Wampanoag Indian Dish from First Thanksgiving

Between 1620 and 1621 Edward Winslow, who arrived on the Mayflower and was a leader of the English settlement at Plimouth in the Massachusetts colony, wrote with William Bradford Mourt’s Relation, the full title of which was A Relation or Journal of the Beginning and Proceedings of the English Plantation Settled at Plimoth in New England).  Winslow wrote that “Our Indian corn, even the coarsest, maketh as pleasant a meal as rice.”  Although there is no menu of that first harvest celebration that is usually called the first thanksgiving, there are some sound ideas of what foods, if not precise preparations, were on the table.  Since the celebration included at least 90 of the local Wampanoag who we also know brought a good deal of the food and who taught the settlers about growing foods, it is a safe bet that one of the foods made from “Indian corn” might have been nasaump, a kind of grits made from flint corn, the kind of multicolored corn the Wampanoag grew.

In 1643 a book by the founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams, describes nasaump as “a meale pottage, unparched. From this the English call their Samp, which is Indian corn, beaten and boiled, and eaten hot or cold with milk and butter, which are mercies beyond the Natives plaine water.”  From this brief description it seems safe to say that the dish is a thanksgiving food.  It is very much like grits and one could make it savory or sweet I suppose.  This recipe is adapted from a description on the Plimouth Plantation web site.

Two excellent sources for Rhode Island stone ground flint cornmeal are Gray’s Grist Mill and Kenyon’s Grist Mill in operation since 1696.  I recommend you order their product because it is a distinctively different taste than store-bought masa harina or cornmeal. This traditional Wampanoag dish that is made from that dried flint corn, local berries, and nuts. It is boiled in water until it thickens, and is similar to oatmeal or grits. Once it cools it hardens and can be cut into slices for pan-frying in butter.

fried nasaump with butter and maple syrup


Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Native American
Serves: 4
  • 1 cup stone ground flint cornmeal (see sources above)
  • ⅓ cup wild (preferably) or cultivated small strawberries
  • ⅓ cup blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons crushed walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons crushed hazelnuts
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • 3 cups water
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  1. In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring almost constantly, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until a thick porridge or grits consistency, 10 minutes. Serve hot. The remainder not served can be cooled on a platter until hardened and cut into squares for frying in butter later.


Speak Your Mind


Rate this recipe:  

Site maintained by StudioSJS