A Tribute to Native American Foods
James Adair, published a book in 1775 about the eastern Native Americans. In it he describes their cooking: “It is surprising the great variety of dishes they can make out of wild flesh, corn, beans, peas, potatoes, pumpkins, dried fruits, herbs and roots. They can diversify their courses, as much as the English, or perhaps French cooks: and either of the ways they dress their food, it is grateful to a wholesome stomach.”
Of course, Thanksgiving, is all about a slightly ugly and strange bird, the turkey. “Before Europeans first colonized New England in the 17th century, an estimated 10 million wild turkeys stretched from southern Maine to Florida to the Rocky Mountains…By the mid-1850s, New England turkeys had all but disappeared. Today, New England is again, overrun by turkeys. “Massachusetts captured 37 wild turkeys from New York’s Adirondacks in the 1970s and released them in the Berkshires. Vermont relocated 31 New York turkeys in the mid-1960s, and Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire participated in similar programs… ‘Their population has just exploded, quite literally,’ Bernie says. Today, the wild turkey population in Massachusetts exceeds 25,000 birds. There are 45,000 wild turkeys in Vermont, 40,000 in New Hampshire, and almost 60,000 in Maine— almost all of which descended from those few dozen relocated birds…” Audubon.org. Are thousands of turkeys roaming suburban neighborhood a good or bad thing? I guess you would have to ask a new BMW owner who has had his finish pecked of by a turkey thinking his reflection was another bird. I hear they do eat ticks!
THE THREE SISTERS
“The three sisters (corn, beans, and squash) were the major staples of Native American agriculture, and were always grown together. Corn was the most important staple food grown by Native Americans, but corn stalks also provided a pole for beans to climb and the shade from the corn benefited squash that grew under the leaves. The beans, as with all legumes, provided nitrogen for the corn and squash. Finally, the shade from large squash and pumpkin leaves held moisture in the ground for all three plants. Although other plants such as potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers were cultivated, the three sisters gardens were the backbone of North American Indian agriculture and provided the primary dietary staples of many tribes, and horticulture remains an important part of modern Native American life.” “Squash is one of several plants with a name that comes from a Native American language– “squash” is an abbreviated form of askutasquash, the word for squash in the Narragansett language.”
THE LEGEND OF THE THREE SISTERS
“A long time ago there were three sisters who lived together in a field. These sisters were quite different from one another in their size and way of dressing. The little sister was so young that she could only crawl at first, and she was dressed in green.”
“The second sister wore a bright yellow dress, and she had a way of running off by herself when the sun shone and the soft wind blew in her face.”
“The third was the eldest sister, standing always very straight and tall above the other sisters and trying to protect them. She wore a pale green shawl, and she had long, yellow hair that tossed about her head in the breeze.”
“There was one way the sisters were all alike, though. They loved each other dearly, and they always stayed together. This made them very strong.”
“One day a stranger came to the field of the Three Sisters – a Mohawk boy. He talked to the birds and other animals – this caught the attention of the three sisters.”
“Late that summer, the youngest and smallest sister disappeared. Her sisters were sad.”
“Again the Mohawk boy came to the field to gather reeds at the water’s edge. The two sisters who were left watched his moccasin trail, and that night the second sister – the one in the yellow dress – disappeared as well.”
“Now the Elder Sister was the only one left. She continued to stand tall in her field. When the Mohawk boy saw that she missed her sisters, he brought them all back together and they became stronger together, again.”
As you have heard endlessly over the past year, it was the Scotch-Irish who brought the potato to North America. While this is technically true, the potato was brought back by the European explorers to their home countries, and eventually found its way to Ireland where it became in a few short years a staple crop. So if Columbus hadn’t come to America, there wouldn’t be French fries… I think I’m in trouble, but correct.
“Holiday foods in the USA (Thanksgiving and Christmas especially) traditionally include turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, baked beans, and mashed potatoes, all of which originate from Native Americans. The original Thanksgiving feast in the year 1621 was a gathering of English colonists and local Indians. The records reveal that the feast which lasted several days included deer, water fowl, turkeys, shellfish, eels, squash, corn, and beans. Other foods were probably eaten as well; chestnuts would have been available as would some berries. However, what is known for sure is that most of the traditional Thanksgiving foods of today were available at that time even if they were not a part of that first Thanksgiving meal almost 400 years ago.”
So do you want the exhaustive list of Native American foods? Here you go: Casava, chili and bell Peppers, Artichoke; lima, pole, pinto and kidney Beans; Potatoes from Peru; Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin, and Tomatoes. And then there are Black Raspberry, Blueberry, Cacao-Chocolate; Cranberry, Guava, Papaya, Pineapple and Strawberry. Then there are the grains: Corn, Quinoa, Wild Rice. Nuts: Cashew, Peanut, Pecan. Allspice, Maple Syrup and Vanilla. Plus game such as turkey. That’s quite an extensive list and I’m sure I missed a few.
Finally, if you, like me are suffering from a plethora of acorns, there is good new; you can eat them. “Acorns were also used to make bread and dumplings. For some Native Americans, acorns were an important part of the diet although they required extensive washing with hot water to remove the tannins.”
Catamounts in New England
Catamount Rock in Windham NH
With wildlife returning to Southern New Hampshire in abundance can it be long before Catamounts are prowling through our neighborhoods? We are completely overrun by turkeys, coyotes are becoming common, and a pair of bobcats were seen in Westford this past week. The current Yankee Magazine also has an interesting article about the cats. Of course, the fisher cat, the greatest fear of my childhood, thanks to my brother who told me they were going to eat me, is also found here. So what the heck is a “Catamount” anyway?
Morrison tells us in 1883 that, “Wild-cat, Lynx, or Catamount, were once here, but have disappeared with other wild animals as civilization advanced. Periodically the community is startled by the report of the appearance of a lynx or wild-cat, but only at intervals of several years. A catamount was once killed upon a rock in the east side of the town, and the rock is known as “Catamount Rock.” “It is a large circular boulder, and rises some 4 feet above the surface of the ground. It lies in the pasture of L.A. Morrison…”
So what is a catamount? It is basically looks like a panther or cougar and it was once found in New England. According to Helenette Silver, in A History of New Hampshire Game and Furbearers, published by NH Fish and Game in 1957, “The panther. Felis Concolor, is a beast of many names, most frequently referred to in New Hampshire history as catamount, but sometimes known locally as ‘Indian Devil’ or ‘Carcajou,’ under which appellations it is confused with the wolverine, which may never have existed in the state. In other parts of the country it is variously called mountain lion, cougar or puma; the latter name has been generally adopted.”
“The Eastern panther, Felis Concolor cougar, one of the large sub-species was found in New Hampshire at the time of settlement, but has been regarded as extinct by most authorities for many years. It was a slender, long-tailed cat, probably tawny or light brown in color. Preble (1942) indicates that the color of the New Hampshire panthers was unknown, but a specimen now located in the Woodman Museum in Dover, N.H. is of a very light fawn shade without markings. The inscription reads, ‘This Felis Cougar, sometimes called Mountain Lion, was killed in Lee, N.H. by Wm. Chapman of Newmarket N.H. who was hunting in the fall of 1853 accompanied by his dogs.’ A better example of the Eastern panther is that taken at Wardsboro Vt., in 1875, and now in the possession of the Boston Museum of Science. This specimen is somewhat darker than the Woodman Museum panther— practically the same color as a deer—lighter below, blending to a reddish brown along the backbone…”The Vermont panther was smaller, weighing 110 pounds…” According to Silver they remained in New Hampshire until the 1880’s.”
So are there live cougars in New England today? Well as a mater of fact, yes and no. According to the Massachusetts Fish and Game, there is evidence of Mountain Lions returning to New England. Confirmed Reports of Mountain Lions in Massachusetts: “There are two records of Mountain Lions in Massachusetts that meet the evidence requirements for a Class 1 or a Class 2 Confirmation. MassWildlife cannot investigate or confirm Mountain Lion reports without any evidence. Case 1: In April 1997, experienced tracker John McCarter found scat near a beaver carcass at the Quabbin Reservation. McCarter sent a sample to Dr. George Amato of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York and Dr. Melanie Culver of the University of Maryland. Both labs confirmed the sample came from a Mountain lion. MassWildlife and the Cougar Network have accepted this record as a Class 1 Confirmation. Case 2: In March 2011, DCR forester Steve Ward photographed a track trail in the snow near the Gate 8 boat launch area of Quabbin were fresh and well photographed. Tracking experts Paul Rezendes, Charles Worsham, George Leoniak, and Dr. Mark Elbroch examined the photos. These tracks may have been made by the Mountain Lion documented in Greenwich, Connecticut on June 5, 2011, and killed by a vehicle six days later.”
“The Connecticut Mountain Lion is the best documented wild Mountain Lion in New England. The young adult male was killed by an SUV on the Wilbur Cross Parkway in Milford, Connecticut on June 11, 2011. Someone photographed the animal at the Brunswick School on Greenwich, Connecticut about 40 miles away on June 5th. The USDA’s Forest Service Wildlife Genetics Laboratory found that the animal came from South Dakota. This mountain lion was documented by DNA samples from Minnesota and Wisconsin between December 2009 and early 2010. Sighting of this animal also occurred in Michigan and New York. Over a period of a year and a half, this Mountain Lion left DNA evidence in at least four states. Mountain lions don’t usually travel more than 100 miles from where they are born. Yet this young male traveled about 1,800 miles. This is the longest documented travel distance of a Mountain Lion.”
New Hampshire Fish and game has the following statement on their website: “Despite numerous reports, the NH Fish and Game Department continues to have no physical evidence of mountain lion presence in the state. The species that once inhabited the Northeast, known as the eastern mountain lion, is now extinct. However, dispersing western mountain lions have left evidence as close as Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York.” Want to report a Mountain Lion sighting in New Hampshire? Contact the Wildlife Division at (603) 271-2461 or firstname.lastname@example.org to request an observation report form.
Do you want to see real, living mountain lions that do exist in New Hampshire. You can see two of them at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness NH. At windhamhistory.org I have included a link to the interesting publication by Mass Wildlife called: Mountain Lions in Massachusetts: Distinguishing Fact from Fiction, by Tom French.
Get-Away on Cobbett’s Pond
Willis and Edith Low on Rocky Ridge Road
Willis Low was the chief of police in Windham for many, many years and his wife Edith served as a dispatcher. They are shown here enjoying a stay at Cobbett’s Pond. Eventually, they would purchase a property on the very secluded Rock Pond, because it allowed them a private place in town where they could get away from their duties for a little while.
Novitiate of the Sisters of Mercy
Searles Castle, Windham, NH.
I had the occasion to pull out some photographs for Cathy Walsh, with the Sisters of Mercy. The postcard views of the Novitiate of the Sisters of Mercy, at Searles Castle, reminded me of a very nice childhood memory of growing up in Windham in the early 1960’s. At five o’clock, the chimes at the Sisters of Mercy rang out and could be heard in a large part of Windham. When they rang, I knew that if I was out and about it was time for me to get home. I wonder how many people still remember them today?
The Sisters of Mercy have a very interesting and inspiring history. The order’s website states that, “…the Sisters of Mercy was an order founded in Ireland, by a laywoman Catherine McAuley. She spent her inheritance to open the House of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland on September 24, 1827. It was a place to shelter and educate women and girls. On December 12, 1831, Catherine and two companions became the first Sisters of Mercy.”
“The Sisters of Mercy arrived in the United States from Ireland in 1843 at the invitation of the Bishop of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.” Frances Ward founded the first Mercy hospital in Pittsburgh…” “Sister Mary Frances (Ward) went to Manchester New Hampshire in July, 1858, and founded a convent where day and night schools were established. In 1859 the sisters began teaching in public schools and received a salary from the city government. The sisters again wore secular dress when teaching and attending staff meetings. In 1863, they were allowed to wear their religious habit in school. Fourteen convents were established from Manchester between 1861 and 1883. Two of these were outstanding in forming new convents Philadelphia and Princeton. Mother Frances travelled with the sisters to each new convent and stayed with them for a month. She held the position of Superior from 1837 – 1884 except for 3 years in Manchester 1880 – 1883. Mary Frances Ward died on the 17th September 1884 in Manchester New Hampshire and was buried in St. Joseph’s cemetery there. A marble cross is erected over her grave…”
So now when you pass McAuley Commons or the Frances Ward Center in town, you will know the reason for the names and the story of the founders of the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland and America. Cathy Walsh is working on a multimedia project about the “Sisters of Mercy and their long relationship with Searles Castle.” She is seeking copies of photos of the sisters at the castle and if anybody in town might have any, I would be glad to forward them to her or provide you with her contact information.
Granite State Grove
Rural Oasis updated Leonard Morrison’s Windham History and was written by a committee. The effort was actually very effective with various committee members researching and writing their sections. I was in high school and I was to write about Canobie Lake and “Granite State Grove,” which luckily had quite a bit of coverage by Will Harris in his columns from the late 1800’s. It took quite a bit of imagination to bring the old grove back to life in words, since there were so few pictures of the place. All we had for Rural Oasis was an old menu. Over the years, I came across one photo of a picnic at the grove and a couple of postcard views. Recently, David Demers and Michael Mazalewski were kind enough to provide me with some copies of old photographs to share, that added much more detail to the faded memories of the place. From Rural Oasis: “Nearly fifty years before Canobie Lake Park’s conception, Windham’s amusement park, Granite State Grove, was providing a beautiful recreational area for the general public…” Canobie Lake Grove operated under various names such Dow’s Grove and as Policy Pond Grove when it opened in 1850. Abel Dow saw the most success after the Boston and Maine Railroad added a stop at Canobie Lake Station just down the road.
“…A refreshing swim in the lake began the day (the lake was not closed to swimming until 1903.) At the grove you could enjoy bowling alleys, a shooting alley, (yes its what it sounds like), a roller skating rink or you could “hire a boat late in the afternoon for a leisurely row around the lake.” The Dow’s had a restaurant at the grove that in 1892 offered upscale dishes such as Woodcock on toast, lobster salad and Boiled salmon and fresh peas. The dance hall was built in 1885 and attracted the headliners of the day. The beautiful house built by Mr. William Smith in 1867 still stands on the property on the corner of Range Road and North Policy Street. The grove operated for almost 60 years until it went up in flames on July 21, 1909.