does, and jazz up the kind that comes in a can by adding extra clams and spicing it up.

10. Paul Revere, his ride and Revolutionary Activity

Immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his epic poem, Paul Revere’s Ride, Paul Revere was an ardent American patriot that supported Revolutionary activities in his native Boston, acting as a courier for the movement and making his famous ride to warn of the approach of “the British” (probably actually, “the Regulars”) on April 18, 1775.  Revere worked as a Silversmith, and was also a pioneer in the largescale use of copper sheets as liners for ship hulls.  His name is “revered” (get it?) by Americans and is forever associated with the city of Boston.  A high quality line of copper-clad stainless steel cookware bears his name, at least by implication, though the line of pots and pans was not invented until the 1930’s.

Question for students (and subscribers):  What is your favorite place, person or thing associated with the city of Boston? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Araujo, Antonio. BOSTON Massachusetts 25 Secrets – The Locals Travel Guide to Boston 2019. Amazon Digital Services, 2018.

Kennedy, Patrick. Boston Then and Now. Pavilion, 2016.

Patey, Stan. Boston: A Photographic Portrait. Twin Lights Publishers, 2004.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Willis Lam of Safeway Boston Cream Pie, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.  This image was originally posted to Flickr by Pest15 at https://flickr.com/photos/85567416@N03/15424253280. It was reviewed on  by FlickreviewR 2 and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.