Author Archives: Vera Marie Badertscher

Vera Marie Badertscher

About Vera Marie Badertscher

I am a grandma and was named for my grandma. I've been an actress, a political strategist and a writer.I grew up in various places, went to high school in Killbuck, Ohio and graduated from Ohio State University. My husband and I moved to Arizona after graduation and have three adult children. I love to travel and read--and have another website for that called A Traveler's Library. I ponder family as I cook.

Oatmeal Pie: Oats, Coconut, Maple Syrup

Oatmeal Pie

Oatmeal Pie piece with whipped cream

I’m an advocate for pie for breakfast at all times, but who could find fault with eating oatmeal with maple syrup in the form of pie?

Frugal and tasty, “Oatmeal Pie” demonstrates the make-do attitude of our ancestors in aprons.  As I frequently do, I turned to the Sonnenberg Mennonite Church Centennial cookbook for some vintage takes on this poor man’s pecan pie. After also consulting some web sites, I was prepared to try a variation on the Mennonite cookbook recipe that most appealed to me.

Mennonite

Sonnenberg Mennonite Church Centennial Cook Book

Please understand right at the outset, that although it is called “oatmeal” pie, the pie does not contain a gooey mixture of cooked oats–oatmeal.  Instead, the base for the pie contains either quick-cooking or old fashioned oatmeal–UNCOOKED. Also, although the name “Amish” is attached, other people probably made the pie also.  The history is elusive.

The original Amish oatmeal pie relies on dark corn syrup (Karo©), as do most pecan pie recipes.  However, I was thinking how delicious maple syrup is on oatmeal, and had decided to make a swap.  An experienced baker friend recommended that I include a couple of spoonfuls of the dark corn syrup to balance out the mysterious chemistry and characteristics of corn syrup.  However, by the time I got her advice, I had baked the pie. The good news is, the pie turned out fine.

Whether its a dessert or breakfast–try this old fashioned pie recipe.  Of course, I recommend my Perfect Pie Crust recipe, but if you are in a hurry, you can use a pre-made crust.

Oatmeal Pie with Maple Syrup

Serves 8-10
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 1 hour
Total time 1 hour, 20 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
Old fashioned Oatmeal Pie makes a frugal substitute for pecan pie. It forms a chewy nutty crust on top.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cups coconut (flaked)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 pie shell (unbaked)

Directions

1. Line pie plate with pie dough and put in refrigerator while you make the filling. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream butter and sugars. Add spices and syrup and blend well.
3. Beat in eggs, one at a time. and mix until well blended.
4. Stir in milk.
5. Add oatmeal and coconut and stir in well. [ I thought the filling was too thin, and added two tablespoons of rice flour to thicken. This will depend on the texture of your maple syrup. (Use corn starch or flour if you do not have rice flour.)]
6. Pour filling into pie shell and bake at 350 degrees about one hour.

Note

You can use Karo syrup or molasses in your oatmeal pie instead of maple syrup for a slightly different flavor.

Some recipes for oatmeal pie call for addition of nuts, which to me seems to defeat the purpose of substituting oats for pecans, but do your own thing.

As mentioned in the article, an expert in baking suggested it would be better to include a couple spoonsful of Karo syrup when substituting maple syrup to avoid the sugar crystalizing. However, my version did not have any crystalizing. Again, use your own judgment.

Butter Chicken: American Colonial Curry

Close your eyes and imagine an American Colonial meal.  I imagine that you’re seeing roasts, overcooked vegetables, pastries both sweet and savory. But I’ll bet you didn’t think to put a curry dish like butter chicken on your Puritan grandmother’s table.  I certainly didn’t, until I received some spices from Pereg to try. I started looking into what spices the 17th and 18th century American colonists might have been using.

Our grandmothers in that period would not have been using these particular spices, however, with the possible exception of Sumac. (I’ll explain below)

Pereg Spices

Some of the Pereg spices sent to me for testing.

How Do We Know What Seasonings Colonists Used?

Spices in Colonial America

Common Spices used in 18th century America

I remembered reading in the book A Thousand Years Over A Hot Stove a list of recommended foods for the early settlers to take with them on the Atlantic passage.  Higginson’s book, New England Plantation published in 1630 included packing hints for survival in the new world. Under spices, Francis Higginson recommended housewives should take Sugar, Pepper, Cloves, Mace, Cinnamon, Nutmegs and Fruit. (Not sure about that one? Dried fruit, probably.)

In my own family, I have read two wills that shed light on products that housewives considered essential.

Rudolph Manbeck, an ancestor of my husband, wrote a bill in 1794 that sets aside certain property for his wife, including

  • half bushel of salt
  • 1/4 lb. pepper
  • 1/4 lb. allspice
  • 1/3 lb. ginger
  • 4 gall(on) vinegar

In the inventory of Asahel Platt’s property (he died intestate in 1833) I learned that he must have been a merchant. So what seasonings did he carry in his store? The long inventory includes these items:

  • 34 lb. pepper
  • 3 lb. spice ( unspecified)
  • 7 lb. ginger
  • 2 lb. Salt Peter (sic) [used for curing meat]
  • 5/16 lb. nut megs
  • 1/2 lb. cloves
  • 22 lb. raisins
  • 1 barrel of salt

Home Grown Herbs and Sumac Berries

Of course these lists focus on those seasonings that need to be imported. Additionally, plenty of herbs were growing just outside the kitchen door.

A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove reminds us that the spices and herbs are used as much for curing as for cooking.  The author lists thistle, borage, peppermint, licorice, rosemary, lavender, sage, anise, fennel, cloves, elder, garlic and ginger and some of the multi-purpose spices and herbs.

Of the seasonings sent to me by Pereg, I thought Sumac might be the most likely to have been used by our Puritan ancestors.  After all indigenous people used the red-berried sumac, and our grandmothers learned to use many American Indian foods. If you think of Sumac as poison, don’t worry–that only applies to the white-berried sumac plant. The red berry grows on another plant and is entirely edible.

However, I can find no direct reference to that cross over from American Indians to colonists. Too bad, because although I have never used sumac before I have become a fan. It has such a beautiful color and a nice tangy lemon, almost sweet and sour taste.

Butter Chicken meal

Butter chicken with eggplant and salad. Note sprinkle of Sumac on the butter chicken and on the eggplant.

Butter Chicken: Colonial Curry

I perked up when I read about the popularity of curried foods in America, even in the mid-17th century. If I want to use sumac in colonial food, curry provides a great opportunity. English housewives had discovered curry early in that century, and anything popular in England  carried over into American habits.  The most popular cookbook in the late 18th century in American would have been The Art of Cooking Made Plain and Simple by Hannah Glasse.

The clever Ms. Glasse recreated tastes of dishes made with seasonings not yet available in either England or America.  Which brings us to her Butter Chicken, a curry dish popular in the 17th and 18th century.  Although her version had much simpler seasonings than the “original” Indian dish, as spices became more available, we see an expansion of seasonings in later recipes.  Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife, calls for eight spices (ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin seeds, ginger, nutmeg, mace, cayenne) instead of the three in Glasse’s recipe (ginger turmeric, pepper).

You will notice a lack of curry powder in both–colonial housewives had to be creative rather than use pre-mixed seasonings like curry powder.

I was a bit surprised that turmeric would have been used by the 18th century housewives, but there it is in Glasses’s 1774 book as she makes India pickle and butter chicken.

Check out  Silkroad Gourmet  for a nice comparison of these two recipes that were published fifty years apart. There you will find the entire recipe as originally published in each of the books.

I started with Hannah Glasse’s curry recipe for Butter Chicken, but spiced it up just a bit. My use of spices in the recipe as written below still could use some pepping up, I think. Let me know what spices you will use in Butter Chicken.

Colonial Butter Chicken

Serves 3-4
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 35 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Allergy Milk
Dietary Gluten Free
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Serve Hot
Region Asian

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2lb chicken breast (cut in one inch chunks)
  • 1/4lb butter ((one stick))
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon powdered ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon sumac
  • 1 tablespoon garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 1/2-2 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cups orange juice ([or use lemon juice])
  • 1/2 cup half and half

Directions

1. Melt the butter in a skillet, brown chicken slightly. Be careful not to overcook--just get rid of all pink.
2. Remove chicken from pan and add onion to saute until soft.
3. Add spices and garlic and stir about one minute.
4. Put chicken back in pan and pour broth over--just about covering.
5. Turn heat down and simmer about 20 minutes.
6. Add cream and juice, stir well until warm, then remove chicken again.
7. Bring liquid to a boil and reduce until you get desired thickness.
8. Stir chicken in briefly to warm, then spoon over rice. Sprinkle with sumac powder.
P.S.  Pereg Gourmet sent me several spices plus dried Lemon Verbena so that I could try them out and share them with you.  This gift is welcome, but does not affect my opinion.  I had not heard of Pereg, even though they have been around since the early twentieth century, but I am glad to learn about them.  Their spice jars are much bigger than the usual ones on my shelf and the prices seem very reasonable.

Perez big spice jars

Comparing the size of most spice jars on my shelf with the standard size of a Pereg spice jar.

This size difference is a mixed blessing.  Since the price for the large Pereg jar is the same or less than the normal size, they are a bargain. However, I don’t generally use up a jar of spice before it is a year old–the time period in which most should be replaced.  And secondly, storage becomes a problem because the large jars do not fit on my standard spice shelves, and hog space in a drawer.

On the plus side for Pereg, they have an amazing variety of mixes ready to go for many kinds of cuisine.  If you feel like experimenting and don’t want to invest in ten different herbs and spices they’ve got you covered.  They carry a lot of spices that I have not seen routinely on my grocer’s shelf–like the Sumac and in the very top picture the fenugreek seeds.  If you shop their website, you may be inspired to try some very different kinds of cuisine.

Martha Bent, American Born

Martha Bent 1643-1680

Martha Bent’s Family

When Martha Bent’s parents John and Martha welcomed her into the world on September 5, 1643, they had lived in American only five years.  Martha, named for her mother, had five older brothers and one older sister. All but the youngest had been born in Penton-Grafton in Hampshire, England.

  • Robert Bent, eighteen, named for their paternal grandfather.
  • William Bent had been born 16 years before Martha, but may have died before Martha was born. The records are unclear, although the family history says “Probably died young.”  I have not found any other information on William, except that documents show that the parents, John and Martha, traveled from England with five young children. If the ship’s record is correct, William must have still been alive in 1638.
  • Peter Bent  a 13-year-old. Some records say Martha’s maternal grandmother was named Pierre Jean, which could explain the name Peter.
  • Agnes Bent, ten years old, named for their paternal grandmother.
  • John Bent, named for their father, seven years old when Martha was born.
  • Joseph Bent, the toddler, two years old,  the first of the family born in America.

Life in Sudbury, a Puritan Village

Drum and Fife Corps

Ancient Fyfe and Drum Companie, Sudbury, MA, photo by Joyce Isen

A year earlier, the two Sudbury families had celebrated when Samuel How was born to John Bent’s friend and fellow Sudbury pioneer–John How.  John How had been granted land in Sudbury in 1638, as had John Bent.  In the small community of Sudbury, people lived on separate lands doled out for the common good, but the life was communal in many ways.  They worshipped at the community church. They all took turns at holding public offices to be sure order reigned and taxes were collected. They helped each other build houses and clear land and protect their families against the few remaining indigenous people who were still resisting English settlement.

Although John How moved his family to nearby Marlboro, the two families remained friends. The Bent family no doubt mourned with their friends the Hows when Robert How died in the winter of 1648. The Bent’s oldest son was just 23 years old.

Martha Bent and Samuel Howe

Given their many ties, it is no surprise that 21-year-olds Samuel Howe and Martha Bent, young people whose family had been longtime friends, would marry in June, 1663. Martha’s father, John, gave the young couple a leg up by giving them 44 acres of land in Sudbury. If he wished to keep them close at hand, he succeeded, for despite the fact that the rest of his family had moved to Marlboro, Samuel moved back and stayed in Sudbury the rest of his life.

The Bents were no doubt pleased with the match, as Samuel already had started a career as a carpenter and must have showed signs of the entrepreneur he was to become. I hope that Martha had an adventurous spirit, because her busy husband had many occupations. For instance, he built a bridge over a stream on their land. He built the bridge, not as a community service, but so that he could collect a toll. And soon he also was charging people to use the meadow next to the bridge. He got permission to sell drinks out of their house, bought and sold land, held town offices and was a colonel of the Sudbury militia regiment.

You can read more about the wheeler-dealer Samuel in my earlier portrait of him. Late in his life, Samuel helped their son David build a house which became a tavern and today is Longfellow’s Wayside Inn.

Sudbury Massachusetts

Longfellow’s Wayside Inn Bar in Sudbury MA. The beam across the ceiling may be original from David and Hepzibah’s original home, circa 1702. Photo in public domain from Wikimedia.

Martha Bent How Makes a Family

Martha was kept busy on the domestic front. Their first child, a son named for his grandfathers John, was born 13 months after they married. Following the pattern of most colonial wives, Martha gave birth about every two years–seven children in thirteen years. Unlike most colonial families, Martha and Samuel lost no children in childbirth or infancy.

  • July 1664: John How, named for his paternal grandfather
  • March 1666: Mary How [Farrar;Barnes], named for her paternal grandmother.
  • May 1668: Samuel How, named for his father
  • October 1669: Martha How [Walker; Whitney], named for his mother
  • Oct 1672: Daniel How [Died when he was eight years old]
  • Nov 1674: David How [My ancestor]
  • Apr 1677: Hannah How [Barnes]

Tragedies Strike

In 1675, when Martha was 32, her youngest brother died. I will relate that tragic story later.

Indian Raid on a Puritan Village

Indian Raid on a Puritan Village

In 1676 the Indian war known as King Phillip’s War raged across Massachusetts, and Samuel and Martha became victims.  Not only was one of Samuel’s brothers killed in the fighting, but Martha and Samuel’s house and barn were burned to the ground.  In April of 1676 , my 7x great-grandmother, the mother of six children under 13, found herself without a home and probably without many of the animals she depended on for sustenance. The youngest child at that time, my ancestor David How, was a 16-month-old toddler.

No doubt the community pitched in and helped her carpenter husband rebuild. In the mean time, she and her children could stay with the many family members in the area. But think of the quilts to be made, the clothes to be replaced, the cloth to be woven to replace lost yardage. Samuel could make new furniture, but he also had to be making money to replace lost equipment and farm animals. Samuel had to replant burnt fields and he and Martha had to make all the things that today we could run down to Wal-Mart or Home Depot to replace.

Exactly a year after the tragic loss of home and barn, another daughter,  Hannah, joined the family in their rebuilt homestead. Life (and death) went on.

Two years later, Martha’s brother Peter died while on a commercial trip to England.  Another story to come.  Of her six siblings, only two remained–John and Agnes. And then the final blow–in 1679, Martha’s mother, Martha Bent, also passed away.

The Great Comet of 1680

I have not seen a cause of death for Martha Bent How, but since her eight-year-old son died the same year, in the summer, I suspect an epidemic of some sort. Noah Webster’s compendium of disasters and disease, tied to celestial events, does not mention a 1680 epidemic in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. However, a paper on an earlier plague by Mark Laskey, does have this something to say about 1680. The statement by Cotton Mather, sheds light on the belief system of our Puritan ancestors.

Another comet would blaze across the sky in 1680, two years after the catastrophic defeat of King Philip’s native uprising. Reverend Cotton Mather hailed its passing as “a sign in heaven … that the Lord [is prepared] to pour down the Cataracts of his wrath, ere this Generation… is passed away.” It was compared to the comet of 1618, “which appeared above three score years ago, [when] God sent the Plague amongst the Natives of this land [and] cast out the Heathen before this his people, that the way might thereby be prepared unto our more peaceful settlement here.” Mather concluded his sermon with a warning to the Christian faithful, “that we may never provoke [God] to doe unto us, as he hath done unto them.”

I wanted to end with saying that Martha dramatically went out with a comet, but alas, she died at the end of August, 1680 and contemporary viewers report the comet appeared from late autumn through December of 1680. And perhaps that is far too dramatic for this hard-working colonial wife and mother anyway. Perhaps she was simply exhausted from caring for so many children, from worrying about the attacks of the Indians–her home particularly vulnerable since it was located near the bridge that Samuel had built across the river. Perhaps losing her home and having to rebuild from scratch and then having a seventh baby was all just too much.

Martha Bent How died in Sudbury at the age of thirty-seven, joining her eight-year-old son and leaving six children between three and sixteen with Samuel How. Neither Martha’s grave nor the grave of the child, Daniel* has been identified.

*Note:  Samuel married a second time and had six children.  The second child with his second wife was also named Daniel.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, the daughter of
  • Vera Stout (Anderson),the daughter of
  • Hattie Morgan (Stout), the daughter of
  • Mary Bassett (Morgan),the daughter of
  • Elizabeth Stone (Bassett) the daughter of
  • Elizabeth Howe (Stone), the daughter of
  • Israel Howe, the son of
  • David How, the son of
  • Martha Bent How.

Notes on Research

  • In Public Houses: Drink and the Revolution of Authority in Colonial Massachusetts by David W. Conroy, (1995), my personal library
  • As Ancient Is This Hostelry: The Story of the Wayside Inn, by Curtis F. Garfield and Alison R. Ridley(1988), my personal library
  • A History of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn by Brian E. Plumb (2011), my personal library
  • Howe Genealogies by Daniel Wait Howe (1929),  New England Historic Genealogical Society, 9 Ashburton Place Boston. 1929. This is said to be the best of the several genealogies of the family. Although I do not have a copy of the entire book, portions of it are available on the Internet at archives.org and at ancestry.com
  • Middlesex County records found on ,Ancestry.com. Birth, death and marriage.
  • Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Worcester County Massachusetts Vol. 1, ed by Ellery Bicknell Crane (1907) Available as a Google Books e-book.
  • FindaGrave.com The tombstone picture came from Find a Grave, because although I visited the Sudbury Old North Cemetery, (located in Wayland MA) where Samuel is buried, I was unable to spot his grave.
  • I also have had assistance from the archivist and a historian at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn and the historian with the Sudbury Historical Society.
  • Massachusetts, Marriages, 1633-1850, Dodd, Jordan, Liahona Research, comp Sudbury, Middlesex, Samuel How and Martha Bent, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, UT, Film # 0599521 item 4.
  • Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988, Death records: Martha How
  • The Bent family in America : being mainly a genealogy of the descendants of John Bent : who settled in Sudbury, Massachusetts, in 1638 : with notes upon the family in England and elsewhere. in North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000 at Ancestry.com, Allen H. Bent, 1900
  • U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s, Place: America; Year: 1638; Page Number: 58, Ancestry.com
  • U.S., New England Marriages Prior to 1700, Martha Bent How and Samuel How