September, 2009

A Boiled Salad, Second Lesson

September 25th, 2009 by admin


Diverse Salads Boiled. (so far, pretty easy, right)
Parboil spinach (cook until done. If using fresh, pick out anything buggy, too limp or slimy. Pull off the tough stems. Wash in several changes of water. Put the spinach in the water, swish it around and lift it out so that the dirt remains behind in the water. If you find a bug, there’s probably another, so add a little salt to the water and let it sit for a minute. I’d give the package stuff from the store another rinse; I don’t care how many times they say they wash it. Frozen? They give you directions…), and chop it fine, with the edges of two hard trenchers upon a board, or the backs of two chopping knives: (chop it fine – it you are using frozen, just buy the chopped…. A trencher is a dish, usually made of wood, hence the ‘treen ware’, sometimes made of pewter or silver, in earlier times (earlier the 1627) sometimes made of bread….OK, that’s a whole ‘nuther post, chopping knives are, I hope, self evident) then set it upon a chafing-dish of coals with butter and vinegar. (And you thought chafing-dishes were a throwback to the 1950’s? Surprise – they’re showing up in all the fashionable 17th kitchens, too. There was a 17th century one found in a downtown Plymouth archeological dig, and we have a replica in the 1627 English Village. Lacking a chafing-dish put the spinach in a heavy bottomed pot and place it over low heat on your stove.) . Season it with cinnamon, ginger, sugar, and a few parboiled currants. (This particular combination of spice is a little reminiscent of modern pumpkin or apple pie. Ginger was considered warming and good for digestions – actually, it is! Vegetables were thought to be a little troublesome to digest, so you’d season accordingly. Sugar was also considered somewhat warming and good for the digestion. Keep in mind that most people were between 1 and 2 pounds of sugar a year. Most of us now polish that much off in less than a week! Currants are dried currants, which are little raisins, so feel free to use raisins here. Modern dried fruit isn’t as dry as it used to be, thanks to plastics and the push to eat them as hand-fruit, so no parboiling necessary.) Then cut hard (boiled) eggs into quarters to garnish it withal, and serve it upon sippets. (Sippets are slices of bread that have been toasted or fried. Use something that won’t melt at first contact to the food, like a sliced, toasted baguette or a ciabatto . Think brushetta!) So may you serve borage, bugloss, endive, chicory, cauliflower, sorrel, marigold leaves (Calendula, or pot marigolds, not French marigolds; if you don’t know which you have DON’T EAT THEM), watercress, leeks boiled, onions, Sparragus (asparagus), Rocket (our old friend arugula), alexanders ( I can’t find these anywhere- if you have some, would you share? Call me. Parboil them, and season them all alike: whether it be with oil and vinegar, or butter and vinegar, cinnamon, ginger, sugar, and butter: Eggs are necessary, or at least good for all boiled salads.” (That would be hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered and placed on top)
From John Murrell’s A Newe Booke of Cookerie, London: 1615, p. 34.

So, there you have it. You got this far. In simplest terms, boiled salads are boiled veggies seasoned with ginger, cinnamon and a little sugar, dressed with either oil and vinegar or melted butter and vinegar, served over toasted bread and topped with hard boiled eggs cut into quarters.

K.M. Wall
Colonial Foodways Culinarian

A Boiled Salad – First Lesson (Did Anyone Say Thanksgiving Recipes?)

September 23rd, 2009 by admin

A 17th century cooking lesson
I’m not sure that the Pilgrims used these particular recipes. There aren’t any cookbooks in their wills and inventories, and most of these people wouldn’t have known what to do with one if they had had one. They knew how to cook the things they were familar with in the way that was familar to them. That said, some things turn up over and over again, so they certainly cold have been familar. My history training make me want to hedge and qualify. My big sister background make want to say, “Try it, you’ll like it! And so easy!”
I keep meaning to put more recipes on this blog, but I realize that I teach cooking, not just recipes, and I teach the way of a 17th mother would have: I put out the ingredients and the various pots, and hover about ready to stir the onions, as it were. This is hard to translate into print, so please bear with me. Don’t forget to be sensible – really use all your senses: taste, sight, hearing, smell and judgment.
We’re going to start with a recipe for a salad. Salad, even a boiled one, doesn’t take much to figure out. And why boil a salad? It makes it more artificial, and artificial is good in the 17th century when they had a whole different standard of artificial, which means made by the hand of man. So, a boiled salad is the plants improved by cooking, as opposed to grazing on weeds like a cow or a hog…makes you look at that side salad a whole diffeent way, if you compare it to an animal feeding. A boiled salad will put some familiar things on your table in a way that isn’t too unfamiliar. You don’t need to be growing heirloom varieties, any old spinach will do, I mean any spinach, and it doesn’t have to be an old variety. If you have a garden, go harvest.
….So here’s how it’s gonna go –
First Lesson – Looking at a resource, in this case a period recipe, copied out of the period cookbook. It’s easier if you read it out loud, because spelling isn’t standardized, but pronunciations aren’t that far from now, or so I’ve lead myself to believe. Someday, this will be enough to start you on your way, but if you’re not there today, keep on to
Second Lesson– a version in modern spelling with parenthetical notes to explain some of what going on, define vocabulary. The second one will be the longest of the versions.
Third Lesson– a quick and easy totally 21st century translation.
Put on your aprons, wash your hands, and lets go to the kitchen.
“Diverse Sallets Boyled.
Parboyle Spinage, and chop it fine, with the edges of two hard Trenchers upon a boord, or the back of two chopping knives : then set them on a Chafingdish of coals with Butter and Vinegar. Season it with Sinamon, Ginger, Sugar, and a few parboiled Currins. Then cut hard Egges into quarter to garnish it withal, and serve it upon sippets. So may you serve Burrage, Buglosse, Endiffe, Suckory, Coleflowers, Sorrel, Marigold leaves, water-Cresses, Leekes boyled, Onions, Sparragus, Rocket, Alexanders. Parboyle them, and season them all alike: whether it be with Oyle and Vingar, or Butter and Vinegar, Sinamon, Ginger, Sugar, and Butter: Egges are necessary, or at least good for all boyled Sallets.”
From John Murrell’s A Newe Booke of Cookerie, London: 1615, p. 34.

Colonial Foodways Culinarian

September Gardenings (Thanksgiving Recipes To Follow)

September 18th, 2009 by admin


Set herbs some more,
For winter store.
Sowe seeds for pot,
For flowers sowe not.
- Thomas Tusser
A recent issue of some magazine announced it was time for everyone in these economic times to consider “The Autumnal Garden”. Guess what? Back in the 17th century, that is SO been there, done that. The traditional beginning of the agricultural year is September. And that’s true for gardens, too. Until fairly recently – beginning in the late 19th century, but really since the mid-20th century –gardens weren’t for putting up or putting by, but to provide a fresh bit for as long a season as possible. There is also an overlap between the end of one season and the beginning of the next. It’s the prep work you do in the Fall that determines the success of the Spring.
In The English Housewife (1617) Gervase Markham begins his chapter on cookery with several pages devoted to gardening, his most constant advice being lists of the names of herbs to plant and the phase of the moon to in which to plant. There is a certain presumption that the housewife would know what to do from there. This full moon coming up is the last time you’ll plant before snow. Except for years with an early heavy frost – and we get one of those about every 10 years – this generally works, even in New England. Or at least out little piece of coastal Plymouth, with a large palisade all around in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Not only are you planting (and weeding – ALWAYS WEEDING!) but also deciding what to leave fallow to ‘fatten’ for next year, and generally making the decisions about next year’s garden. This is actually a good time to get yourself out into your garden, while the memory is fresh and true. Where were you more ambitious then realistic? What did you miss because you waited too long? What do you wish – right now – that you had done? This is a good time to write yourself a note, because come January, when there’s snow on the ground, you’ll either order everything in the catalog or get discourage and overwhelmed just looking at all the pretty pictures.
Between now and the full moon later on 4 October we will be sowing seeds of lettuce, spinach, radish, carrots, rocket to enjoy in October and through November, depending on the frost. Like Tusser says, things that are good for the pot – and no flowers. Flowers are produced after the plant makes roots and leaves, and there isn’t enough sun to get past the root and leaf portions this time of year.
Last year Justin had success with onion seeds sown in September that gave the Howland garden onions about a month before the rest of the town this summer. OK – he didn’t gather the onions that had gone to seed quite quickly enough and the sowed themselves, as they are wont to do. Leek, cabbage and parsnip seeds will be added this year to the autumnal sowings to see how they’ll do. As anyone who gardens knows, the micro-climates, even between beds in the same garden, can make a huge difference, so we’re always experimenting with different combinations of seeds and settings and sowings.
Lettuce, turnips, carrots, spinach, radish, even parsnip and leeks are good to sow right now.
Although the pot that Tusser is referring to is a cooking pot, it is also a good time of year to dig up some seasoning herbs to keep in a pot on your windowsill. My new neighbor trimmed some overgrown trees and I have sunny kitchen windows,so I’ll be digging up mint, thyme, marjoram and winter savory for the winter. I might try some sorrel this winter, just to see how it does indoors. Icompletely lucked out and found parsley, basil, watercress, arugala (that’s right – Rocket!) and even salad burnet at the grocery store as potted plants.I’m re-potting them and giving them all a try.
This once again gets us out of the garden and into the kitchen.
K.M. Wall
Colonial Foodways Culinarian

Kids Free! Special Offer For Blog Readers

September 16th, 2009 by admin


We are pleased to offer a special discount for blog readers only. From September 20-September 27 children will be able to come to Plimoth Plantation AND Mayflower 2, FREE with a paid adult. Even if you can’t make it that week, please tell all your friends about this offer on our blog. We’re trying to spread the word about our great museum and you can help!

Click here to download the Blog Discount Coupon.

Send Us Your Photos and Videos!!

September 13th, 2009 by admin


And they need to be in the right place for us to use them. For Youtube videos please join our channel and add them HERE.

For photos please join our pool and add your pictures HERE.

Anywhere else and we may not be able to use them. Thanks, folks.


BTW, another fine photo from Justin

Myles Standish Welcomes Newcomers

September 13th, 2009 by admin

This happened a couple of months ago. but I thought there might be those who would enjoy seeing Capt. Standish’s new lambs.

It’s Not Rocket Sallet (More On Pilgrim Gardens and Pilgrim Food)

September 12th, 2009 by admin


… until it is….
Vegetables and organ meats share a split personality in the 17th century. On the one hand, they’re dainty morsels, served with verve and flair on the noblest of tables; on the other hand, they’re the bits that are left to serve the poorest of the poor. Let’s save offal for another day – there’s a great haggis controversy bubbling up in food history circles…I’ll keep you posted. But back to vegetables.
I’m sure you all remember back to the third grade when you learned that the natural world is dividedinto animal, mineral and vegetable. And that’s exactly what a vegetable is in the 17th century – that whole large category of trees and vines and shrubs and grains and shrubs and reeds and cetera – not just the plants you grow for your plate.
If you grow it in your garden, particularly your kitchen garden, then it’s an herb. Cabbage is an herb. Carrot is an herb. Rosemary and rue are herbs. Parsley, sage, thyme – herbs. Turnip, asparagus, skirret – also herbs. There are sun-categories of herbs, often overlapping: pot herbs, sweet herbs, physic herbs, herbs for strewing, and of course, salad herbs.
Salads are made of herbs. Like so much else in the 17th century, there is a hierarchy of herbs, too. Cabbages, kales and coleworts (we know then as collards) – common, definitely food of the poor. Easy to grow, easy to keep, good for a long time in the garden, keep well after they harvested. Cabbages are also considered to be ‘windy’ – Nickolas Culpepper compares them to bagpipes and bellows…not dainty, even then! Garlic is considered to be ‘poor man’s treacle’ – good for whatever ails the poor. It’s also generally assumed that the poorer sorts are doing more physical labor, and therefore have more heat, hotter digestion, or decoction of their food. (That’s Doctrine of Humours in 25 words or less!)
Asparagus, artichokes, broom buds, sapphire, purslane (not the nasty garden weed – proper garden purslane), cowslips, gillyflowers are all dainties. Beancods – plain ole green beans to us now – dainty. Potatoes are a dainty – that’s gonna change, but not until the 18th century.
Lettuce is a salad herb, too, just not necessarily the first thing you think of for salad. It seems to travel back and forth between the dainty and the common. Just like now. Think of the difference between iceberg lettuce and baby Bibb. There are other leafy greens betwixt and between dainty and common. Arugula, known as rocket to 17th century Englishmen (and hence, rocket salad), spinach, endive, beets… If the technology is working for me today, (Buddy, I’m counting on you for backup!) there is a lovely image of a second year beet. But, wait a minute, aren’t beets red things that grow underground – this are large and green and waving in the breeze – and what’s with this second year business?
Side-bar on beets: what we now call Swiss chard is the beet of the 17th. What we now call beets is the beet root, or Red Roman beetroot of the 17th century. How did it become Swiss? I haven’t a clue, but it doesn’t happen until the 19th century. As for the chard part – that comes from the rib in the center of the leaf, which harkens back to the card in the cardoon….Why hasn’t anyone written the Secret Life of Beets? Perhaps in my copious free time….Beets form seed in their second year, so you have to hold a few through the winter to get more beet seeds.
Salads are usually boiled. Eating raw plants was sometimes fashionable, was sometimes distained. Generally, cooking food made it more artificial, which is a good thing in the 17th century because then it is improved by the hand of man. Cooked food was also supposed to better for your digestion.
So if boiled green beans or spinach or endive or Swiss chard have ever turned up on your table, then you have been making boiled salads unawares. In the 17th century Dutch cookbook The Sensible Cook there are recipes for boiled salads, and then there are recipes for various herbs, like boiled cabbage and boiled cauliflower that are not called salads, just a dish of….
So much for theory. Soon – recipes.
K.M. Wall
Colonial Foodways Culinarian

The Pilgrim Garden And The Modern World

September 8th, 2009 by admin


A few of our guests have been commenting lately about why our gardens look so messy. Other than the fact that gardens tend to explode in August in New England, and that an aesthetically pleasing garden doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with a well-producing garden, there’s a few other reasons the gardens feel a little different to our guests than what they might be expecting.

Grass is one of the worst enemies to a gardener without the aid of a lawn mower, edging tool, or modern fencing. Our garden beds are often very well weeded; it’s just that the grassy areas in the borders at the edge of the garden make the whole thing feel overgrown, despite the fact it doesn’t affect the garden’s production. And we have a choice: should we use a weed-whacker resulting in a modern aesthetic that really has nothing to do with our museum’s purpose? Or should we preserve and exhibit colonial lifeways by doing as much as we can the 17th century way, with 17th century tools and methods? I personally vote for the latter, though some of my co-workers disagree with me. If all we’re teaching our guests is that our site is messy, we’re not really teaching them anything of value. And yet, if we’re teaching them that a 17th century colonial garden has neatly mowed grass, we’re not teaching them the right things either.

The grass is another problem: it’s not native to New England. It wasn’t here when the Colonists arrived. We can dig out as much as we can, remove sod, but it always grows back. That’s the problem with non-native plants: once they’re around, there around for good.

Our gardens also look overgrown because we save seeds. When a plant goes to seed, it goes wild. Many vegetable gardeners eat all their lettuce before it bolts, and harvest all their radishes before they grow ten times as big they were before, fall over, and make funny-looking green pods. Perhaps an onion gone to flower look like we’ve wasted a good onion–but the colonists had no other way to get seeds. It’s not like they could go to the nearest Home Depot or Agway and buy seeds for next year’s garden. We can’t exactly go to Home Depot either, because we grow many heirloom and rare varieties of seed that are hard to find. But that’s not the only reason we save seeds–we hope we are contributing to these rare plants’ preservation by saving their seeds and planting more of them.

-Shelley, agricultural exhibits interpreter

Pilgrim Gardens…“Evil weeds do lurk where tender herbs do grow”

September 6th, 2009 by admin


Pathetic. Pathetic and in disarray. Unkempt, rundown, keep up with the garden harvest and needs weeding.
The visitor comments are in for August and pathetic was the word used to describe the English Village gardens. More than once.

As discouraging as it is to hear, they weren’t mean or wrong.

Part of the trouble is some of our plants are weeds. Well, they weren’t then, but they are now. Tansy and chicory, for instance, were brought over for English gardens. Yellow flowered tansy is a medical herb, the seed good against the worm in the gut of children. Aren’t you glad you haven’t needed to know that before? One later New England writer said that the smell reminded him of funerals, because it was used to repel flies off the dead bodies. Aren’t you doubly glad you don’t need to know this anymore? Chicory, called succory by the English, was a potherb – still is – boiled for salads. This is in bloom in our corn ground and for the last 2 weeks I have often seen the little yellow goldfinches flitting around the blue flowered chicory, a study in yellow and blues and greens. And Queen Anne’s Lace? Wild carrot. And since 1627 predates Queen Anne by a bit, it wasn’t called that then, it was called Bird’s nest, which is totally apparent once you wait past the lacy stage and see the flower curl up on itself in the seed-forming stage.
And then there’s the nature of kitchen gardens themselves. One 17th century garden advisor suggests that you make sure that none of your windows overlook your kitchen garden because it’s always ‘decrepit’ – something going to seed, something pulled up, something not quite up yet, leaving bare spots and dried out bits.
Yet even by these forgiving and liberal standards, our gardens are… needy. They are in need of some serious muscle. On Spring Clean Day we had more volunteer help then we knew what to do with. Not that we didn’t find ways to keep them -you- extremely busy. But that was back in March and a garden needs constant care.
We’ve asked for more help, but our volunteer coordinator said she was turned down, that people had their own gardens to tend to. Fair enough. It was a long, hot summer full of snails and bunnies and woodchucks and rainy days and high humidity.
So I’m making a direct appeal to those of you who read the blog and are local and maybe aren’t part of the regular volunteer corps.
HELP! Our tender herbs are lurking and we need your help to rid the place of evil weeds. If you’ve got some time, some muscle and some patience I invite you to join THE PLIMOTH GARDENS CLUB.
Unlike the Spring Clean day, when the volunteer workforce has the run of the place, this meeting will be limited to one garden at a time. The only tools we’ll have are hand tools – no wheel barrows, no trucks, nothing to distract from the 1627 exhibit. We will be in the shadows, as it were, in front of the public and performing a ‘behind the scene’ function at the same time, a sleight of hand to hand pick the evil weeds out by their roots so we can prepare for our fall plantings. I haven’t done this before, so I don’t know what it would be like. If this works out we could continue to meet, perhaps for some training and not just for muscle.
What I’m looking for is stoop labor – bend over and pull out the weeds, and not pull out our heirloom variety plants, seedy though they may be. In return I’ll tell you about 17th century plants and practices. If you have any questions, please e-mail me at Even if you don’t have any questions you can reach me there.
Meeting times: Sunday, September 13th at 9:30 through 1:30 and Monday September 14th also 9:30-1:30.
Location: 1627 English Village –check in with the Museum Guide at the Fort, who will know which gardens we will be weeding.
Purpose: To remove weeds from the walkways and beds of the 12 English kitchen gardens, one garden at a time.
Bring gloves, sunscreen.
It’s not just the food, it’s the ways.
Colonial Foodways Culinarian

Sing A Pilgrim Song

September 5th, 2009 by admin

Justin, Shelley, and Ian
Master Howland, Goody Brown, and Master Winslow singing:

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