Making Colonial Furniture Reproductions

Colonial Fashions Paper Dolls

Customs and Fashions in Old New England


There is a tradition of short commons, usually extending even to stories of starvation, in the accounts of all early settlements in new lands, and the records of the Pilgrims show no exception to the rule. These early planters went through a fiery furnace of affliction. The beef and pork brought with them became tainted, "their butter and cheese corrupted, their fish rotten." A scarcity of food lasted for three years, and there was little variety of fare, yet they were cheerful. Brewster, when he had naught to eat but clams, gave thanks that he was "permitted to suck of the abundance of the seas and the treasures hid in the sands." Cotton Mather says that Governor Winthrop, of the Bay settlement, was giving to a poor neighbor the last meal from his chest, when it was announced that the food-bearing Lion had arrived. The General Court thereat changed an appointed Fast Day to a Thanksgiving Day. By tradition—still commemorated at Forefathers' Dinner—the ration of Indian corn supplied to each person was at one time but five kernels.

Sill there was always plenty of fish—the favorite food of the English—and Squanto taught the colonists various Indian methods of catching the "treasures of the sea." With oysters and lobsters they were far from starvation. Higginson said of the latter shell-fish, in 1630, "the least boy in the Plantation may both catch and eat what he will of them." He says that lobsters were caught weighing twenty-five pounds each, and that the abundance of other fish was beyond believing. Josselyn, in his "New England Rarities," enumerated two hundred and three varieties of fish; yet Tuckerman calls his list "a poor makeshift." The planters had plenty of implements with which to catch fish—"vtensils of the sea"—"quoils of rope and cable, rondes of twine, herring nets, sends, cod-lines and cod hookes, mackrill-lines, drails, spiller hooks, mussel-hooks, mackrill hooks, barbels, splitting knives, sharks hookes, bassenettes, pues and gaffs, squid lines, yeele pots," &c. Josselyn also tells some very pretty ways of cooking fish, especially eels with herbs, showing that, like Poins, the colonists loved conger and fennel. Eels were roasted, fried, and boiled. Boiled "eals" were thus prepared:

"Boil them in half water half wine with the bottom of a manchet, a fagot of Parsly and a little Winter Savory, when they are boiled they take them out and break the bread in the broth and put in two or three spoonfuls of yest and a piece of sweet butter, pour to the eals laid upon sippets." Another way beloved by him was to stuff the eels with nutmeg and cloves, stick them with cloves, cook in wine, place on a chafing-dish, and garnish with lemons. This rich dish is

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