FOOD HISTORY: Parker House Rolls

Parker House rolls, soft-yeast rolls with a signature fold in the middle which gives the rolls their  special texture are a culinary treat which came from the New England area of the United States. The Parker House was founded in 1855 by Harvey D. Parker in Boston, Massachusetts as a hotel and in the 18th and 19th centuries was a "who's who" of American and foreign guests. Since their guests had to be fed as well as given lodging, Parker started a kitchen which took very well to the task. The story of the Parker House rolls being  invented started in the 1870's when an in-house German Pastry Chef named Ward, working for the then Chef, John Bonello, had a big fight with a hotel patron. The baker, in a fit of anger, threw a batch of unfinished rolls into the oven. When they came out they were unsightly - dented and with a big fold in the middle. The inventive Chef thought that with a good slathering of butter on them, the taste would triumph over their looks. He was correct, of course, since the fold in the middle kept them light and fluffy on the inside while the added butter made the crisp outside all the more tasty. These rolls were so popular that they were continued to be made with the  fold and extra butter and became known as Parker House rolls. Later, Parker House rolls were baked in the hotel's kitchen to be sold to other restaurants, hotels and stores. They became a quick hit with the public and recipes started to appear in cookbooks in the 1870's.The oldest printed Parker House roll recipe is from the April 1874 issue of the New Hampshire Sentinel. Because of their great taste and ease of preparation they became a favorite in homes, as well as in restaurants and hotels, ever since. In addition to their rolls, the Parker House kitchen added other things to the culinary world; it was there that Boston Cream pie (sponge or butter cake filled with pastry cream or pudding and frosted with chocolate) was invented. This pie became the official dessert of the state of Massachusetts. Further, the Parker House was an early proponent of lemon meringue pie and where the term, "scrod", the generic name for various white-fleshed fish usually Cod but Pollack and Haddock, also, was coined. The contemporary iteration of the Parker House hotel still exists in Boston  as the Omni Parker  House Hotel where  Boston Cream pie is one of the specialties in their restaurants.