INSPIRED BY SARAH JANE
Article and illustration by Mary Emma Allen
As I wrote my current
Vagabond Traveler article for American Roads, about
Plymouth, NH's 250th Anniversary, I wondered about foods grown
and served in those days, foods you might find in other parts of the
country, too, as you travel. Then I recalled my story about Sarah
I'm developing one of my
favorite children's stories, Sarah Jane's Daring Deed, into
a picture book. (It has appeared in four magazines and in my
anthology Tales of Adventure & Discovery.) When providing
programs about this story, I've mentioned recipes this 10-year old
girl and her family might have prepared in their log cabin in the
The story, and the foods, also tie
in with Plymouth's anniversary because it grew out of my research
when I wrote a series of historical articles about the town.
read about the early pioneers while doing this research for the
history columns, I wondered what life would be like for youngsters
in those days.
What Would Her Mother Prepare?
what would Sarah Jane's mother have prepared over the fireplace?
They had to raise most of their food, bringing items like
sugar and coffee and tea from stores in Concord (45 miles away) or
even Boston (more than 100 miles).
flour probably was ground at a local mill from grain they grew
themselves. The girls and
Mother gathered and dried berries for winter use.
Sarah Jane was engaged in picking berries when the story
opens. (I was familiar with
picking berries from prickly bushes in the hot summer sun during my
childhood on a farm. Although
not in the 1760s!)
The family's meat would
consist from what Father and brother Steven caught or shot in the
surrounding forest. This
might include deer, bear, moose, rabbit and raccoon.
The family also would make clothing and blankets from the fur
and skins. Fish from nearby
streams or river could expand the diet.
Drying Berries -
In those days, before canning and freezing, pioneers dried
berries and fruit to use during the winter months.
Sarah Jane picks and dries berries during the story.
cooking, Mother simply might stir the dried berries into her
recipes. Or she could soak
them in water to plump them before use.
- In early pioneer days, the settlers took corn and wheat to the
local mills to be ground. The
mill was one of the first businesses established in a settlement.
From the ground corn, Mother might make corn bread, corn mush
and corn cakes. Find your
favorite Corn Bread recipe for your pioneer meal.
(However, you can bake yours in the oven or in a skillet
unless you want to try it over a fireplace.)
- The pioneers also dried corn kernels, on the cob or shelled, to
save for winter food. To use,
Sarah Jane's mother would soak the kernels and boil them until they
were tender. Then add cream
or butter and milk of desired amount, salt and pepper to taste (if
she had them).
Corn Potato Soup
- To make a soup, she might add cubed, cooked potatoes to the
creamed corn mixture. (Or
cube raw potatoes and cook them with the corn.)
Then stir in more milk until soup consistency.
- In summertime, Mother made succotash by cutting fresh corn from
the cob and cooking it with lima beans from the garden.
Add some butter and small amount of milk to this.
Some cooks only add butter.
(c)Mary Emma Allen