Monday, September 04, 2006

Turkish Wheat and Indian Corn.


Today, September 4th ….

There was really no choice of topic today folks, it just had to be maize, amazing maize (Zea mays), on two counts.

Firstly: on this day in 1609, Henry Hudson was in the river that would subsequently bear his name. One of the ship’s officers was Robert Juet – the man who would set Hudson adrift, never to be heard of again during their fourth voyage in 1611. Juet’s journal for this day relates their contact with the Algonquin tribe:

“In the morning as soon as the day was light, we saw that it was good riding farther up. So we sent our boat to sound, and found that it was a very good harbour … This day the people of the country came aboard of us, seeming very glad of our coming, and brought green tobacco, and gave us of it for knives and beads. … They have great store of maize or Indian wheat, whereof they made good bread.”

Maize is native to Central and South America, where it has been cultivated for perhaps as long as 9000 years. It was brought back to Europe by Christopher Columbus, and unlike potatoes and tomatoes, there was no hesitancy in its acceptance, and within a few decades its cultivation was widespread across Europe. To the people who grew and ate it its origins were obscure - it was from “somewhere else”, so it acquired a host of names such as Turkie corn/wheat, Barbary corn, Egyptian corn, and Indian wheat, “because it came first from thence”.

Maize is native to Central and South America, where it has been cultivated for perhaps as long as 9000 years. It was brought back to Europe by Christopher Columbus, and unlike potatoes and tomatoes, there was no hesitancy in its acceptance, and within a few decades its cultivation was widespread across Europe. To the people who grew and ate it its origins were obscure - it was from “somewhere else”, and it acquired a host of names including Turkie corn/wheat, Barbary corn, Egyptian corn, and Indian wheat depending on where it was believed “it came first from thence”.

Which brings us to our second event of the day, and our recipe.

Recipe for the Day …

On this day in 1858, the Scientific American published the following article:

Starch Manufacture.

The great consumption of this article in which every civilized country indulges, as enabling the community to keep that virtue which is next to godliness has rendered it necessary, from time to time, to improve its manufacture in many ways. A large factory for the production of starch was some time ago started at the pleasant village of Glen Cove, on Long Island Sound … Starch is a beautifully white pulverent substance existing in all grains, fruits, seeds and esculent roots, and is a necessary component of animal nutrition. In Europe, much is made from rice, but here the best white corn is used … The Glen Cove Starch Company, determined to lose nothing, sell the gluten for food for horses, cattle and pigs, to which purpose it is excellently adapted, being far better, and we should think as cheap as swill. They also make an article of food, in the form of a cake, which we tasted, and have no hesitation in pronouncing it superb; it is called Maizena, and the following recipe will inform our lady readers how it is to be used:

Maizena Half Pound.
Sugar Two Cups.
Butter Half Cup.
Eggs Three.
Cream Tartar ½ Teaspoonful.
Soda ¼ Teaspoonful.

Dissolved in one-third of a tea cup of milk. Mix thoroughly, place in patty-pans, and bake immediately in a quick oven, from ten to fifteen minutes. The cake improves by age, if kept in a dry place.

On this Topic ...

*I can make no better recommendation on this topic than that you read Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Luncheon at the Shakespeare Hotel.

Quotation for the Day …

Birthdays are nature's way of telling us to eat more cake. Anon.

4 comments:

Ricardo Rabago said...

Hey Old Foodie thanks for the cool post!

If interested Organically Speaking a Seattle-base website has released a conversation with Michael Pollan podcast (audio conversation). Interesting tidbits on farmers markets, CSAs, and more!

Some Podcast Show Note Questions:

Q) Why the price difference between conventional food and organic and how do we go about bringing down organic food prices?

Q) How can small local organic farmers remain local in a capitalistic system?

Q) What is the "Food Web" you briefly touch on in your book, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.

http://OrganicallySpeaking.org

All the best,
-Ricardo

Holistic Conversations for a Sustainable World

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Ricardo - thanks for the enthusiasm. I'll check out your site and the podcast thingy.

Anonymous said...

Is Maizena just the corn starch or is it corn meal?

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Anonymous: Maizena is (was) a brand of cornstarch - the fine white stuff useful in cakes and for thickening sauces etc.