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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Aboriginal Cookery

By William Wood (fl. 1629–1635)

[Emigrated to Massachusetts, 1629. Died in Sandwich, Massachusetts, 1639. From New-England’s Prospect. 1635.]

HAVING done with the most needful clothings and ornamental deckings, may it please you to feast your eyes with their best belly-timbers; which I suppose would be but stibium to weak stomachs, as they cook it, though never so good of itself. In winter-time they have all manner of fowls of the water and of the land, and beasts of the land and water, pond fish, with catharres and other roots, Indian beans and clams. In the summer they have all manner of sea fish, with all sorts of berries. For the ordering of their victuals, they boil or roast them, having large kettles which they traded for with the French long since, and do still buy of the English as their need requires, before they had substantial earthen pots of their own making. Their spits are no other than cloven sticks sharpened at one end to thrust into the ground: into these cloven sticks they thrust the flesh or fish they would have roasted, behemming a round fire with a dozen of spits at a time, turning them as they see occasion. Some of their scullery having dressed these homely cates, present it to their guests, dishing it up in a rude manner, placing it on the verdant carpet of the earth which Nature spreads them, without either trenchers, napkins, or knives; upon which their hunger-sauced stomachs, impatient of delays, fall aboard, without scrupling at unwashed hands, without bread, salt, or beer; lolling in the Turkish fashion, not ceasing till their full bellies leave nothing but empty platters. They seldom or never make bread of their Indian corn, but seethe it whole like beans, eating three or four corns with a mouthful of fish or flesh, sometimes eating meat first, and corns after, filling up the chinks with their broth.

In summer, when their corn is spent, isquoterquashes is their best bread, a fruit much like a pumpkin. To say, and to speak paradoxically, they be great eaters, and little meat men. When they visit our English, being invited to eat, they are very moderate, whether it be to show their manners or for shamefac’dness, I know not, but at home they eat till their bellies stand south, ready to split with fulness; it being their fashion to eat all at sometimes, and sometimes nothing at all in two or three days, wise providence being a stranger to their wilder ways. They be right infidels; neither caring for the morrow, nor providing for their own families; but as all are fellows at foot-ball, so they all meet friends at the kettle, saving their wives, that dance a spaniel-like attendance at their backs for their bony fragments. If their imperious occasions cause them to travel, the best of their victuals for their journey is Nocake (as they call it), which is nothing but Indian corn parched in the hot ashes; the ashes being sifted from it, it is afterwards beat to powder, and put into a long leathern bag, trussed at their backs like a knapsack, out of which they take thrice three spoonfuls a day, dividing it into three meals. If it be in winter, and snow be on the ground, they can eat when they please, stopping snow after their dusty victuals, which otherwise would feed them little better than a Tyburn halter. In summer they must stay till they meet with a spring or a brook, where they may have water to prevent the imminent danger of choking. With this strange viaticum they will travel four or five days together, with loads fitter for elephants than for men. But though they can fare so hardly abroad, their chaps must walk night and day, as long as they have it. They keep no set meals; their store being spent, they champ on the bit, till they meet with fresh supplies, either from their own endeavors, or their wives’ industry, who trudge to the clam-banks when all other means fail. Though they be sometimes scanted, yet are they as free as emperors, both to their countrymen and English, be he stranger or near acquaintance; counting it a great discourtesy not to eat of their high-conceited delicacies, and sup of their un-oatmeal’d broth, made thick with fishes, fowls, and beasts, boiled altogether; some remaining raw, the rest converted, by overmuch seething, to a loathed mash, not half so good as Irish bonny-clapper.