I have appreciated the versatility of the sweet potato for some time, but had not heard of an interesting beverage made with it until recently. It is called 'mobby', and was apparently a popular drink in seventeenth century Barbados. Mention of it is made in Letters and papers of the Verney family down to the end of the year 1639. Just to clear up any potential confusion - at this time and place 'potatoes' meant 'sweet potatoes. I give you the relevant extract, which also provides one of our recipes for the day.
"The next is your potatoes, which is very nourishing and comfortable. It is the best provision we have in the land, both for our selves and servants, but chiefly for them, for they will not desire, after one month or two, noe other provision but potatoes boyled, and mobby to drink with them; and this as we call mobby is only potatoes boyled, and then pressed as hard as they can till all the juce is gon out of the root into fayre water, and after three houres this is good drink. Soe we brue in the morning to drink att noon, and att noon to drink att night, and so everyday in the year."
References to mobby in other sources mention that other flavourings such as lemon were sometimes added, and in some places the preference was for a slightly fermented version, which sounds interesting.
Mobby is almost always referred to as 'An American Drink' in dictionaries and other sources, which makes sense, given the history of the sweet potato. The idea of 'American drinks' rang a bell for me, and led me off on a tangent that I hope you will give you some fun, and will inspire some theories from you. I recalled that the very Victorian English cookery book that is a longstanding favourite of mine had some recipes for 'American Drinks'. Here they are, from Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery (1870's)
- please tell me what you think is quintessentially American about them!
Ching-ching (an American drink)
Put three ounces of peppermint, three or four drops of the essence of cloves, a sliced orange, a dessert-spoonful of sifted loaf sugar, and two table-spoonfuls of pounded ice into a large tumbler. Mix with a quarter of a pint of rum, stir the mixture for a minute or two, and drink it through a straw.
This is one of the drinks peculiar to America. Whisk the yolks of two fresh eggs for three or four minutes, add a little grated nutmeg, an ounce of honey, and a small glass of curacoa, and beat all together until thoroughly mixed. Add a pint of heated burgundy, and serve in glasses.
Quotation for the Day.
Among the expected glories of the Constitution, next to the abolition of Slavery was that of Rum.
Huh. Never heard of these. But then, they're from a book of the 1870s, and "my" time period is the late 18th-early 19th centuries. At the same time, I've never looked for such things, and alcoholic drinks are not my specialty. Am wondering, too, what the author's sources were. Interesting!
Well, they're American in the sense that they're sort of like Jerry Springer. Really, really icky. I think they'd be very loud and strong drinks that would be served with a boast of making something out of nothing. Other than that, I don't see much quintessentially American about them. I'm American myself, my family fled Cromwell and came from England. They actually remind me of the Victorian and Edwardian overdone dishes, where it almost seems like they threw in all the ingredients they could think of to make a showpiece.
Hi Janet! Somebody commented on my blog and told me that your blog would interest me. She was so right! I am also exploring food history on my website (pasted the link below). Hope you can stop by some time. In any event, I'll be following your blog. Keep up the great work! http://theshiksa.com/food-history/
The Barbados mobby was made from sweet potatoes, but the U.S. mobby was "peach juice, sometimes distilled". But there is a modern cocktail called a Moby.
'The fruits and fruit trees of Monticello', P J Hatch, p.81
I don't know about the origins of these drinks, but I'll take a ching-ching right now, if you're mixing! Sounds scrumptious.
Carolina - no sources in the book, but they weren't big on crediting sources for recipes back the.
Kate - you have made my day with theJerry Springer metaphor, thanks!
Marcheline - i thought the same myself. I'll let you know when i start mixing!
I've seen drinks similar to the "Locofoco" show up under the name of "Locomotive" in a number of other books. Quintessentially American? Maybe, maybe not, but decidedly American in orgin.
"Ching-ching" can be found in only one other book I've seen, William Terrington's "Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks"(1860s). There it is indicated to be an American drink, but that book is British as well, and I have yet to dig up a reference to it in American book.
Intrigued, I ran a google search for "Mobby" -- no joy, but lots of entries for "Mauby", a Caribbean drink made of the bark of a small local tree, plus aniseed, bay leaf and other spices, drunk as-is or fermented -- and exported now as a syrup or carbonated beverage.
I wonder if the name changedto cover a different item, or if the Varneys were out of touch enough with the lives of their slaves to not know that the beverage wasn't just made of pressed boiled sweet potatoes.
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