Day 1: Tuckahoe – Celebrate American Food History

It’s soon to be a big, big day for Gherkins & Tomatoes – on July 28 G&T will celebrate eight (8) years (!) of writing about food and food history. Why, that’s 1,181 posts. Yes, there could – and should – have been more lots more, but we must take into account the time spent writing the mushroom book  and other stuff.*

To celebrate, I’ve decided to post a recipe a day until July 28, and not just any recipes. No, no quick tricks for the kitchen, no instant no-bake cheesecakes, sorry. Each day I will feature a small insight into American food history. I begin with a recipe attributed to Native Americans, written down by the hand of that rather infamous adventurer, Captain John Smith, known for his exploits at Jamestown, Virginia and the legendary actions of Pocahontas, the daughter of a powerful Native American chief, Wahunsenacawh, usually called Powhatan.

Here’s what Captain Smith wrote about tuckahoe:


The chiefe root they haue for food is called Tockawhoughe. It groweth like a flagge in Marishes. In one day a Salvage will gather sufficient for a weeke. These roots are much of the greatnesse and taste of Potatoes. They use to cover a great many of them with Oke leaues and Ferne, and then cover all with earth in the manner of a Colepit; over it, on each side, they continue a great fire 24 houres before they dare eat it. Raw it is no better then poyson, and being rosted, except it be tender and the heat abated, or sheed and dryed in the Sunne, mixed with sorrell and meale or such like, it will prickle and torment the throat extreamely, and yet in sommer they use this ordinarily for bread.

Actually, it appears that the word “tuckahoe” itself presents a bit of confusion, referring as it does apparently to certain roots in the Algonquian language. Some experts suggest that tuckahoe might have also been a type of fungus.

Smith’s account indicates that Native Americans – at least in the area then called Virginia, basically the whole of the eastern seaboard from the 34th parallel to approximately the 48th – made bread from more than just corn.

Note that Captain Smith also describes the practice of pit cooking … .

Captain John Smith’s Map of Virginia, 1624

*But let’s not forget two episodes of a broken spine, one due to an accident at a local weight club and a car accident caused by a reckless driver. And there’s a bunch of eye problems, the outcome of which remain yet to be seen.  Plus other similar stuff that’s best left unremarked upon.

Day 2: Oysters

Day 3: Chicken

Day 4: Corn

Day 5: Tomatoes

Day 6: Beef

Day 7: Squirrel

© 2016 C. Bertelsen

18 thoughts on “Day 1: Tuckahoe – Celebrate American Food History

  1. Congratulations on your blog’s anniversary. I am a relatively new reader,but I so appreciate the wit and intelligence you bring to your research and writing. I will hold you in my thoughts for complete healing.

  2. Congratulations on your blog’s anniversary. I am relatively new to your work here, but so appreciate the wit and intelligence you bring to your research and writing.I will hold you in my thoughts for healing.

  3. Thanks, Kitty. Back OK, still twinges, but eyes, ongoing trauma. But one must keep on trying to do the things one loves. Thank you for reading and commenting over the years!

  4. Congratulations, Cindy! That’s a lot of posts, and I don’t think you have to offer any excuses for not posting more. Your posts are always well-written and researched. I look forward to this “series.” :)

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