Tagged ‘Mourt’s Relation’

Why then the world’s mine oyster/Which I with sword will open.

June 14th, 2013 by KM Wall


2 oysters on the half shell - from the Cotuit Oyster Company website

2 oysters on the half shell – from the Cotuit Oyster Company website

The world may very well be Pistols oyster (in the Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 2, scene 2 written by a certain William Shakespeare), but he would have a rather difficult time of in some parts on New England. Although oysters are now farmed all along the coast, and have been for over 100 years, and have been happily gathered for even longer, oysters are not naturally in ALL parts of New England. One notable place without oysters – PLYMOUTH. Yes, there were oysters on Cape Cod (that’s where Cotuit is) and there were oysters in Massachusetts Bay (Boston is the modern landmark) but in all those miles in between….lobsters, clams and muscles were the shellfish of abundance in the seventeenth century. No oysters.

“The river [near Manomet] yieldeth, thus high, oysters, muscles, clams, and other shellfish;…”

- Good Newes, Applewood ed. p. 25.

Which brings us back to mussels.

“Muskels in bruet.

Take muskels, pick them, seeth them with the own broth, make a layer of crust and vinegar, do in onions minced & cast the muskels thereto.& seeth it, and do therto bread with a little salt & saffron the samewise make of oysters.”

-Maxime McKendry. 700 years of English Cooking. (Forme of Cury, 1378). 1983. p.32.

Take mussels, pick them, seethe them with their own broth, make a layer of crust (crust from bread) do in onions minced and cast mussels thereto and seethe it, and do there to [the] bread with some salt and saffron(you’re adding salt and saffron to the bread. Am I the only one thinking Mediterranean Cuisine here?) the sameways with oysters. (You can do the same thing with oysters instead of mussels)

Samewise is a great word we should still be using.

Variations of this particular recipe show in several manuscript versions.

This is an excerpt from Fourme of Curye [Rylands MS 7]
(England, 1390)
The original source can be found at MedievalCookery.com

.Cxx. Muskels in bruet. Tale muskels, pyke hem, seeth hem with the owne broth, make a lyour of crustes of brede & vyneger, do in oynouns y mynced & cast the muskels ther to & seeth hit & do ther to poudour with a littul salt & safroun, the same wyse make of oysters.

Similar, but not exactly the same. It’s interesting to me that when people copied recipes by hand, that there were all sorts of variations – spelling, punctuation, emphasis – in short, personality – that is utter lacking in the modern cut and paste and add a 1/2 cup of chopped parsley nonsense that tries passing  as recipe writing.  These medieval guys are trying to copy each other and they can’t help but make little changes. Like people who cook in real places for real people with actual preferences and dislike. Enough soapboax – more Muskels!

But if you don’t have mussels…poor thing…then same wyse make of oysters.

Henri Stresor - The Oyster Eater

Henri Stresor – The Oyster Eater – English mid 17th century



June 9th, 2013 by KM Wall
David Tenniers the Younger Peasant eating Mussels

David Tenniers the Younger Peasant eating Mussels

June is busting out all over! From milking goats to cheesecurds to shellfish and then there are gooseberries and strawberries and my, oh, my the gardens….

“This bay [Plymouth] is a most hopeful place, innumerable store of fowl, and excellent good, and cannot but be of fish in their season; skote, cod, turbot, and herring, we have tasted of, abundance of mussels the greatest and best that ever we saw; crabs and lobsters in their time infinite.”

- Mourt’s Relation, Applewood ed. p. 39 16 December 1620


To stew Muscles.

Wash them clean, and boil them in water, or beer and salt, then take them out of the shells, and beard them from gravel and stones, fry them in clarified butter, and being fryed put away some of the butter, and put to them a sauce made of some of their own liquor, some sweet herbs chopped, a little white-wine, nutmeg, three or four yolkes of eggs dissolved in wine vinegar, salt, some sliced orange: give these materials a walm or two in the frying pan, make the sauce pretty thick, and dish them in the scallop shells.”

-1685. Robert May. The Accomplist Cook. Fifth ed. Prospect Books. p. 400

To stew mussels:

  1.  Bring either water or beer to a boil in a pot that is large enough to hold all the mussels and has a lid. You’ll want an inch or two of liquid at the bottom of the pot.
  2. Wash the mussels, removing any dead, mud-filled or open ones. If they don’t close when you tap them, toss them.
  3. If they’re mussels you’ve pulled yourself (now called WILD mussels – back in the day it was just about the only way to have mussels, but I digress…) take off the beards, the seaweed and  remove any gravel or stones. Robert May has you do this later in the process, which is a little too late for me.
  4. If they’re farmed raised (and most of the mussels you buy these days are) this sort of cleaning up will be minimal. Do it anyhow.
  5. Put the clean mussels in the boiling liquid, put the top on, and don’t peek for a few minutes. Check at 4 or 5 minutes – most of the shells should be open. Toss the ones that don’t open.
  6. Now you have options – you can take them from the shell and EAT THEM
  7. You can take them from the shell and fry them in butter (notice he says clarified butter- this is a very nice way to fry fish)
  8. You can make the sauce: some of the cooking liquor – ladle it up or put it through a cloth strainer to keep the grit out of your final dish.  Chopped herbs, white wine, nutmeg, egg yolk beaten in wine-vinegar and some sliced orange. Heat them in a small pan, stirring fairly constantly,  until they start to thicken.
  9. I’m not sure why the scallop shells – you’ve got heaps of perfectly fine MUSSEL shells all over your kitchen by this time – IF you’ve kept the mussels in their shells, remove them one by one and dip into the sauce as you eat. Otherwise serve the sauce beside the mussels and sauce the plates.
  10. It may go without saying, but I’ll say it anyhow -SOPS – bread to sop it all with with – DIVINE.
  11. Use the shells for decorative purposes or to send symbolic messages as you choose.
Peasants gaming and Eating Mussels - Barto

Peasants gaming and Eating Mussels – Bartolomeus Molenaer





Rice…to spend by the way

March 30th, 2013 by KM Wall

“..our Indian Corne, even the coarsest, maketh as pleasant meat as Rice, therefore spare that vnless to spend by the way…”

Mourt’s Relation, p. 86. (1621)

Rice at sea for the 17th century Englishman

1584 (Discourse of Western Planting p. 54)
A note of some things to be prepared for the voyadge,….
…/Stockfishe Meale in Barrells, / Oatemeale in barrels, nere cowched./Ryse. Sallett oile. Barrelled butter./

Ryse – another way to say RICE is right up there with other needful provisionings

Rice family coat of arms

Rice family coat of arms

The Welsh Rice or Ryse family also have a coat of arms. It looks like three ravens, which makes me think of the song….back to rice, the grain.

1609 ( Explorers, p 289).
Marc Lescarbot’s list of provisionment for Champlain’s expedition of New France

…viz.: six sheep, twenty four hens, one pound pepper, twenty pounds rice, the same number pounds raisins and prunes…..

Interesting how rice is near butter in one list, and near raisins on the other. Now I’m thinking of rice pudding.

Rice pudding in a can - great for sea travel!

Rice pudding in a can – great for sea travel!

Rice pudding in a can was not available in the 17th century, which is a pity, because it would travel well and be a great comfort to those at sea in sailing ships. Notice that this is English rice pudding in a can – full of dairy goodness and from Devon.

1626. (Newfoundland Rediscovered, Vol. 160. pp. 246-249.)
Advice on Planting in Newfoundland. Given to Sir Henry Salusbury
Lord Falkland’s Colony
30 li worthe of Rice 0/10/0

What this line means is that thirty pounds (li means pound…it makes more sense if you’ve had a little Latin) and the little “/// ” are the division between pounds and shillings and pence. Back before the Euro and when everything went all decimal, this is what accounting columns looked like in England. From left to right it reads

“zero pounds/ten shillings/zero pence”

Ten shillings is about the same as a peck of mustard seed from the same list (a peck is a quarter of a bushel) and a little more then two gallons of honey, which are valued at eight shillings.  I somehow thought that rice would be more expensive, but perhaps Lord Falklands Colony got a deep discount or knew someone who knew someone or rice was not an expensive commodity, just an usual one.

1627 John Smith. A Sea Grammer. p.85-6.

The petty Tally.
Fine wheat flour close and well packed, Rice, Currands, Sugar, Prunes, Cynamon, Ginger, Pepper, Cloves, greene Ginger, Oyle, Butter, Holland cheese, or old Cheese, Wine vinegar, Canarie sake, Aqua vitae, the best Wines, he best waters, the juyce of Limons for the scurvy, white Bisket, Oatmeale, gammons of Bacon, dried Neats tongues, Beefe packed up in vinegar, Legs of Mutton minced and stewed, and closed packed up, with tried sewet or butter in earthen pots. To entertaine strangers Marmalad, Suckets, Almonds, Comfits and such like.

…Some it may be will say I would have men rather to feast than fight; But I say the want of those necessaries occasions the losse of more men than in any English fleet hath been slaine since 88. For when a man is ill, or at the point of death, I would know whether a dish of buttered Rice with a little Cynamon, Ginger, an Sugar,…

’88′ is 1588 and is referring to the Armada.  But Captain John Smith is seeming to imply that rice can be the salvation of the English fleet. Not that Captain John Smith is EVER given to exaggeration or hyperbole.

‘So thou art Brasse without – but Golde within.”

Captain John Smith

Captain John Smith


a very goodly sight

March 24th, 2013 by KM Wall
multi-colored corn

multi-colored corn

March 1620/1
“They [Samoset/Squanto] said that within eight or nine days they would come and set corn on the other side of the brook, and dwell there all summer, which is hard by us.”
Mourts, Corinth ed. p. 58.


“Which, they digging up[ heaps of sand], found in them divers fair Indian baskets filled with corn, and some in ears, fair and good, of divers colors, which seemed to them a very goodly sight (having never seen any such before).”

-         Bradford, p. 65


“Also there was found more of their corn and of their beans of various colours;”

-         Bradford, p. 66


“…some thirty-six goodly ears of corn, some yellow, and some red, and others mixed with blue, which was a very goodly sight.”

-         Mourt’s p. 22.

19 & 20 March 1620/21

March 20th, 2013 by KM Wall

Munday and tuesday proved fayre days, we digged our grounds, and sowed our garden seeds.

A Relation or Iournall of the beginning and proceedings of the English Plantation settled at Plimoth in New England… (Mourt’s Relation) London, 1622 (fasmile ed.)p. 35.

They, of course, don’t bother to mention WHICH seeds they were planting.


Thomas Tusser, the ever faithful 500 Points of Good Husbandry  has several lists of herbs, and under March’s abstract no less.

Things Mr Tussers says to pay special attention to in March (once it stops snowing and the ground thaws….)

  1. Tarragon, set in slips in March.
  2. Onions, from December to March.
  3. Skirrets, set these plants in March.




Onion – as they start to look like in March and April, growing shoots



Biscuit, butter, cheese and pudding….

March 15th, 2013 by KM Wall

Friday the 16 (of March 1620/21) a fair warm day towards; …….

there presented himself a savage, which caused alarm, he came very boldly came all alone and along the houses straight to the rendezvous, where we intercepted him, not suffering him to go in, as undoubtedly he would, out of his boldness, he saluted us in English, and bade us welcome, for he learned some broken English  amongst the Englishmen that came to fish at Mohegan and knew name most of the captains, commanders, and masters, that usually come,……

he asked some beer, but we gave him strong water,and biscuit, and butter, and cheese, and pudding, and a piece of mallard, all which he like well, and had been acquainted with such amongst the English;….

Mourt’s Relation, p. 480-1, Johnson ed.

Pieter de Hooch - The Empty Glass - no beer, time to get the strong water. This seems to be setting a oh-so-wrong precedent ...





Floris Gerritsz. van Schooten Still Life with Glass, Cheese, Butter and Cake. There are little rusks, too, ever so biscuit like.



Pieter de Hooch - A Woman Preparing Bread and Butter for a Boy - There are surprisingly few images of biscuit (OK, not so surprising) in genre paintings. I think this lump might be what the English sometimes call a 'rock' of butter, but that's only my tentative opinion.


spilt porridge detail from Pieter Bruegal's The Topsy Turvy World - a hasty pudding, as it weredetail of spilt porridge from Pieter Brughal’s Topsy Turvy World. A Hasty pudding of sorts

Pieter de Hooch - Woman Plucking a Duck



this day some garden seeds were sown

March 7th, 2013 by KM Wall

Wednesday the seventh of March, (1620/21) the wind was full east, cold, but fair, that day Master Carver with five others went to the great ponds, which seem to be excellent fishing places; all the way they found it exceedingly beaten and haunted with deer, but they saw none; amongst other fowl, they saw one a milk-white fowl, with a very black head: this day some garden seeds were sown.

1622. Mourt’s Relation, CHJ ed. p. 480.

Buds - March 2012

Fat and Neat

February 21st, 2013 by KM Wall

Wednesday the 21 of February [1620/21], the master [Christopher Jones of the Mayflower] came on shore with many of his sailors, and brought with him one of the great pieces, called a minion, and helped us draw it up the hill, with another piece that lay on the shore, and mounted them, and a saller, and two bases; he brought with him a very fat goose to eat with us, and we had a fat crane, and a mallard, and a dried neat’s tongue, and so we were kindly and friendly together.

Mourt’s Relation, Caleb Johnson ed., p. 480.

Note: died this day William White, William Mullins and 2 others.

a mallard

A fairly fat little crane








Neat - that would be the bovine

To dry Neats Tongues

Take Bay salt beaten very fine, and Salt-Peeter of each a like, and rub your Tongues very well with that, and cover all over with it, and as it wasts put on more, and when they are very hard and stiffe they are enough, then rowle them in Bran, and dry them before a soft fire, and before you boyle them, let them lie one night in Pompe Water, and boyle them in the same sort of water.

1658. W.M. The Compleat Cook.


Five Geese

February 9th, 2013 by KM Wall

Friday the 9 [February 1620/21] still the cold weather continued, that we could do little work. That afternoon our little house for the sick people was set on fire by a spark kindled in the roof, but no great harm was done. That evening, the master [of the Mayflower, Christopher Jones] going ashore, killed five geese, which he kindly distributed among the sick people; he found also a good deer killed, the savages had cut off the horns, and a wolf was eating of him, but how he cam there we could not conceive.”

- Mourt’s Relation (Caleb Johnson ed., p. 479.)

One goose, two snow geese

three, four, brant geese

plus one Canada goose is Five, five geese







To Carve the goose for the Table

‘Reare the Goose.

You must breake a Goose up contrary to this fashion[of a swan, before in text]. Take a Goose being roasted, and take off both the Legges faire like a shoulder of Lambe, take them quite from the body, then cut off the belly piece round, close to the lower end of the brest: then lace her downe with your knife cleane throrow the breast, on each side your Thumbs breadth from the bone in the middle of the breast. Then take off the Pinion of each side, and the flesh which you first laced with your knife, raise it up cleane from the bone, and take it cleane from the carkasse with the Pinion. Then cut up the bone which lyeth before in the breast, which you commonly call the Berry thought (merry thought), the skin and the flesh with it. The cut from the breast bone another slice of flesh cleane throrow, and take it cleane from the bone; then turne your carkasse, and cut it asunder, the backe bone above the loyne bones, then take the Rumpe end of the Back-bone, and lay at the fore-end of it the Berry-thought (merry-thought), with the skinne-side upward, and before that the apron of the Goose: then lay your pinions on each side contrary behind them, that the bone end of the legges may stand up in the middle of the Dish, and the Wing Pinions may come on the outside of them. Put under the Wing Pinions on each side the long slices of flesh which you cut from teh breast-bone, and let the ends meet under the legge-bones, and let the other ends lie cut in the Dish betwixt the leg and the Pinion: then powre in your sawce into the Dish under your meates, then throrow on Salt, and set it on the Table.

- 1638. John Murrell, Two Books of Cookery and Carving.


January 8th, 2013 by KM Wall

Monday, the 8th day of January[1620/1], was a very fair day, and we went betimes to work. Master Jones sent the shallop, as he had formerly done, to see where fish could be got. They had a great storm at sea, and were in some danger; at night they returned with three great seals and an excellent good cod, which did assure us that we should have plenty of fish shortly.”

-         Mourt’s, Applewood ed, p. 44

Betimes is early.

A shallop is a boat.

Seals are not endangered and would be taken for their meat as well as their fur.

Cod is the reason they were forming a plantation.

Harbor seal


Common Seal








Cod - Gadus morhua

For white Peas Pottage.

Take a quart of white Pease (1) or more & seeth them in faire water close, until they doe cast their huskes, the which cast away, as long as any wil come up to the topp, and when they be gon, then put into the peaze two dishes of butter, and a little vergious(2), with pepper and salt, and a little fine powder of March(3) , and so let it stand till you will occupy it, and then serve it upon sops.(4) You may seethe Porpose and Seale in your pease, serving it forth two peeces in a dish.

- 1597 Dawson, Thomas. The Second part of the good Hus-wives Iewell. London. p. 26.

[1] white pea are dried or old (not fresh ‘green’) pease

[2] verjuice is  the  unripe juice of grapes or apples(f. vert green, unripe + jus JUICE.]) use vinegar instead

[3 powder of march is ground spices, usually ginger and something else

[4] sops are pieces of bread soaked in something

photo of dried peas from USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council - Dry peas and Lentils have their very own council!

Harbor porpoise

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