Taste the Past
Have you ever wondered what was eaten at the First Thanksgiving? Or What people in 17th-century New England were cooking in Plimoth Patuxet? These recipes below have been carefully crafted by our experts using primary sources and scholarly research.
Nasaump is a traditional Wampanoag dish that is made from dried corn, local berries, and nuts. It is boiled in water until it thickens, and is similar to a porridge or oatmeal.
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 cup strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or a combination of all three
1/2 crushed walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds or a combination of all three
1 quart water
maple syrup or sugar to taste (optional)
Combine cornmeal, berries, crushed nuts, and the optional sweetener in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.
Curds are a soft cheese like cottage cheese or ricotta. These fritters are a lot like thin pancakes or crepes.
This recipe is from the 1594 cookbook "The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin" (pp. 47-48):
Take the yolks of ten Egs, and breake them in a pan, and put to them one handful Curdes and one handful of fine flower, and sttraine them all together, and make a batter, and if it be not thicke ynough, put more Curdes in it, and salt to it. Then set it on the fyre in a frying pan, with such stuffe as ye will frie them with, and when it is hot, with a ladle take part of your batter, and put of it into the panne, and let it run as smal as you can, and stir then with a sticke, and turne them with a scummer, and when they be fair and yellow fryed, take them out, and cast Sugar upon them, and serve them foorth.
curds (ricotta, cottage or other soft cheese)
wheat or corn flour
cooking oil or butter
Make a thin batter with the eggs and equal amounts of curds and flour. Season with salt. Heat a small amount of cooking oil in your frying pan. When the oil is hot, pour in the batter and tip the pan to make the batter spread very thin (that’s what “let it run as small as you can” in the recipe means). They should be like crepes. When brown on one side, use your knife to flip them over or slide them onto a plate and flip them over into the pan. Add more oil to the pan when needed. Serve with sugar sprinkled on the top if you wish.
Sobaheg is the Wampanoag word for stew. Like most stews, this dish is easily adapted to seasonal ingredients. The ground nuts help to thicken the sobaheg. Variations of this dish are still made in Wampanoag country today.
1/2 pound dry beans (white, red, brown or spotted kidney-shaped beans)
1/2 pound white hominy corn or yellow samp or coarse grits
1 pound turkey meat (legs or breast, with bone and skin)
3 quarts cold water
1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch-lengths
1/2 pound winter squash, trimmed and cubed
1/2 cup raw sunflower seed meats, pounded to a course flour (or pounded walnuts)
dried onion and/or garlic to taste
clam juice or salt to taste (optional)
Combine dried beans, corn, turkey, seasonings and water in a large pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, turn down to a very low simmer, and cook for about 2 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally to be certain bottom is not sticking.
When dried beans are tender, but not mushy, break up turkey meat, removing skin and bones. Add green beans and squash, and simmer very gently until they are tender.
Add sunflower or nut flour, stirring until thoroughly blended.
This recipe is the English version of Nasaump. The word samp is a simplified English version of the word nasaump.
This description comes from the 1600s book "Two Voyages to New England", by John Josselyn:
It is light of digestion, and the English make a kind of Loblolly of it to eat with Milk, which they call Sampe; they beat it in a Morter, and sift the flower out of it; the remainder they call Hominey, which they put into a Pot of two or three Gallons, with Water, and boyl it upon a gentle Fire till it be like a Hasty Puden; they put of this into Milk, and so eat it.
2 cups coarse corn grits
4 cups water
1 cup milk
¼ cup sugar
Bring water to a boil in large saucepan with a heavy bottom. Add the corn grits and stir. Simmer until they are soft, about 10 minutes, and the water has been absorbed. Serve with milk and sugar.
Boiled bread is a small patty made mostly of cornmeal with crushed nuts and berries added in. It is dropped in a pot of boiling water and when done, rises to the top.
1 quart slightly boiled water
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup corn flour
1/2 cup dried cranberries, blueberries, and/or currants
1/2 cup crushed nuts or seeds (walnuts, hazelnuts or sunflower seeds)
Maple syrup or sugar to taste (optional)
Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix thoroughly. After mixing, slowly add a spoonful at a time of slightly boiled water. When the mix is thick enough to be sticky, shape round patties (about 3 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick). Return water to slight rolling boil and drop in 1 or 2 patties, carefully making sure they do not stick to the bottom. Remove breads when they begin to float.
This is a delicious recipe for pumpkin, known as "pompions" to English people in the 17th century, as were all squash. It is one of the earliest written recipes from New England, from a book written by John Josselyn, a traveler to New England in the 1600's. (John Josselyn, "Two Voyages to New England").
John Josselyn called this recipe a “standing dish” suggesting that this sort of pumpkin dish was eaten everyday or even at every meal. He called it “ancient” because English housewives had cooked this recipe in New England for a long time.
The Ancient New England standing dish. But the Housewives manner is to slice them when ripe, and cut them into dice, and so fill a pot with them of two or three Gallons, and stew them upon a gentle fire a whole day, and as they sink, they fill again with fresh Pompions, not putting any liquor to them; and when it is stew'd enough, it will look like bak'd Apples; this they Dish, putting Butter to it, and a little Vinegar, (with some Spice, as Ginger, &c.) which makes it tart like an Apple, and so serve it up to be eaten with Fish or Flesh: It provokes Urine extreamly and is very windy.
4 cups of cooked (boiled, steamed or baked) squash, roughly mashed
3 tablespoons butter
2 to 3 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 or 2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
In a saucepan over medium heat, stir and heat all the ingredients together. Adjust seasonings to taste, and serve hot.