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“take A Handful Of Bugloffe…”
The Puritans were far from puritanical about their food. With them, cooking was a high art
October 1966 | Volume 17, Issue 6
By the 1640’s the settlers were not doing badly. Edward Johnson’s Wonder-Working Providence of Sion’s Saviour in New England lists gardens and orchards and “fair Houses” and good eating as among visible blessings: “you have heard in what extreme penury these people were at first … when ships came in it grieved some Master to see the urging of them by people of good rank and quality to sell bread unto them. But now take notice how the right hand of the most high hath altered all … and now good white and wheaten bread is no dainty, but every ordinary man hath his choice, if gay clothing and a liquorish tooth after sack, sugar and plums lick not away his bread too fast … there are not many towns in the country but the poorest person in them hath a house and land of his own and bread of his own growing, if not some cattel; besides, flesh is now no rare food, beef, pork, and mutton being frequent in many houses, so that this poor wilderness hath not only equalized England in food, but goes beyond it in some places for the great plenty of wine and sugar, which is ordinarily spent, apples, pears and quince tarts instead of their former Pumpkin Pies, Poultry they have plenty … and in their feasts have not forgotten the English fashion of stirring up their appetites with variety of cooking their food …”
What the variety of cooking was we can judge best by their own accounts, and most especially—to end with a flourish—by John Josselyn’s splendid way of cooking eels:
“The Eal,” he begins, “is of two sorts, salt water EaIs and fresh water EaIs; these again are distinguished into yellow bellied EaIs and silver bellied EaIs; I never eat better EaIs in no part of the world that I have been in, than are here. They that have no mind or leasure to take them may buy of an Indian half a dozen silver bellied EaIs as big as those we usually give 8 pence or twelve pence a piece for at London for three pence or a groat. There are several ways of cooking them, some love them roasted, others baked, and many will have them fryed; but they please my palate best when they are boiled; a common way is to boil them in half water, half wine with the bottom of a manchet, a fagot of parsley, and a little winter savory; when they are boiled they take them out and break the bread in the broth, and put to it three or four spoonfuls of yeast, and a piece of sweet butter; this they pour to their EaIs laid upon sippets [small bits of white bread] and so serve it up. I fancie my way better which is this: After the EaIs are fley’d and washed I fill their bellies with nutmeg grated and cloves a little bruised and sow them up with a needle and thread; then I stick a clove here and there in their sides about an inch asunder, making holes for them with a bodkin; this done I wind them up in a wreath and put them in a kettle with half water and half wine vinegar, so much as will rise four fingers about the EaIs; in midst of the EaIs I put the bottom of a penny white loaf and a fagot of these herbs following, Parsley one handful, a little sweet Marjoram, Penni-royal, and Savory, a branch of Rosemary; bind them up with a thread and when they are boiled enough take out the EaIs and pull out the thred that their bellies were sewed up with, turn out the Nutmeg and Cloves; put the EaIs in a dish with butter and vinegar upon a chafing dish with coals to keep warm, then put into the broth three or four spoonfuls of good Ale-yeast with the juice of half a Lemon; but before you put in your Yeast beat it in a porringer with some of the broth, then break the crust of bread very small and mingle it well together with the broth, pour it into a deep dish and garnish it with the other half of the Lemon, and so serve them up to the Table in two dishes.”
A recipe to end all recipes, or, as the New England settlers would have said, a receipt to end all receipts.