It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so. — Mark Twain

Stephen of Philadelphia - James Otis

Cooking Indian Corn

It would surprise you to know in how many ways the savages cook Indian corn. Mother says that while she is not favorable to these brown women as cooks, believing they are not cleanly, we can learn very much from them in the way of preparing dishes from corn.

First, and that of which I have already told you something, comes the roasting of the kernels in the ashes, and then the pounding into meal by the use of the stone mortar and pestle. Whether it is the ashes which give the peculiar flavor, I cannot say, but this nookick, as the savages call it, is most pleasing to the taste, and father says that a very small quantity of it eaten at regular times, is sufficient for a laboring man, although for my part I would choose wild turkey, roasted until the skin is so brown and crisp that it breaks when you set your teeth into it.

However, Jethro and I have eaten nookick many and many a time; but not that of the Indians' making. Mother roasted and bruised it, and therefore we knew it was clean; otherwise it would not have been so pleasing to the stomach.

[Illustration] from Stephen of Philadelphia by James Otis

The savages make bread in an odd fashion, and although I have never eaten any of it myself, there are many in this city of Philadelphia who have, declaring it to be fairly good. I have seen the Indian girls cook it more than once; but have never yet been able to coax mother into trying her hand at it, because she insists that it would be a sinful waste of good meal.

The Indians fill one of their clay pots halfway to the brim with water, and then drop in stones which have been heated as hot as fire will make them, until the water boils. In the meanwhile they have mixed little balls of corn meal and water, making each about the size of a baby's fist. These are dropped into the kettle and allowed to remain until well soaked, after which they are taken out and spread on a smooth stone in front of the fire to brown.

Jethro, who is not overly nice as to what he puts into his mouth, has eaten more than one of these odd cakes, and says they are good enough to satisfy him; but mother insists that there is such a thing as being too easily pleased.

Another Indian dish is what father calls "stirabout," and we have it right often, for it is both satisfying and healthful. It is made by stirring into boiling water the meal from Indian corn, until the mixture is so thick that a spoon will stand upright in it.

With plenty of sugar, or milk, or even with salt, one can make a hearty meal of it, and feel the better when it is done. Some of our people eat it cold; but mother thinks it should be brought to the table steaming hot, which is the Indian method of serving.

Mother cooks regular bread of the meal from the corn, baking a thin loaf in a pan, or on a smooth board, in front of the fire, and if one has a goodly supply of hot fat from meat to eat with it, he can make a glutton of himself without trying very hard.

Jethro's mother would say that one who talks overly much about eating has sinned in his heart, therefore I will come to that time when William Penn entered this city of his, and the story must of necessity be a long one, for we made merry and saw much that was interesting.


Front Matter

The Name of My City
My Own Name
Why We Went to London
Bound for America
On Board Ship
Unknown Country
The End of the Voyage
Going Ashore
Our First Shelter
A Tedious Task
Our Cave Home Completed
How We Kept House
Savages Come to Town
What the Savages Wore
Game in Plenty
Sea Food
News of the Factor
Arrival of the Amity
Going to Meet the Factor
A Tiresome Journey
Meeting Old Friends
Roasting Turkeys
Turning an Honest Penny
A Place for the City
Building the City
A Bear Hunt
The New Home
Penn's Care for Colonists
The First Baby
How the Indians Live
Indian Utensils and Tools
Canoes of Bark
Making Wampum
The Beehive Huts
Finishing the Cure
Starting a Fire
Cooking Indian Corn
News of Penn's Arrival
Our Humble Preparations
The Welcome to Penn
A Day of Festivities
Penn Joins in the Sports
More Serious Business
What a Bake Oven Is
Baking in the New Oven
Penn Plans to Buy Land
Penn and the Indians
The Price Paid for Land
Gratitude of the Indians
Trapping Wild Turkeys
New Arrivals
Government by the People
The Promise of a School
Dock Creek Bridge
The Nail Business
Buying Iron in New York
No Merrymaking after Dark
Busy Days
Enoch Flower's School
End of Our School Days
Settlement of Germantown
New Laws in Our Own Town
A Division of Opinion
A Matter of History
Boundary Lines
The Governor's Following
A Proud Departure
The Settlement of Chester
Dining in State
Anchored off New Castle
An Uncomfortable Night
A Dull Journey
In Lord Baltimore's City
A Splendid Home
A Question of Duty
Amy of Maryland
The Shops of Maryland
The Result of the Visit
Philadelphia Progresses
Penn Goes Back to London