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.