SALEM — If ever a food tasted like it sounds, samp is it. The bland mush of cornmeal and water sticks to one’s ribs, possibly literally. All the same, the ubiquitous colonial breakfast could stave off hunger and allow for long hours of hard work or travel.
Fortunately, there’s a hack for samp. Those in virtual attendance at The House of the Seven Gables’ first in a series of Colonial Classics Food Demonstrations will learn how to transform samp to something quite delectable. The result, Journey (pronounced ‘Johnny’) Cakes, are possibly one of America’s first energy bars. Toss them in a saddlebag with some grog (rum mixed with water) and you’re set for the day. Register online to attend this free demonstration scheduled on Wednesday, January 27, 5 to 6 p.m.
The Gables’ Visitor Services Specialist Kaylee Redard says she is thrilled to present what she says will be a fun and informative cooking series. “We wanted to connect with people during this time when house tours are suspended,” says Redard. “And we know that people like to engage with food.”
Redard learned a lot about cooking from watching every episode of the Great British Baking Show and cooking something new from the series every month. She brought many of her baked goods to The Gables to share with staff. She says this British orientation is perfect since colonists were from England and brought their recipes with them.
Redard’s first demonstration will feature colonial breakfast foods served in the Turner household beginning in 1668. John Turner, who built the mansion on Derby Street in Salem, was a wealthy sea captain who traded fish, rum, sugar, molasses, wheat, wine, Madeira, oranges and olive oil. According to the cookbook, “Gathered at The Gables Then and Now,” published by the Settlement Association in 1995, the Turners ate beans, salt fish and salt pork, fresh fish, pork and beef, and imported foods like tropical fruit, wine, pepper and sugar. They also ate samp. Gardens and farms yielded many varieties of herbs and vegetables, also. Back then, lobsters were massive, weighing between 16 and 25 pounds. It should be noted that, because of their wealth, the Turners did not do their own cooking.
The demonstration series will be held in The Gables’ café kitchen, says Redard, and allows for a discussion on the differences between colonial and modern kitchens. Those attending the virtual demonstration can speak with Redard and Deb Costa, who has a background in colonial cooking, and ask questions. Redard says that Turner kitchen had typically low ceilings to conserve heat, but it had an oversized fireplace with a built-in brick oven heated with a hot pine fire. A summer kitchen was added a few years after the original house was built.
Further demonstrations will feature dinner on Thursday, February 18, and sweets on Wednesday, March 31.
About The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association
The mission of The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association is to be a welcoming, thriving, historic site and community resource that engages people of all backgrounds in our inclusive American story. For more information visit www.7gables.org.
Stories are at the core of what we do at The House of the Seven Gables. They are not just a part of our past, but also our present and future. In 2021, we look forward to exploring the lore of our historic site and surrounding community with a special series of lectures, programs and events.