So what is a hermit anyway?

Oh you never would believe where those hermit cookies come from… They’re made mostly by New Englanders these days. That is, the people of Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine…New Hampshire, and, oh…come on now…uh…Rhode Island! That’s it. As a flatlander, I always had trouble with those little states on grade school geography tests. Things clearly aren’t […]

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Sick of corn?

How could I be? But then I should probably talk about cookies at least a little. The funny thing is, a lot of what I’ve been saying about corn cakes also applies to cookies…except of course the part about Europeans not caring for them. As anyone who’s been to Europe can attest, there’s nothing that […]

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Nokechick Blues

So what is it specifically that kept Indian corn cakes from rising? In a word: gluten. Corn meal simply hasn’t got any. As you may recall from previous posts on the subject, gluten is a substance that’s unique to wheat. It’s made up two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, which all by themselves are some of […]

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Putting the Hoe in Hoe-cake

One conspicuous bit of corn bread errata that can be found in a surprising number of reputable reference books is the contention that “hoe cakes” were actually baked on hoes. Nonsense. The Indians baked corn cakes on hot rocks, either placed over, or very close to, open fires. They didn’t need a metal hoe to […]

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Johnny Reb’s Johnnycake

For more than a few Southerners, the johnnycake is the ultimate example of the Confederate corn bread arts, it being a small, highly portable, highly palatable cake perfect for stowing in a military knapsack. True as that description may be, the johnnycake is in fact a far older invention. The cake goes back to Colonial […]

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Flat Rock Society II

One of the reasons I think it’s interesting to be making cookies and corn bread (or cakes) the same week is that they’re both proto-breads of different cultures, one for whom wheat was the most readily available grain, and another that relied on corn. Put early Eurasian peoples next to pre-colonial Native Americans, and they […]

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Hollywood Food History

The reaction of colonists to Indian corn cakes is probably fairly well represented in the 1972 Robert Redford film, Jeremiah Johnson. In it our hero is forced, out of an accident of Flathead Indian etiquette, to take the tribal chief’s daughter as his wife. In their ensuing attempt to set up housekeeping, the girl collects […]

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Why, er…thank you…I think.

One of my favorite memories from the block where I grew up concerns a Swedish couple that lived a few houses down. The woman of the house, a classic round-faced Nordic matron by the name of Lily, was the most accomplished baker in town. My sister and I would sneak in her back door on […]

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When Worlds Collide

When most scholars consider the year 1492, they see the collision of two great groups of peoples, of hunter-gatherer society and the Age of Exploration, of anthropomorphic spirit worship with Christianity, of “natural” man with the principles of parliamentary politics, accumulated capital and property rights. All wrong. Seen in the proper context, what 1492 really […]

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Exposed

The corn bread recipe I posted this morning reveals me as a true Northerner. Why? Because there’s sugar in it. No self-respecteding Southerner would ever admit to putting sugar in his corn bread, something I’m going to have to work on if I’m to continue living here (the admitting I mean). What can I say, […]

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