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