Skip to main content

December 2016


Hominy was adopted from the Indians and became an important basic food for American pioneers. It is, simply, hulled corn—the pioneers removed the hulls by soaking the grains of corn in a weak wood lye. Washed and boiled until it was tender, hominy was often served in place of potatoes. It was ground, too, into grits—fragments slightly coarser than corn meal—which have become closely identified with the South. Grits are traditionally eaten for breakfast with butter and milk, or made into breads and puddings. G. W.


Indians grew a wide variety of squash long before the first white men reached America. Crooknecks and bush-scallops grew in the Northeast, cushaws and sweet potato squashes in the South, the Boston marrow and autumn turban in New England. Captain John Smith described the squash ("macocks") he found in the early days of Virginia, saying that the Indians "plant amongst their corn pumpions, and a fruit like unto our muskmelon, but less and worse, which they call macocks."


Forcemeats, as they were generally called in old cookbooks, are nothing more than seasoned mixtures used to stuff meats, fish, and fowl. Forcemeat derives from the French fareir, "to stuff." Today, they are generally called stuffings or dressings. The stuffings given here are taken from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century cookbooks.

Chestnut Stuffing

2 pounds chestnuts

11/2 cups (3 sticks) butter

2 cups onion, chopped fine

2 cups thinly sliced celery

9 cups fine dry bread crumbs


2 teaspoons salt


Wash the turkey thoroughly, remove any pinfeathers, and singe any hairs along the edges of the wings and around the legs. Rub the cavity with the cut side of a half lemon and stuff the bird lightly with any of the suggested stuffings ( pages 70-71). Close the opening by skewering or sewing it and truss the bird well. Rub the turkey with butter and season with salt and pepper.

We hope you enjoyed this essay.

Please support this 70-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.