In the early 1600s, the first English settlers in Massachusetts saw a “wilderness,” yet the Native Americans saw a “rich landscape” that included corn, fruits, game, and dozens of varieties of fish, The Pleasure of the Taste cookbook tells us. Published by the Partnership of Historic Bostons (2015), this booklet of 17th century English and Native American recipes shows the exchange and adaptation of ingredients as one culture influenced the other. Even when the groups violently clashed, food formed the “socio-political faultline.”
Lori Stokes, one of the book’s co-authors, recently gave a lecture at Historic Newton (where I run many of the public programs), explaining a time in which simple meals sustained everyone in the harsh climate. I adapted this Native American recipe from the book for winter by substituting cranberries for strawberries. No matter which fruit you choose, the berries brighten a staple that sustained people nearly 400 years ago and still hardily stands up to a cold March day.
Narragansett Strawberry Cornbread
1 ¼ cups stone ground yellow or white cornmeal [I used yellow]
1 cup corn flour or all purpose flour [I used all purpose]
1 cup spring water or 1 cup milk [I used milk]
¼ cup oil or ¼ cup melted butter [I used butter]
1 large egg
½ cup diced strawberries [I substituted cranberries]
¼ cup maple syrup, honey, or sugar [I used maple syrup]
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil the bottom and sides of an 8-inch or 9-inch pie plate or round pan.
- Mix water or milk, oil or butter, and the egg in a large bowl with a wire whisk. Combine the remaining ingredients except the strawberries, stirring just until the flour is moistened (the batter will be lumpy). Add strawberries [or cranberries] and mix gently. Pour into the pan.
- Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Substitute strawberries with blueberries, blackberries, or cranberries
Serve with maple syrup, honey, or jam