Monday, November 26, 2007

Traditional foods in American fiction

I recently came across an interesting booklet, Food in Fiction in the American Tradition from The Song of Hiawatha to The Yearling (Borden: 1953).  It's an enlightening look at American food in our past.  Corn (maize), btw, was cultivated by the Indians before written history--and possibly before rice, wheat, and other grasses were cultivated--and is the only grain that doesn't reseed itself.  Hominy, pone, suppawn, samp, and succotash are corn dishes still called by their Inidan names.
The chapter on Song of Hiawatha (Indian tribal life before the coming of the white man), where I gleaned, so to speak, the above information, has recipes for Indian bread [which I enjoy at Seminole booths at fairs] and Hasty Pudding (not an accurate name because corn meal should be cooked slowly). 
The chapter on Courtship of Miles Standish (Plymouth Colony 1621) has Meat Succotash and Corn Meal Griddle Cakes.  Legend of Sleepy Hollow  (Westchester County, New York about 1800) has Drop Doughnuts and Honey Cupcakes.  Moby Dick (1840s) has Cod Chowder.  House of Seven Gables (Eastern Massachusetts 1850) has Johnnycake.  [I grew up with Johnnycake, btw.]
Tom Sawyer (Middle West about 1850) has Peach Cobbler and Fig Layer Cake.  (Dried  fruits were available when fresh fruits weren't.)  Little Women (New England in the 1860s) has Blancmange.  Late George Apley (New England 1866-1933) has a Thanksgiving menu, Pumpkin Pie, and Creamed Onions.  The Yearling (Florida in the 1930s) has Sweet Potato Pone and Round White Bread.  All the chapters include background on the story, the time, and the food. 

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