Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Re-enactment featuring Phillis

Opening the Oyster:

 A night to experience the finest African-American Cuisine in Rhode Island
 A full course dinner and re-enactment featuring Phillis, a 19th century South County Rhode Island Cook of Extraordinary Talent.

Ahh, good to see you folk.  The master said you will be stopping by inquiring about my jonny cake. 
Folks are always stopping by for one reason or other.
Well, I will not be giving you any secrets recipes of anything like that, But I can tell  you how to make a good one that will be fit of a King..,
A good old-fashioned jonny-cake should be made from Indian white corn meal. 
I always insisted on having white Narragansett corn, ground at the Hammond's Mill,
I will not touch meal ground at any other mill because the other mill  makes harsh feeling round meal.
 The Hammond's Mill  makes a soft smooth flat meal. They grind the corn slow and fine with Narragansett garnet rock.
 Now, down at the old  Coon's  mill , their meal is coarse grained round meal . Even a Narragansett pig would  have turned up his nose at in disgust.  They also rushed  the grinning process.
 The object of the miller is not to see how much corn he could run through his mill in a given time, but how well he could grind it, 

Well, as I said before, my jonny cake is made of white Rhode Island corn meal made from Narragansett Indian corn, The corn meal was carefully and slowly ground with  fine-grained granite mill-stones from down at the Hammond Mill.
 I baked it before a glowing fire in the hearth.
First I pore scolding water on the corn meal, some times I add a little milk, but most of the time just water. Then I kneaded it to the consistency  that is just thick and sticky enough to stick to my baking board. I use a red oak barrel head board  with my flat iron in the back to help support the board in a somewhat upright position..

 When the Jonny cakes was thoroughly done, still resting on the red oak board, I  place them one on top of the other,  cut them in half a make six pieces, then place them carefully  in two even stacks, on a pewter plate,
I have Margaret,  she a black waitress girl, take them  hot to the breakfast table, without a moment to loss .
 Mark! I say, "pewter plate; " none of that fancy china  dishes, for pewter  keeps things nice and hot, just the way the master likes it.
The master says my Jonny cake is the best in the county.

Well, I cant not keep jawing with you folk for I have a heep of baking to to do for you folks. Just go on in the dinning room and make yourself comfortable.
Young Master Tommy use to watching me made my delicious porridge from the kitchen door.. First, I'd boiled the water, always drawn fresh, sparkling from the well 
In the boiling water Id carefully sifted through my fingers of my left hand the flour and stirred with a pudding-stick in my right hand. You have to do this slowly to keep it from sticking and lumping. nothing I spise more is lumpy porridge.
They say my milk porridge is a complete and instant cure of the blues.
Let me tell you a story of Sol Smith, who once stopped in my kitchen to warm, whilst on his way to hang himself on the limb of a sour apple tree in the lower orchard. He was fretting  about some love affair, I was just finishing off a pot of porridge. As he cane in I could see  he looked so woe-be-gone-like so I gave him some of the porridge, which was not more than half finished. Then he took a rope with a noose braided on one end out of his pocket and threw it to me and told me to use it  to mend my old clothes-line, Then he said,  that Almira might marry as many other fellows as she wanted to, and he wouldn't mind, so long as he could get'' such porridge as them was.'' 
 No ordinary man or woman in Narragansett ever said in those days," Please give me a little more of that porridge," but,"Please give me a few more of them porridge."

It was good of you to visit my kitchen. Come by any time and I will fix you up a batch of my jonny cakes for your travels.

by Rowland Gibson Hazard and Thomas Robinson Hazard

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