Friday, January 16, 2009

Twelve Ways with Corn, 1794.

A missionary called George H. Loskiel famously recorded the ‘twelve different ways’ that the Delawares and Iroquois dressed ‘Indian corn’ (maize) in his book History of the Mission of the United Brethren Among the Indians in North America (1794). It remains a fine list of ideas for this amazing plant.

1. They boil it in the husk, till soft and fit to eat.
2. Parboil it, and having rubbed the husk off with sharp leys, wash and boil it over again.
3. They roast the whole ear in hot ashes, as it is taken from the stalk.
4. They pound it small, and then boil it soft.
5. They grind it as fine as flour by means of a wooden pestle and mortar, clear it from the husks, and make a thick pottage of it.
6. They knead the flour with cold water, and make cakes about a hand's breath, and an inch thick. These they inclose in leaves and bake in hot ashes, putting live coals upon them; and use them as bread.
7. They mix dried bilberries with the flour, to give the cakes a better relish.
8. They chop roasted or dried deer's-flesh, or smoked eels, into small pieces, and boil them with the corn.
9. They boil the grits made of it with fresh meat, and this is one of their most common meals, with which they eat the bread described above.
10. They roast the corn in hot ashes till it becomes thoroughly brown. Then they pound it to flour, mix it with sugar, and press it down forcibly into a bag. This serves for citamon.
11. They take the corn before it is ripe, and let it swell in boiling water. It is then dried and laid by for use. The white people buy it in this state to make soup of, or soak it again, and use it with oil and vinegar as salad.
12. They roast the whole ear, when grown, but still full of juice. This is a well- flavored dish, but wastes much corn. They therefore like to have their plantations at some distance from their dwellings, that they may not be tempted to waste so much, or at least increase the difficulty of getting it.

This list also perhaps gives us another forgotten food word – citamon. If any one out there has some other examples of its use, I would be most interested, because I have found no help from dictionaries. Loskiel himself elaborates elsewhere in the text, saying:

“The preparations for war are soon made: they do not carry much baggage; a bundle of citamon, as described above, consisting of pounded Indian corn and maple sugar, is all the provision they want.”

This sounds like a great recipe for pancake mix!

When Loskiel made his observations, the first genuine American cookbook had not yet been published. In 1798, Amelia Simmons (‘an orphan’) published her book American Cookery, or the art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables, and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plum to plain cake: Adapted to this country, and all grades of life.

She gives three variations of Indian pudding, which is hasty pudding by another name.

A Nice Indian Pudding.

No. 1. 3 pints scalded milk, 7 spoons fine Indian meal, stir well together while hot, let stand till cooled; add 7 eggs, half pound raisins, 4 ounces butter, spice and sugar, bake one and half hour.

No. 2. 3 pints scalded milk to one pint meal salted; cool, add 2 eggs, 4 ounces butter, sugar or molasses and spice q: s: it will require two and half hours baking.

No. 3. Salt a pint of meal, wet with one quart milk, sweeten and put into a strong cloth, brass or bell metal vessel, stone or earthen pot, secure from wet and boil 12 hours.

More on this topic …

Other recipes from from Amelia Simmons that have appeared in this blog are:
Honey Cake

To dress a Beef-Stake, sufficient for two Gentlemen, with a fire made of two newspapers.

Election Cake

There is more on Hasty pudding HERE and HERE.

Quotation for the Day …

It is not elegant to gnaw Indian corn. The kernels should be scored with a knife, scraped off into the plate, and then eaten with a fork. Ladies should be particularly careful how they manage so ticklish a dainty, lest the exhibition rub off a little desirable romance.
Charles Day (1844)


Anonymous said...

I wonder if citamon is a variation of the word pemmican. Pemmican was corn, fat, dried venison, and dried fruit, pounded together and used for traveling or war rations.

Angie said...

Found your blog in a google search for old recipes. Great Blog!! I have been very interested in old cookbooks for many years. And of course, the best recipes are the ones that people write on a scrap of paper and put in between the pages of their favorite cookbook.
Keep up the great work!
Regards from Massachusetts

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Judy - it seems like a drier (more powdery?) form of pemmican, doesnt it? An early dehydrated soup or bread mix. It would be interesting to know how it was ultimately used.
Theirgrammy - glad you found me. I agree about the scrap of paper recipes!

Anonymous said...

Citamon sounds like some kind of traveling food. As Judy says above.

FYI, there seems to be a place called Citamon Bayou in Louisiana. I believe there is a significant Native American population down there so maybe it is related somehow.