Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Jane's Pease Pottage & The Great Doll Blog Award

Something to eat when you're singing "it's glory, God and gold and the Virginia Company!"

Four hundred and nine years ago, a group of English settlers ended their long, long journey across the Atlantic ocean and founded the first permanent English settlement in the New World: Jamestown, Virginia. I know I talk about my enthusiasm for World War II all the time, but Jamestown is definitely my second favorite topic to study... closely followed by almost everything else. What can I say, I have a very wide range of interests.

Although I'm sure the members of the Virginia Company were excited to get off their ships and start working on digging for nonexistent mineral riches, they didn't have a lot of options when it came to treating themselves food wise when they began constructing their fort. No cakes, no ice cream, no fancy ribbon cutting ceremonies, probably just a hearty serving of this classic English dish enjoyed - or at least consumed... - by people for centuries.

It might not look like much, but it turns out, this actually isn't that bad. Might not be something I'd like to eat every day, but after months of hardtack and gruel (Pocahontas reference #2), I'd probably be very happy to see it.

But before we get to that, Nonna from Mommy's Doll Club nominated me for The Great Doll Blog Award!

Thank you again to Nonna for the nomination!

Award Rules:
Thank the person that nominated you.
Answer the questions given to you.
Nominate at least 5 others who you think has a great doll blog.
Notify them that they have an award.
Leave them at least 5 questions to answer.

My Questions from Mommy's Doll Club:
What is your biggest pet peeve (doll related or not)?
Doing doll hair is one of my least favorite parts of collecting and blogging. It's so frustrating to be doing a braid only to have a loose hair poking out that you didn't see before!

What is your favorite thing about dolls?

There's honestly something very satisfying about holding an American Girl doll. I'm not sure I can really explain it more than that, haha.

Who inspired or inspires your doll “life?”
My grandma got me started with AG dolls, but no one else in my family really collects dolls. They collect other things though, so I've just always been around people who collect stuff and don't mind me doing it too, so long as it doesn't take over the house!

What doll item would you get if money was not an object (it doesn’t have to be a real item)?
Kirsten's Plaid Dress and Shawl, the outfit that corresponds with Kirsten's Promise. It's beautiful, but way too expensive on the secondary market, especially if you try to get the matching hair ribbons.

What does every doll need?
Someone to love them!

I am nominating Herstory AG, American Girl Outsider, Faithful Friends, Forever Be, The Girl with the Green Doll and Isn't She Dovely?!

My questions:
1. What's your favorite non AG doll in your collection?
2. What do you want the next GotY's theme to be?
3. What would your Meet outfit look like if you were the next AG character?
4. Which AG outfit would you wear with pride if it came in your size?
5. If you were in charge of AG, what would be the first change you implemented?

Thanks again, Nonna! I'm really glad you like the blog.

Now, back to Jamestown.

Now, I don't think it'll come as a shock to anyone reading this that Jamestown was not known for its fine cuisine back in 1607, or... ever, really. Generally speaking, it's more famous for how little food there was to be had during the Starving Time, where people resorted to eating poisonous snakes, cats, and even people! Although most evidence suggests that cannibalism was an absolute last resort and didn't result in hunger driven murder, there is one account of a man killing his pregnant wife and getting caught salting her body for storage. He was executed for his crimes, and there's no further discussion about it.

Actually, if you'll tolerate this aside, cannibalism in Jamestown was a hotly debated topic in historic and archaeological circles for years, especially after excavations at the James Fort site yielded no evidence that it had happened. In 2013, one of the tour guides at the fort site hinted that they'd found something "as big as Richard III" in a kitchen basement they were excavating which would be revealed later that year, and I was totally certain it was evidence of cannibalism. When I asked my archaeology professor if she knew anything about it, she brushed it off as probably being evidence regarding one of the graves that had already been well researched. I wrote my final paper for the class about how lack of evidence at an active archaeological site doesn't necessarily mean an event didn't happen, and the day I showed up to turn it in, my classmate - who knew what my paper was about - asked if I'd heard what the Smithsonian just announced.

I had not, but I did immediately know that my paper just became obsolete. Still, fun to be proven right!

Anyway, by the time Jane and her family would've arrived at the colony, the Starving Time was over and there was no more cannibalism at Jamestown. Still, the colonists had to make do with pretty simple foods from home and in general. They adapted local recipes to their own palates, and tried to keep recipes from home in their diet when they had the chance. This could get tricky when you wanted to eat something like apple pie - apples weren't cultivated in the New World until a couple decades after Jamestown was founded! Pease pottage - or pease pudding - was a familiar dish that was easy to recreate in the New World because dried peas keep forever, almost literally. You could grow your own, or send over lots of them with supply ships, and they'd keep for a really, really long time. The same professor mentioned that some caches people have found at settlements in Canada are basically still edible even hundreds of years laster. Pretty crazy, right?

Pease pottage was especially popular with people on sailing ships because it was a refreshing change from their monotonous meals. The peas were almost fresh compared to the other food they would have had on board. This is also a popular recipe to witness reenactors making at places like Plimoth Plantation!

It's very simple to make. A really authentic pease pottage would have yellow peas as the main ingredient, but the only peas my grocery store had were green split peas. These get rinsed and then soaked overnight, or just cooked for an extra long time if you forget like I did.

Before you cook the peas, you cook down some bacon in a pan. I used about half a package and cooked it down until it was nice and crispy.

Two quarts of water and one and a half cups of dried peas get dumped in. Bring it to a boil, reduce it to a simmer, and let it cook on the stove until the peas are all mushy.

It'll start looking really thick and goopy when it's done. Mine took about two hours even though I didn't pre-soak my peas, and they seemed to literally disintegrate in the pottage. Seriously, there was no need to mush this up or blend it to make it smooth.

I garnished it with a little thyme - which later got mixed in for some flavor - and it was ready to go!

Like I said earlier, this doesn't exactly look that appealing. I really don't think anyone needs to ask why this didn't stick around as a modern favorite outside of English boarding school cafeterias. I can also see why a society of people who relied on this for their main source of sustenance would get sick of it.

That being said, this was pretty tasty. Weird, but tasty. It had a nice texture, like a very thick soup, and if you let it sit out, it gets dry and hummus like. It really just tastes like peas and thyme, which is fine, and it's easy to rehydrate if you're not a fan of the more hummus-y texture. It's filling, too. I had a bowl for dinner and was very satisfied when it was over, which is good because even if it wasn't the Starving Time, I'd still be careful about wasting rations if I was a Jamestown colonist. Who knows when you might have a steady supply of comfort food again?

So, that's a brief look at what the Jamestown settlers would have eaten. Even though Jane and her family wouldn't have been one of the first people to settle in the colony, they definitely would have eaten a lot of pease pottage in their new home, along with everyone else in the settlement.

One last note: John Smith and his buddies would've said they founded the colony on May 14th because they were still using the old style calendar, but in our calendar, it was May 4th! Weird, right?

Whichever day it was, at least we know they probably ate pottage!


  1. Does it taste anything like mushy peas?

    This is probably offensively tacky of me, but I confess a little part of me hoped that you'd have a picture of Jane seating next to a skeleton as an illustration for the cannibalism part of the history... ;)

    1. A little? The mushy peas I made had way less flavor I thought, I think the bacon and thyme really helped out here. It had sort of the same consistency though.

      And ahaha I guess I'll need to invest in one of those for the future! But Jane *is* half named after my grandma, half named after the nickname for the cannibalism victim they found. ;D