Indian Corn & the American Colonists
INDIAN CORN from Home Life in Colonial Days, by Alice Morse Earle, 1898
A great field of tall Indian corn waving its stately and luxuriant green blades, its graceful spindles, and glossy silk under the hot August sun, should be not only a beautiful sight to every American, but a suggestive one; one to set us thinking of all that Indian corn means to us in our history. It was a native of American soil at the settlement of this country, and under full and thoroughly intelligent cultivation by the Indians, who were also native sons of the New World. Its abundance, adaptability, and nourishing qualities not only saved the colonists’ lives, but altered many of their methods of living, especially their manner of cooking and their tastes in food. http://historiccookingschool.com/indian-corn/
What is Nocake/Nookick: This preparation of corn was called nocake or nookick. An old writer named Wood thus defined it: “It is Indian corn parched in the hot ashes, the ashes being sifted from it; it is afterwards beaten to powder and put into a long leatherne bag trussed at the Indian’s backe like a knapsacke, out of which they take three spoonsful a day.” It was held to be the most nourishing food known, and in the smallest and most condensed form. Both Indians and white men usually carried it in a pouch when they went on long journeys, and mixed it with snow in the winter and water in summer. Gookin says it was sweet, toothsome, and hearty. With only this nourishment the Indians could carry loads “fitter for elephants than men.” Roger Williams says a spoonful of this meal and water made him many a good meal. When we read this we are not surprised that the Pilgrims could keep alive on what is said was at one time of famine their food for a day, & five kernels of corn apiece. The apostle Eliot, in his Indian Bible, always used the word nookick for the English words flour or meal.
Nookick, also called “Journey cakes, noocake, nocake, and mealcake”, consists of ground parched corn mixed with enough sugar that the resulting meal is almost, but not quite, too sweet to eat from the bag. Nookick is almost 100 % carbohydrates, the sugar providing simple carbohydrate for quick energy, and the parched corn meal providing complex carbs for the longer term.
Native Americans in RI and CT say that the NOKA name came from a man by the name of CHAGUM (our NA ancestor’s surname) who sold these “journey cakes” to the public. His nick-name became NOCAKE which he then used as his surname. (Another spelling – Nokegg) The name was later changed to NOKA. The NOKAs were prominent in the dealings of the Narragansett tribe from the early 1700’s on.
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