My So-Called Pilgrim Life

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A chronicle of daily life in the 1627 English village at Plimoth Plantation from both a modern and historical perspective.

Make Haste – Hasty Pudding, that is!

February 10th, 2009 by admin

Hasty Pudding isn’t just an award that Harvard’s drama club drags out this
time every year, all congratulations to this years Woman of the Year Renee
Zellweger. Hasty Pudding was good eating, as well as  good times, enjoyed in
the seventeenth century and it’s descendant dish – Indian Pudding – is still
being enjoyed in Plymouth. Hasty Pudding is referenced long before there is
a recipe for it. ”Fij, I can thinke of no fitter name than a hasty pudding.
For I protest in so great haste I composed it,…”(1599). But it’s another
fifty years before it shows up in a recipe form by William Rabisha, in a
very elegant form that includes a finishing touch of:
with a handful of Sugar, and a little Rose-water, stir them together again
till they begin to boyl and thicken, then put it out into your dish you
serve it up in, set it on a heap of coals, put a fire-shovell to be red hot
in the fire, then hold it close to you Pudding untill it is brown on the
top, so scrape on Sugar and send it up.

Doesn’t that sound like the sort of thing that ought to have replaced crème
brulee as the dress desert of tres chic trend? But most hasty puddings were
far simpler fare – flour or fine meal, boiled in water or milk, and then
served up in a hurry  – “Like a hastie-Pudding, longer in the eating, then
it was in making.”

When John Jossylyn writes about the use of maize meal in New Englands
Rarities (1672), it is a version of this simpler pudding he
recounts: ….Homminey, which they put in  a Pot of two or three Gallons, with
Water, and boyl it upon a gentle Fire till it be like Hasty Pudden; they
put of this into Milk, and so eat it.”

I hope you were paying attention because here’s the subtle shift between old
England’s Hasty Pudden (Okay – I LOVE that spelling; it’s how I hear it in
my mind’s ear) and New England’s Indian Pudding. Amelia Simmons in 1796,
first American Cook Book and all – she’s the first to record a recipe for
Indian Pudding – three, actually. They’re called ‘Indian’ because they’re
made with Indian corn meal – to differentiate it from rye and wheat, which
were English flours. And then, too, corn meant any grain that you grew, not
like now when it’s Zea mais. And they each include meal that is boiled,
although the haste is gone. One needs to cook for twelve hours. That’s
right – twelve hours. By the time the Boston Cooking School Cook Book comes
along in 1884, Mrs. Lincoln (who was Fannie Farmer’s predecessor) manages to
shave four hours off the process in the Plymouth Indian Indian-Meal Pudding,
contributed by Mrs. Faunce. It’s a version of this Indian Pudding that I’ve
been making for the Plimoth Cinema. In my version I use a slow cooker
instead of a slow oven. And I have to triple the quantities  – there are a
lot of Indian pudding lovers in Plymouth!

I’ve also discovered the Great Fruit Divide – the people who tolerate, or
even love raisins or dates or other add-ins, and those who broach no
sullying of the corn/milk/molasses that is Indian pudding. As soon as I
finish this I’m going to try a small batch of what may be Plimoth Cinema
Indian Pudding – one with cornmeal, milk and molasses, to be sure, but with
some cranberries – dried, like the addition of raisins, or fresh (fresh
being the ones I froze during the harvest) to make a something completely
different? Will the fresh ones burst and make the muddy color murkier or
perk it up? Hmmmm…never a dull moment in the life of a Foodways Culinarian!

Coming soon – Pilgrim Pancakes for Shrove Tuesday (maybe you know the day as
Mardi Gras?) and Pippin Hot – Seventeenth Century Apple Pies

Kathleen Wall ~ Colonial Foodways Culinarian

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2 Responses to “Make Haste – Hasty Pudding, that is!”

  1. Stacy says:

    I love cooking up hasty pudding in the village. Put some “warming” spices like cinnamon and ginger and it’s wonderful. But beware if it does get on your skin right when it’s done cooking it has the burning power of napalm! That is a mistake you only make once. I did it, cooking in pilgrim garb, stirring the grouts in till it all came together over the open fire and had just taken the pot off the hook and placed it down to stir some more. Just then a glob of it flew from the pot right onto my thumb. Now being that there was about 6 people in the house I did not think it would be good to jump up and use some choice italian slang words. So being the cool headed pilgrim I poured water from the pitcher into one of the cups and then put my thumb right in it. I’m laughing now at my reaction but it seemed very practical to me at the time. It wasn’t till the visitors left that I asked Shelley to watch the fire so that I could go to the goat house for some first aid.

    But even with this word of warning I still enjoy hasty pudding, either sweet or savory, any day.

  2. Kathleen Wall says:

    Stacy,
    You’ll be glad to hear that in the 2009 season we will once again be celebrating National Indian Pudding Day at Plimoth Plantation. I’m sure you all have marked the day in red letters in your daybooks….I’ll post an Indian Pudding recipe closer to the big event. KMW

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